Tim and I put a lot of effort into thoroughly thinking through our luggage and the act of literally moving our family and all of our belongings. It took us about 6 weeks to pack for this adventure. I had constant piles in our basement that were being added to and edited up until the week before we left. We realized that at one point or another, we would need to carry everything between the two of us, including an infant and toddler in hand. The need to pack as “lightly” as possible was crucial.

This is what our entourage looks like when we are moving with all of our stuff:

- Erin wears Vera facing her in the front pack carrier, with her purse crossed horizontally over her neck and the camera bag crossed the other way over her neck, forming an X across her body. She then has Oliver in one had and is rolling her backpack, filled with office equipment, in the other hand. If Erin needs to be moving quickly (i.e. on and off trains), she puts the rolling office onto her back, with the backpack straps. The weight of Vera (about 25 pounds), a stuffed purse and camera bag (15 pounds), along with a totally stuffed traveling office (40 pounds) is enough to literally make her knees buckle. This is all while dragging Oliver along with one hand.  

Tim manages the two big bags, Erin the small rolling back pack.

- Tim carries Oliver’s car-seat as a back pack (20 pounds). Then in one hand Tim rolls our 50 pound suitcase with an umbrella stroller strapped to it. In the other hand he rolls our 40 pound suitcase with Vera’s monstrous and very heavy car-seat strapped to the back of the roller suitcase. Inside that car-seat is Oliver’s backpack, filled with his toys and books. Ideally this backpack would be on Oliver’s back, but it is too heavy for him to carry. When moving quickly, Tim wears Oliver’s backpack on his chest to make the suitcase / car-seat combo more maneuverable. The suitcases are so heavy (when the car seat and Oliver’s book bag are attached) that Erin can’t lift them, so it’s Tim’s job to lift the large suitcases on and off trains and trams, etc. This usually means heaving one suitcase on board while Erin and kids wait on the platform with the other, then hefting the other one on. At least one train has had the luggage storage on the second floor.

While considering the above travel gear consider the following travel days we’ve had:

England to Zurich: rental car to airport, shuttle to terminal, flight, train, then tram to apartment.
Zurich to Nice: 10 minute walk to the train station, 2 train rides, city bus to airport, flight, thentaxi ride to our hotel.
Marseille to Brittany: taxi to the train station, train ride, taxi ride, then a rental car.

These days of travel are often filled with even more anxiety than physical exhaustion. They leave me feeling the need to continue to cut back our load. They also make me anxious about upcoming travel days.

A great example of things going wrong happened when we were traveling to our apartment in Zurich. Upon arriving we hadn’t quite gotten our mobility sorted out. (as I explained above) This was made painfully obvious when Tim was trying to get the bags on the tram. I was standing on the tram with Oliver, Vera, and one suitcase, and realized that the doors were closing. I didn’t have the address of where we were headed and Tim was on the other side of the doors with the other large suitcase.

As the doors were swinging shut, Tim stepped off the curb to grab them. The doors suddenly swung back open, and with them a small step flipped down to bridge the gap between the tram and the curb. The step trapped his foot underneath it against the curb.

Passengers on the platform ran over to help him and were yelling at the tram conductor. I instantly thought his foot is going to be broken, ripped off, every horrible thing you can think, and I was screaming down the tram, STOP, STOP, STOP…. like an absolute crazy person, in the wrong language! Everyone turned and looked at me, no one moved. Tim and the passengers on the platform helped him to wiggle his foot out of harm’s way and climb onto the tram with our suitcase.

In one instant I’m imagining my husbands foot being removed by the tram and in the next instant we are all standing on the moving tram being stared at by the entire car of passengers. I’m sure they were all thinking, why didn’t they just push the button to hold the doors open while they were loading their things!!! Of course, we didn’t know that such a button existed until the next day. Live and learn!

On the days that we pack up our belongings and move from one place to another, I find myself stressed at the reality of what could go wrong (the above example is not fully out of my memory yet). Tim had a dream before our last train ride of leaving Vera sitting in her stroller on the platform as the train pulled away. I was sadly comforted by this story, realizing that I was not the only one experiencing stress during these travel days.

Tuesday’s travel day to Lisbon includes a 4 hour car drive, a 3 hour flight and another 3 hour car drive. Since Tim’s drivers license inadvertently expired on his birthday in October, I’ll be doing all of the driving. Hopefully we have enough data on our cell phone plans to get us safely to our destinations!

I’m also making a mental list of some items we can ultimately ditch in Boston while we are home for the holidays. We need to cut some of this weight!