Some people travel to find themselves. Others go seeking adventure, to see as much as this glorious earth as they can before the memories of their best days hang from their shoulders like a quilt of nostalgia. I admire the varied motives of these intrepid voyagers, but it isn’t white sand beaches or once in a lifetime experiences that inspire me to pack my bags: It’s the potential to impress airport security with the contents of my luggage. Where else other than at the airport can a complete stranger rummage through your belongings looking for weapons, hazardous materials, and liquid containers larger than three ounces and find instead the essence of your soul condensed into a Samsonite carry-on?
The true highlight of any trip is when that conveyor belt reroutes my bag to Greg who works for airport security. All Greg knows about me is that my hairbrush was mistaken for a live hedgehog strapped to a pipe bomb in the scanner, but that’s all going to change once he opens my bag. Once he gets his latex gloved-hands on my personal effects, he’s going to be pleasantly surprised by what an interesting, well-rounded person I am. I curate my luggage just to ensure that the items I’ve packed send the right message about who I am as a person–or at least who I want strangers to think I am. These are a few items I like to bring along on every trip:
An unabridged copy of War and Peace
Fitting this substantial novel in my bag means that someone won’t be getting a souvenir coffee mug this trip, but it’s worth it to savor the moment when the airport security employee raises his or her eyebrows in obvious admiration while moving this Tolstoy classic out of the way to ensure the pair of boots underneath aren’t twin nuclear warheads.
A framed photo of Audrey Hepburn
How could anyone not respect someone who admired Audrey Hepburn? She’s the kale of quotable deceased women. No one with with an Audrey Hepburn photo in their luggage walks through the metal detector with stuff in their pockets.
A cornucopia of underwear
It’s embarrassing when airport security stumbles upon your unmentionables while looking for a switchblade that’s actually just a flattened penny you made at the zoo and has been rolling around your luggage for seven years, that’s why I pack a variety of cuts, styles, and colors so security is left with the impression that I’m neither chaste nor deviant–a veritable underwear enigma.
A book of sudoku puzzles with a pen clipped to it
If a sudoku puzzle book coupled with a pen won’t prove I’m worldly and intelligent in the ten minutes we spend together in security while someone unfolds all my clothes searching for the headphones that coiled themselves into the shape of pistol, I don’t know what will.
A charcoal sketch of a potato
When TSA finds this work of art they’ll be so impressed by my capacity to capture the starchy vulnerability of everyone’s most beloved tuberous crop that they’ll spare me the humiliation of asking if the toothbrush I packed was one that my dentist gave to me at my most recent appointment.
A magnifying glass
Carrying a magnifying glass means you’re a detective, you can’t read small print, or you’re going to brutally incinerate some ants with some help from the sun. Regardless of which one is true, it’s quirky and mysterious, which means packing a magnifying glass is a must.
After a long day scolding travelers for their aerosol deodorants, my traditional vitamins – definitive proof that I don’t need to close my eyes and pretend I’m eating gummy bears when getting my nutrients – will be a glimmer of hope for humanity in an otherwise thankless day.
A foreign language dictionary
Security will silently congratulate me for my intentions to assimilate abroad while I think of different sigh variations I can use during my travels when I come across a local who can’t communicate with me in my omnipresent native tongue.
A stockpile of travel size cosmetics and toiletries I won’t actually use
Things like blackhead astringent, eucalyptus oil, a toe separator, and avocado cuticle balm really have no place in my luggage, but to security, they represent fragments of an elaborate mosaic of the sophisticated, composed woman sweeping through the metal detector like a manicured hand summoning paper towels from an automatic dispenser.
A package of Fig Newtons
Because after all that, I really want airport personnel to remember I’m still a Fig Newton gal at heart.