Confessions of a Luggage Shopaholic

There’s a point in the Confessions of a Shopaholic series when Rebecca Bloomwood finds herself in the luggage section of a department store.

“Luggage!” she exclaims. “Why have I never thought about luggage?”

Don’t ask me why I’ve read those books. (Sigh. If you must know, I was marooned in Bangkok on a 3-month work contract with no cable TV, so went through the whole library in my serviced apartment.)

For a hyper traveler like me, I’ve been in love with luggage ever since I got my first passport. As a travel nerd, I get more excited about luggage shows than I do fashion shows.

Tumi SS14 Collection

TUMI SS14 Collection. Wait. There were models? What models?

So when I found myself walking back to my Asakusa hotel recently, I had to do a double take when I saw a sign for The World Bags and Luggage Museum. How had I never heard of this?

The receptionist greeted me and showed me to the seventh floor of a nondescript office building. It turns out, I was looking at the private collection of Ryusaku Shinkawa, the founder of ACE, a Japanese luggage manufacturer (and the world’s first producer of nylons bags).

Luggage Museum

Here was my Mecca. My university. My leather-bound candy store filled with more than 600 bags on display.

I learned that steamer trunks offered the most usable amount of space (with the added benefit of becoming a floatation device in case of emergency). Subsequent companies made steamer trunks with rounded tops. Why?

To keep the rain off when traveling by horse and coach and also so that these trunks would have to be stacked on top of other trunks, thereby reducing wear and tear.

The museum traced luggage through the ages, including vintage Louis Vuitton from the 60s, a Pan Am bag from the 70s and the many components that go into a modern piece of luggage.


My favorites, though, were the countless designer pieces made of every conceivable type of material. Some were just right…

so right

Bag made from the skin of an unborn calf fetus? Don’t mind if I do!

And some were plain wrong…

so wrong

For an around the world trip a few years back, I bought a Samsonite hard-sided case after watching Youtube videos on just how easy it was to open up a locked zippered suitcase with nothing more than a pen, utilizing the zipper’s self-repair function so that you’d never even know someone had gotten into your bag. My Samsonite accompanied me on impossibly crowded trams in Istanbul, unforgiving train station stairwells in Rome and uneven pavement in the Caribbean. I even bought vintage stickers everywhere I went to purty it up.


Unfortunately, when I went to use it again about a month later, I noticed a big crack in the bottom of the case, by the wheel. It was too late to seek compensation from the last airline I flew and not in the scope of the manufacturer’s warranty. It’s now a very expensive sweater and jacket storage device.

In researching a travel column I write, I recently spoke to Tom Nelson, of TUMI (Asia Pacific), a manufacturer of luxury luggage (and also my favorite brand of all time) about trends, especially for Asian consumers, and it seems I’m not the only one disenchanted by hard-sided luggage.

“It’s interesting to note that hard-sided travel cases were traditionally very popular in this region [of Asia]. However, we are now seeing a bit of a shift where Asian consumers are increasingly opting to purchase soft-sided travel cases. Business and day bags are very popular in Asia. Male consumers in Asia particularly like the messenger and cross carry style totes. Comparatively, men in the US, from what we have seen, prefer to carry backpacks.”

In addition to abrasion-resistant ballistic nylon, wheels are another area which have seen lots of improvements in the past few years, including bigger, more stable ones to what Tom describes as wheels “recessed into the body of the case to give it a lower center of gravity for stable multidirectional navigation and a more spacious interior compared to mounted wheels.”

As a luggage nerd, I’m looking forward to some killer innovations like the 3-in-1 scooter / stroller / seat suitcase or the carry-on that turns into a skateboard to zip you through the terminal. What? Your bag only stores stuff? So 20th century.


As soon as I could afford it, I’ve been a fan of TUMI. Understated, functional, classy, just like me (!)

Here are just a few of the TUMI products I have, including a couple of wheeled backpacks which come with me on any trip less than a week. (A backpack means airline agents are less likely to check how much they weigh, and wheels to save your back as you’re walking to the gate.)


Part of my happy TUMI family!

At the end of last year, I noticed TUMI starting a Global Citizens campaign. Instead of A-list celebrities, every few weeks I’d get an email with a new quasi-celebrity looking sufficiently broody and sexy, posing with a piece of luggage.

Tumi Global Citizens

Amongst these “less famous faces”, there was a Grammy-winning composer, a granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the North American chairman and chief executive of Pirelli Tires. Hyper travelers, all of them. And I hated them for it. Glamorous. Good-looking. Well-traveled.

Jealous much?

But then I got an email in early February asking if I wanted to be a Tumi Global Citizen for the Asia-Pacific region. It was my turn to be the broody, sexy one. Or at least try.


Yeah. I think I’ll stick to my day job.

But over the last month, my TUMI bag has been traveling with me everywhere. We’ve done planes, trains, vintage cars and even vintage train carriages turned cafes.

Tumi Travels

I may have even been keeping my own little Bridget Jones-esque travel journal. Except less “I like you very much. Just as you are.” and more “This is what I ate for my second breakfast today…”


Yes, my name is James and I’m a travel nerd.

What about you? What’s your favorite thing to take with you when you travel?

To read my travel column in the April edition of Oi Vietnam magazine, please click on the image below.

Luggage Column

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6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Luggage Shopaholic

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Best. Photo shoot. Ever.

    (But you look so mean! Are Global Citizens supposed to be mean? Maybe someone interrupted your re-read of Confessions of a Shopaholic… After all, even if you *had* to read the books because they were just lying around your Bangkok apartment, that doesn’t explain why you can still quote from them years later. Clearly they stuck with you!)

    1. James Post author

      OMG. That’s my sexy face! Sigh. I’m hopeless…

      And I have a photographic memory, thank you very much. It’s not like I, ahem, went out and *cough* bought *cough* the missing books that weren’t in the library…

    1. James Post author

      Thanks, Heather! I spend way too much on luggage! I’m eyeing a duffel bag, as it’s the one hole in my collection. I have one made from recycled mosquito netting that’s environmentally cool (got it in Phnom Penh from an Italian NGO) but…

  2. Jura Cullen

    I’d love to go to a luggage museum! But what you really need is ‘globetrotter’ – have you seen it? Doubt it is sold in Vietnam, although they do have it in Hong Kong. Sadly it is more expensive than Tumi and hence my husband and I only have two small rolling suitcases which we take everywhere but maybe one day we will have all our luggage from there… They are still made by hand in the UK and although they look like the traditional heavy trunks they are actually made from layers and layers of paper so they are incredibly light. An advert from the turn of the century demonstrated their strength by showing an elephant standing on one. They really turn heads and we often get comments about them. If you want to fit in when you go to all those luxurious colonial chic hotels in SE Asia you really should consider one…
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    1. James Post author

      Never heard of Globetrotter, but am now officially in love with their Safari collection. Super pricey, though! I’m also leery about buying something that I can’t easily get fixed. The telescoping handle on my Tumi suitcase was wonky and thankfully there is a TUMI store near me. Still, it took three months to get it fixed! I can’t imagine having to send something back to the UK for repair. But yes, very glam. I could easily imagine myself with a whole safari outfit to match. Though, if I were alive during those times, I’m sure I’d be a porter rather than the one on safari. LOLz.


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