Light is right

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

There’s a preoccupation these days with a “light” version of most things we indulge in — Coke Light, San Miguel Light, Spam Lite, Pay Lite.

There seems to be a definite, acknowledged advantage to cutting back on most things that pile on the calories, the expenses, the clutter, the weight.

In life, as in Spam Lite or Coke Light, there is a growing attraction to trimming off the unnecessary — like fat and too much sugar.

In Literature class many years ago, the teacher told us, “Often, life is about giving up something for something you want more.” Giving up love for career (Oooh, La La Land), a high-paying job for motherhood, the carbs for five elusive pounds.

Going light around the house also gives it the right curves and the best angles. Some people apply the one-year rule: Clothes you haven’t worn in a year — except gowns, I guess — should be given away or sold in a garage sale. Sort the odds and ends in your storage bins.  Afraid you’d need that chipped picture frame one day? Trust me, you won’t.

Those paper bags with the fancy brand labels should go, too, after a year in storage. Expired cosmetics belong in the trash, not on your face. Too many plastic hangers? Give them away.

Go light in your life, too.

Some people bring you down with their negativity, pessimism and their defeatist attitude. Avoid them because they will slow down your journey — to happiness, success, contentment or fun. Seek people who lift up your spirits and bring a spring to your step. Magaan kasama. (Their company makes you feel light).

Travel light. In life, in every journey you take.


I recently went on media familiarization cruise on the Danube aboard the AmaSerena (of AmaWaterways) and met up with family in Paris from Munich. I was aware that on Economy class between two cities within the continent, the maximum luggage allowance is 23 kilos.

I left Manila with 20 kilos and was confident that on charming little towns along the Danube, I wouldn’t be in danger of shopping in excelsis.

Till the flea market in the riverside city of Linz in Austria. A real charmer with its Baroque architecture and pastel-colored buildings, Linz’s Old Town has a main square, ring Hauptplatz. We docked in Linz on a Saturday and the square had a festive flea market, much like our own tiangges.

Rico Martinez, our helpful cruise director in the AmaSerena, told us it would be our last day to shop around as the following days, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, were holidays in Austria and Germany. Even souvenir shops were going to be closed. So with #FOMO fuelling me, I descended upon the Linz flea market with a singularity of purpose.

Every travel guide and seasoned traveler will tell you that when on a trip and you like something, buy it instead of saying to yourself that you’d come back for it. Chances are you wouldn’t have the time or the opportunity to do so. And you’d be spending many days and nights wishing you bought that bag, that cuckoo clock, that lace handkerchief, those kid gloves.

I remember traveling with esteemed broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro to Turkey many years ago and she tarried on buying an apple tea set till finally, it was time to go. The airport was her last recourse. Luckily, she found a tea set there and bought it — but double the price. Still, I reckon she would have paid quadruple the price if she bought that set in Manila — that is, if it were available in Manila!

So if you’d been wanting something for more than a day or night, succumb.

So back to the Linz flea market. I spied a bone china seven-piece tea set with a dainty lavender flower design for 10 euros and struggling to keep a poker face, I held each cup to the sun to see if it was truly bone china. It was virtually translucent so I knew it was. It was easy to part with 10 euros (around P550). I would handcarry the set. No sweat.

Further down, tables groaning with crystal vases, glasses and other ornaments mushroomed! After all, Austria and the Czech Republic are known for their crystal products. I saw a set of eight crystal wine glasses for 35 euros for all eight glasses. This stemware had to be handcarried, too. With the prodding of a friend (“You might regret it if you don’t buy them!”), I handed over the 35 euros to the blonde vendor.

The friendly AmaSerena concierge wrapped the stemware in bubble wrap and mercifully, they all fit in my carry-on. However! This meant the other things I bought couldn’t be transferred to my carry-on in case my suitcase exceeded the maximum weight. With some Hungarian sausages and an embroidered tablecloth from Budapest and chocolates from Vienna nestled among my clothes, I knew I was teetering on the border of excess-luggage land. That meant a penalty of around 45 euros. But if I could avoid paying the fine, I could use the 45 euros for three good meals or a nice top at Zara or H&M in Paris.

I met someone in a tour group before who told me that when she has excess baggage, she leaves behind her old clothes and sneakers with a note to the housekeeper that she purposely left them behind. Heeding her advice, I bid adieu to my old pajamas and a pair of leggings, a turtleneck top that made my face bloat. I then took photos of all the information materials given me and left the hard copies behind. I went through my toiletry kit, which my husband swore was already five kilos heavy even before I left Manila, and jettisoned all the replaceable contents. The cold cream, the makeup removers. All these I could buy in a drugstore in my next stop.

After all, all these things I parted with could not have cost 45 euros, even by a stretch. So rather than pay for excess baggage, I was getting rid of them. The friendly housekeeping staff at the AmaSerena weighed my suitcase with the boat’s portable scale: 22.7 kilos. Whew.

On the day of reckoning, I checked in early. When my suitcase stood pat on the check-in counter scale, it settled at…23.5 kilos. The friendly check-in agent waved the .5 kilos off. Bless her.

As for my carry-on and its precious trove from the flea market, it made it to Paris, to Dubai, and to Manila by my side, with no scratch or chip. And during my flight home, my suitcase weighed only 25.5 kilos, even if I was allowed 40 kilos! I had learned to walk my talk.

Truly, in traveling, as in life, you have to give up something for something you want more. Old pajamas for crystal wine glasses? No contest.

Detachment is a gift. Light is might. Light is right, indeed.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected].)



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