Illustration: Helge Timmerbergs travel luggage over time
© Tim Möller-Kaya

Travels with Spider-Man


  I was more muscular back in the old days, before luggage had wheels. My favorite piece was an 18th century suitcase. It wasn’t an original, of course, they’re all kept in museums, but a replica, historically correct right down to the last detail. An iron frame held it together, not zippers, and trying to open it without a key would have required a sword. There was also some woodwork involved, if I remember correctly. Even empty, the case weighed a ton, and it suffered delusions of grandeur, too. Goethe, the prince of poets, used a case like this when he traveled. Having outgrown that phase of my life, I returned to the trusty rucksack, which has the advantage of freeing up your hands, but people no longer take you seriously. And what about shirts? Someone invested time and skill flattening, smoothing and matching mine seam to seam. The rucksack soon ruins the effect, and that someone would regularly throw a fit. It wasn’t me, I am incapable of ironing. So, the other week in Amsterdam, Lara made me buy another suitcase. The opportunity just arose. I usually hate shopping, but we’d had a couple of drinks and were wandering along the canals, when suddenly, as if drawn by an invisible thread, we found ourselves face to face with Spider-Man. It must have been fate. There he was, flying toward me, arms outspread, in a shop window. He wanted me and I wanted him. Or rather, I wanted the super-light aluminum case with his superhero image on it. The Hulk and Captain America were there, too. A comic character on wheels, a couch of a case, the Amazing Spider-Man on the road. Amsterdam, Rio, Paris today, Monte Carlo tomorrow. I’ve picked up speed! It’s our suitcase that determines our reality.

Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.