Bring Back Art from your Vacation

Packing as an art...

Ok. I’m going to brag. I am a master packer. I have put in my 10,000 hours. I moved a lot as a kid and then as an adult I traveled the world on my own, for graduate school and later as a humanitarian worker and peace corp volunteer.

When I hear people say things like oh I can’t buy that because it won’t fit in my bag even though their eyes are saying “oh my god I want this organic ceramic sculpture!” a little piece of my heart hurts. Because oh…they…you can make it happen!

Let me tell you a little story….

In 2009 with great enthusiasm, I traveled to Indonesia for a research trip for work. There a met a colleague who had previously lived in Indonesia for like 10 years and who spoke fluent Indonesia. Needless to say, we hit it off. And no, my friend, our first conversations were not about who we were going to interview and what kinds of things do we need to find out, they were about shopping!

So, of course, our first week she took me to this amazing upscale market, where with her encouragement I bought this amazing old wood carved sculpture. It had originally been part of an old building but someone had thoughtfully put it on a stand and preserved the wood. I LOVED it. I still LOVE it. I also bought a mask carved from wood. My first thought was oh geez how am I going to get this home…and then sense kicked in and I thought when else am I going to get the chance to buy an Indonesian building carving with a gorgeous stand….ugh…never. I’ll make this work.

So two weeks later after working 12 hour days every day, I was drained… and stuck with a team of crazy workaholics. Seriously, I think they would have listened to interviews on tape while they slept if they could. So on my last full day during a never-ending internal meeting, my awesome Indonesian speaking colleague and I looked at each other and had a whole unspoken conversation about escaping….and the next thing I knew, I was in a taxi speeding to the old Jakarta antique market. And wow…what a wonder!  I just threw caution to the wind and bought another building woodcarving and a gorgeous simple iron cooking pot (which I now have hung on my kitchen wall). On the way back, I turned to my colleague and I was like…oh $&*^…I don’t have another bag. So 5 minutes later, the taxi stops at a roadside kiosk and I am buying the largest plastic zip up bag I’ve ever seen. When we get back to the hotel, I spend the next hour wrapping my new treasures in my dirty clothes for padding and making sure that my luggage is weighed evenly.

Getting my art back to the US....

So at this point I am completely prepared to pay baggage fees, but guess what my friend, I came just under the weight limit! And when I arrived at US customs and had to present my baggage, I had to stifle a giggle. The customs agents looked at my large plastic bag wrapped in duck tape with these incredulous looks and said “what is that?”! I proudly said, “That’s my Indonesian sculpture art!”

Four Tips on Bringing Art back from your Vacation...

So never fear, where there is a will there is a way. If you love it, buy it. You’ll figure out the rest. A few quick tips from the master:

1)   Roll your clothes and wrap your new-found treasures within the rolls. This will not only pad them against damage but will save space. I’ve used this trick to safely transport Vodka from Ukraine, a metal door knocker from Venice, and crystal candlesticks from Prague. It works.

2)   Bring a handbag that can expand and declutter it of only exactly what you need for the trip. You can take it on the plane and expand it for the journey back, utilizing every nook and cranny.

3)   If you’re flying internationally, bring a second suitcase to take advantage of the two bag check-in policy on the way back. A colleague who lived in Kenya and I used to switch off a bag – she would use it going from the US to Kenya (packed with new clothes peanut butter and movies), and I would use it for trip from Kenya to the US (packed with African sculptures, hand carved utensils, and textiles).

4)   Take advantage of store shipping. This is my stepmother’s favorite trick. She’ll walk into a store, find something that she loves, buy it, and ask them to ship it back to her house. That way she’s bag free, worry free, and receives a nice little gift at her doorstep after she arrives home.

If you come into my gallery, I am happy to advise. And to ship. I can ship anything, anywhere. Just ask!