Luggage: A brief history

Luggage Louis VuittonLuggage, often referred to as “baggage” or “suitcases” is a term coined in 1596, from lug (v.) “to drag;” so, lit. “what has to be lugged about” (or, in Johnson’s definition, “any thing of more bulk than value”). In 20c., the usual word for “baggage belonging to passengers.”

For more than six hundred years, people have used traveling cases, steamer trunks valises, portmanteaus, briefcases, weekenders and the now ubiquitous rolling case to get their goods from point A to point B.

As lover of history, I’ve always been fascinated by luggage – many homes in my native DC have strange small “bedrooms,” (which can’t be referred to as such because they lack windows and closets) that were once housing for the owner’s trunks. I took a steamer trunk to college, only to find that it didn’t even come close to fitting in my shoebox of a dorm room. My greatest desire? A vintage Louis Vuitton case – and an appropriate wardrobe (and private jet ) to carry it.

So for this edition of “The Way We Traveled,” check out this brief timeline of luggage factoids:

1153 – The first wheeled luggage appears in Palestine and was used to carry weaponry and equipment.

1851 – Queen Victoria awards Prince Albert three gold medals for his Travelling Carry-All Omni-Conveyance, Bewheele.

1854 – Louis Vuitton as we know it was born, initially specializing in luggage.

1910 – Samsonite launches.

1970 – Briggs & Riley introduces modern “wheeled” luggage, offering four wheels and a rope tow.

1972 – U.S. Luggage patents wheeled luggage.

1989 – A Northwest Airlines pilot becomes the first person to carry wheeled luggage

1994 – Don Ku was granted a patent for wheeled suitcase with a collapsible towing handle.

2006 – A ban on liquids over 3 oz. in carry-on luggage is announced.

Late 2000s – Airlines begin charging bag fees for checked luggage on domestic flights.

2013 – The date when the proposed ban on liquids in carry on luggage will be reversed in the EU.

*This article was updated to reflect additional information about wheeled luggage on March 2, 2011.

10 Reasons You Must Revisit – what to see when revisiting a destination

Revisiting a DestinationRevisiting a destination is essential to understanding it. Traveling the world is a marvelous thing, but if you’ve only been everywhere once, how can you have a true sense of the nature of any of those places?

Change is one of the few things you can count on in this world. When it comes to destinations, revisiting after a year, or five, ten, even twenty, can be an incredible lesson in what is permanent and what isn’t. What a culture chooses to preserve speaks volumes about that culture, as does what it chooses to demolish. Furthermore, the rate at which technology and commercialism progress is different in different regions; a phenomenon which is fascinating at the very least.

We’ve all had the experience of saying “Oh, I’ve been there,” only to hear that major attractions sprang up in our wake. That’s #1. Here are 10 Reasons You Must Revisit:

1. To see a new attraction.

This was one of the major reasons I chose to revisit Liverpool last year. After attending school there for three years, I revisited to take a look at Liverpool One, the mega-shopping center, as well as the Echo Arena and the burgeoning gastronomic scene. As I wrote in my article Visiting the new Liverpool, it was like a “spaceship [had] landed in the town center.” I could hardly speak about Liverpool with anyone who had lived or traveled there in the past few years if I hadn’t revisited. Its entire town center is completely different, attracting a completely different crowd.2. To check out the new within the old.

Again with example of Liverpool, Albert Dock is a historical site which is constantly in flux. The iconic exterior stays the same, but inside, different shops and restaurants and clubs are always popping up. This is true in most cities with major historical attractions; new things constantly pop up in and around those attractions.

3. To see if your favorite place is still open.

Depending upon how long you’ve waited to revisit a destination, this can be less and less likely to end favorably. Still, it can be heartwarming and oddly rewarding to find your favorite hole-in-the-wall still bumping along successfully; somehow surviving the cold years without you. It makes you feel like you were right.

4. To see what tourism has done.

Even if you went there before it was cool, the tourism industry has a way of spreading itself to even the most remote locations at an exponential rate. For example, heard about all the cruises to Antarctica lately? Unless the place you visited was already a tourist trap, you’re likely to find new shops and establishments catering to tourists when you revisit a place. It’s not always the development you had hoped for, but it is worth seeing what kind of tourism a place you knew now gets.

5. To see what commercialism has done.

Much like with #4, commercialism has an uncanny way of spreading itself. You may find your favorite authentic establishment now serves Coca-Cola — and the locals couldn’t be more proud of it! Seeing a city before the outside world gets in is an amazing thing, but seeing it just after it gets in can be contextually profound. If you wait long enough, commercialism can be a shocking change, even to the way people treat you. It may be sad in some ways, but I prefer to look at it as educational.

6. Because you didn’t like it.

It’s happened to many of us; you have what you consider to be a dreadful time at a destination, only to hear friends come back from the same place with wonderful stories to share. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did it wrong, but you may have had bad luck. If you hate a place, and you’re interested in why it was bad for you and good for others, and you have the time and means, go back. You may be amazed at what you learn about yourself and the destination.

7. Because you loved it.

There are plenty of people out there who go to the same place for a vacation every single year. Many of us consider ourselfes too adventurous to be satisfied with that; unless we are also traveling to new places throughout the year, but there are definitely destinations we’ve all loved and long to return to. Revisiting a place you love can become a very spiritual thing. It becomes a place for you to reset and unwind, but with the comfortability of familiarity.

8. Because you want to show somebody.

Many of us do the bulk of our world-trapsing as singles. It’s just the easiest time in life to get away. Without the ties of love and kids, and that pesky mortgage, you can take off for months at a time if you set your life up for it. But then, when you do find love, and even when you have kids, you may have a love or a kid you think would truly enjoy a place you’ve been. For example, say you’ve been to Vienna, but then you have a child who turns out to be a classical music prodigy — that’s a terrific reason to go back.

9. To visit “in style.”

As time goes on, if we play our cards right (and fate doesn’t have it in for us), we tend to grow more affluent. Thusly, if we visit a place and return there years later, chances are, we can afford to do things we couldn’t before — stay in a fancier hotel, dine at the finest restaurants, indulge in tickets to major cultural events and more.

10. To check in on friends.

It is a special, yet somewhat common experience to meet a local on your travels with whom you stay in touch. Or, even if you don’t stay in touch with them, you can be treated so well by a local shopkeeper or restaurant owner that you swear you’ll return. These promises often fall by the wayside, so this is #10: to check in on friends — or at least people you haven’t forgotten — if only to let them know you haven’t forgotten them. This is an excellent reason to revisit a destination. It may mean even more to them than it means to you.

Have more reasons for revisiting a destination? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Photo by Annie Scott on the (temporary) Liverpool Wheel.

Schengen and the disappearance of European passport stamps

schengen passport
Creative new use for border crossing posts at German/Austrian border.

In the late 1980s, an American spending a summer traveling across Europe with a Eurailpass would see his or her passport stamped possibly dozens of times. With a few exceptions, every time a border was crossed, an immigration agent would pop his or her head into a train compartment, look at everyone’s passports, in most cases stamp them, and move on. Every Eastern Bloc country required visas, some of which could be obtained at the border and others of which had to be applied for in advance.

Today, an American can enter the Schengen zone in Helsinki, fly to Oslo and then on to Amsterdam, proceed by train through Belgium, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, then by bus to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and then by ferry back to Helsinki before catching a flight to Athens and landing in Greece without once needing to submit a passport to a border guard’s scrutiny.

The development of the Schengen agreement across Europe has altered the geopolitical map of the continent in many ways. For tourists, the development of the Schengen zone has simplified travel by drastically reducing the number of times a passport can be checked and stamped as national borders are crossed.

The Schengen Agreement is named after the town of Schengen in Luxembourg. It was here in 1985 that five countries-Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, West Germany, and France-signed an agreement to essentially create borderless travel between them. A model for this agreement had been created years before by the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), which eliminated border controls back in 1948. The Nordic countries also did away with internal border posts, in 1958.

In 1995, the five original Schengen countries plus Portugal and Spain inaugurated the zone. In 1997, Austria and Italy joined. Greece followed in 2000 and the five Nordic countries joined in 2001. In late 2007, nine more countries joined the Schengen zone; most recently, Switzerland signed up in 2008.

schengen passport
Abandoned border crossing between Slovakia and Hungary.

Today, 22 European countries are part of Schengen. Every European Union country (save the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus) belongs. Other members include EU holdouts Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. The European microstates present a few complications. Monaco’s borders are administered by France, which makes the tiny principality a part of Schengen, while Liechtenstein’s accession, approved by the European Parliament in February, is pending. San Marino and the Vatican are de facto versus official members, while mountainous, landlocked Andorra remains outside of the zone altogether.

There are five EU countries not currently part of the Schengen zone. The UK and Ireland (as well as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) operate a Schengen-like agreement called the Common Travel Area. Neither country is obligated to join the zone.

Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, however, are all bound by treaty to eventually join. Romania has fulfilled all the criteria for joining Schengen and Bulgaria is close to fulfillment as well. These two countries will accede together, likely later this year. Cyprus presents a more complicated situation given the division of the island between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the largely unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north.

With the coming accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union, the Schengen zone will almost definitely continue to grow. Might it one day cover the entire landmass of Europe? Check back in two decades.

[Images: top image Flickr | Mike Knell; middle image Flickr | jczart]

Video: More than a century of aviation – from the Wright Brothers to the Airbus A380

Reports on who actually may have built the first aircraft may differ, but the Wright Brothers are the undisputed inventors of controlled fixed-wing powered flight. All the basics that made aviation possible were present on their plane when they took their first powered flight in 1903.

A lot has changed in the past century of aviation. No longer do we look our our airplane window and watch some poor guy manually start the engines. We may have lost the glory days of dressing up for that once-in-a-lifetime flight, but getting to far away destinations is easier and more affordable than ever. In this collection of clips, we’ll take you from the early 1900’s all the way to 2010 with the first test flight of the Airbus A380.



Of all the things man could do with a plane in the 20’s, they picked airborne duck hunting.


In the 30’s, water based airports were far more popular than land based ports – and some of the largest aircraft of the time were water planes. In this video, you’ll see the massive Dornier DoX plane take to the skies. With its six twelve engines, passengers took a boat to board the plane.


In the 40’s, aviation started to become glamorous – and fashion mixed very well with the sexy planes of this era. Models on shiny TWA Stratoliners traveled around the country showing off the latest in fashion.


The Lockheed Constellation was one of the first planes designed specifially based upon requirements by an airline. TWA flew their first L-049 Constellation in 1945, and by the 50’s, she was still flying the only round-the-world scheduled flight in the world – Pan Am flight #1.


In 1969, the Boeing 747 retailed for 13 million dollars. Just like with the Airbus A380 of today, people back then wondered whether there was a market for such a large plane. Airports invested millions to accommodate the 747


In 1976, commercial aviation received its first and only supersonic jet plane. Concorde was so advanced, that she was still ahead of its time when she was retired in 2003.


In the United States, commercial aviation saw the results of deregulation in the 80’s. New airlines popped up, fares went down and passenger loads went up. Competition was stuff, and by the end of the 80’s over 100 airlines had come and gone in the past decade, including major carriers like Brannif and Peoples Express.


One of the biggest innovations in commerical aviation in the 90’s was the Boeing 777. It had been 25 years since the 747 took to the skies, and the world was in need of something new. The 777 has been a massive success for Boeing, and as of January 2011, 913 have been delivered.


Despite a 375 million dollar price tag, 244 Airbus super-jumbos have been ordered. Deliveries to airlines took longer than expected, but Airbus is delivering planes on a pretty regular schedule.

The aerogramme and the email

aerogrammeOnce upon a time, the cheapest, most convenient way for travelers abroad to write to friends and family back home was the aerogramme. This ingenious creation was a razor-thin, super-light, roughly 6-x-11-inch sheet of blue-colored paper that was designed to be folded into thirds, creating six postcard-size panels (both sides of the paper were used).

One of these panels was pre-stamped and printed with dotted lines for the recipient’s address; four of the panels were blank, to be used for writing your message; and in the Greek aerogramme that lies before me now, the other panel features a photo of whitewashed buildings rising up a rocky brown hill against a deep blue sky.

Adjoining the stamp-and-address panel were two gummed flaps; when you finished your message, you licked and folded these flaps to seal the note. Then all you had to do was drop the aerogramme into a mailbox. No weighing, no paying, no standing in line. This was the height of epistolary convenience when I lived in France, Greece, and Japan in the 1970s.

The challenge, of course, was how much information you could squeeze into those four blank panels – how precisely and minutely could you write and still be legible? On that Greek ‘gramme to my parents, I managed 60 lines of about 11 words each, enough to cover the highlights of a spring swing through Egypt (riding Arabian stallions four hours into the desert, climbing the Great Pyramid, touring the temples and tombs of Luxor), a quick outline of plans for my just-starting summer trip (staying with friends in Nairobi and exploring Kenya on day-trips, climbing Kilimanjaro and going on safari in Tanzania with the family of two of my Greek students, then returning to the States via Santorini and Paris), plus the obligatory update on my financial situation.


Writing home is a whole lot easier in 2011. The digital equivalent of the aerogramme isn’t confined to six panels, and doesn’t take weeks to reach its intended recipient. You can write as much as you like, and send it to as many people as you like, and it arrives instantaneously! And still no weighing, paying, or waiting in line (unless you count the occasional wait for an open terminal at an Internet cafe). Though the Internet hasn’t reached every crack and crevice of the planet, I think it’s safe to say that there are vastly more digital post offices now than there were stone-and-stucco ones back in the day. And what about that evocative photo of those whitewashed hillside homes? Now you can attach your own.

Luckily, my parents kept big rubber-banded bundles of my aerogrammes so that I can peruse them now, but with emails, you don’t have to rely on anyone; you can store them yourself. And instead of having to paw through bundles of letters when you’re looking for a specific passage 35 years later, you can effortlessly search your archives to locate that stallion’s-eye view of sunset in the Sahara. So convenient!

Is there any downside to this technological evolution? Well, maybe just this one. There’s a kind of palpable poignancy to that Greek aerogramme. I hold it in my hands, trace the rough letters and creases in the page, smell its musty perfume – and it’s a pale blue magic carpet that whisks me back to the moment in the Athens airport when I sat at a small table, with a demitasse of Greek coffee, scribbling. I taste the thick, bitter coffee, the sludgy residue on my lips, feel the dry dusty heat, the anticipation in my fingertips….

Will my emails transport me that same way when I read them three and a half decades from today?