There is water on the bathroom floor, but it can’t be helped. My clothes — my only other set of clothes on this continent — are dripping wet from their fresh hand washing. It was an act of desperation, really, and one that might not be beneficial. Will my clothes really dry overnight here in the climes of northern Germany, or is that just wistful thinking? Still, it’s all you can do when you arrive in Europe but your luggage doesn’t.
Even the best-laid travel plans can take on a life of their own. My mother and I had carefully planned our girls’ trek to Europe, laying out clothes days ahead and packing just the things we would need for our nine-day jaunt to the old country.
But when our luggage disappeared into the black hole of British Airways, we took it in stride. We didn’t need our extra clothing now, did we? Besides, we were excited to hit the road on our trek through the countryside of former East Germany. There was so much to see, and not much time to see it. So we tossed our minimal belongings into the car trunk and set out, assuring ourselves that our luggage would somehow catch up.
But by day three, the situation had grown grim. The airline didn’t even know which country our luggage had landed in. Our one spare change of clothing was beginning to show signs of wear. And so we faced reality: It was time to do some shopping.
But northern Germany is so beautiful in the summer. The fields were thick with wheat, and the combines were just beginning their harvest. The sun shone brightly on the brick streets of each town we stopped in, and we chatted with locals out enjoying the summer day. There were cafes to visit, castles to explore and ice cream to sample. Who could bear to leave all this for the inside of a clothing shop?
So here it is now on day four: Luggage whereabouts still unknown. But I’ve a sink and some soap, and it’s a warm summer’s night. My mom and I open the large windows of our castle hotel in the countryside. I can hear crickets chirping nearby and the laughter of fellow travelers on the patio below.
The luggage doesn’t matter, but this moment does.
I’ll never remember what I packed on this trip, but I’ll remember this time with my mom. It’s a chance to leave the norms of life behind and explore at our leisure, just the two of us soaking in new people and places that we had only ever dreamed of.
These are memories in the making and one of the enriching joys of travel.
Five days later, our luggage shows up, battered and worn from its unexpected trip to London, of all places. Though happy about fresh clothing, we find it strangely annoying to have to lug it all around now. “Wasn’t it so much easier when we only had our carry-ons?” my mom observes as she struggles to pull her large suitcase down a set of stairs. I have to agree. Maybe we should lose our luggage again sometime.
Janna Graber has been covering world travel as a travel journalist, editor and producer for more than 12 years. Currently the editor of Go World Travel, she has also written for more than 40 publications. She is the author of three travel anthology books: A Pink Suitcase: 22 Tales of Women’s Travel, Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World and Adventures of a Lifetime.