I have always been a rebel. When I see a wrong that needs to be righted, I go for it. My homemade travel vest was born out of necessity from the airlines’ new luggage restrictions. Plus, it helps because I am cheap and creative.
Once, on a trip to Brazil, I was squeezed between two obese men who both needed seat belt extenders. For nine hours, I sat as stiff as a green plantain barely able to move. Arriving in São Paulo, I noticed my ankles puffed to the size of small watermelons. I could have died! Thrombosis is not something one takes lightly.
Year after year, I watched the bags get smaller as the passengers got bigger. This gave me a great idea. The airlines don’t charge for a passenger’s body weight and coats are free. What if I designed a travel vest that could carry 50 pounds of stuff? What if I layered my body with my clothes? I may need a seat belt extender, too, but for the time being, all body weight is free.
When visiting my mother in the states this summer, I found a Liz Claiborne raincoat for $3 at the local Goodwill store. For $10, I purchased sturdy backpack material for the pockets, velcro, and snaps. I borrowed my mother’s sewing machine, and a week later, my travel vest was born.
Next, I had to see if my travel vest passed inspection. I booked a flight from my mother’s house to our house in the states. I layered my body with two dresses, two pairs of pants, two skirts, and four blouses. My travel vest contained my Kindles, a laptop, iPod, all electronic accessories, books, a 5 pound bag of dried cranberries, 5 baby blankets ( for friends in Nicaragua), 2 cameras, a plastic bag of toiletries, a 3 pound bag of chocolate covered blueberries, 2 bags of jelly beans, 3 baby rattles, and assorted plastic bags of tiny things.When I stepped on the bathroom scale I was 40 pounds heavier.
I waddled to the metal detector, heaved my travel vest into the bin on the conveyor belt, and breezed through without one comment! How disappointing! The only people who commented on my size were two passengers behind me waiting to board the plane. I overheard them snickering and whispering words like: inventive, cool, and how much does that thing weigh?
On Monday, we return to our home in Nicaragua. Have I mentioned that I am a slightly deranged hoarder? Accompanying us are 4 check-in bags, 2 carry-ons, 2 backpacks, and my travel vest. This time, my travel vest is loaded with children’s books in Spanish. You see, I am starting a lending library on the island for the kids. Books are heavy and I received lots of donations. I figure that if anyone questions my travel vest this time, I can just start wailing, “But, sir these are books for kids who have nothing to read. It’s a humanitarian effort. Think about the kids!”
Wish me luck! I’ll see you in a few days when we return to our little house on Ometepe Island, in the middle of an enormous lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America.