Posted 4 September 2008
If traveling were an Olympic Sport, Team Rider Miguel Willis would bring home the gold. Although which country he'd be representing would be up for debate, as he isn't a resident of any country and doesn't have a fixed abode (and yes, that does make it difficult for things like banking and credit cards.)
When you travel with him, you're immediately impressed not only by his world-class packing skills, but by the way he seems to be covered for every eventuality, whether it means having the right size kite for whatever wind conditions, having the proper tool when your footstrap comes loose in the middle of nowhere, or even having a good cup of coffee in places where no one's even heard of coffee yet. And, he seems to know what to order in restaurants, so that he gets the most amount of (decent) food for the least amount of money, and while he's paying off his $10 tab, your're wondering what the HECK you had that leaves you with a $32 bill, and still starving.
But he never looks like he's struggling with his bags, or that he's overpacked. Everything Miguel needs is contained within one golf bag, one piece of hand luggage, and a laptop. Which is quite a feat, because Miguel is pretty much on the road, most of the time ... the "hardcore" kind of "on the road" ... not the kind where you pack for a week's vacation and return to a well-stocked home to regroup, rethink, and repack before heading onto your next destination. Although he spends a couple of months (spread over time) at his parents' home in Oman, Miguel pretty much carries everything he needs with him for months on end, on his back.
Yet with the restrictions on air travel these days, and some airlines even making you pay for things like chosing your seats and checking any baggage at all ... and the fact that team rider travel money doesn't grow on trees ... it takes a bit of planning and practice to get it down to science. In his one golf bag (he prefers the small golf bags to the large golf bags), he can usually fit 4 or 5 kites, 2 boards, plus enough gear for living, which he defines as 4 t-shirts, a pair of pants, and a couple of boardshorts. He also carries with him a smaller burner for making coffee, a small Italian-style coffemaker, good coffee, a good book, and a laptop with lots of movies, for when he gets stuck in airports and hotels.
Here are a few of Miguel's practical tips for getting through the airline check-in counters with the lowest possible fees:
- No matter what happens, don't everget angry. Be calm and polite and respectful.
- Go for the gay guy.
- Shave, wear a shirt, look smart. if you look like a beachbum, they're not going to want to treat you well. But if you look like a businessman coming back from a golf weekend, you're more likely to gain their respect ... and their mercy.
- When packing for a trip and deciding what to take, put everything that you're thinking about pacing for the trip into 3 piles: things you'll use once a month, things you'll use once a week, and things you'll use every day. Throw out the things you'll use once a month, and the things you'll use once a week. Only take the things you'll use every day. Be brutal.
- Wear all your heavy clothes, or carry them (jackets, etc.)
- Know all the budget airline sites: Sidestep, Sky Scanner, Travel Supermarket. Check them all; don't just rely on one. Sky Scanner is really good for Europe, but crap for America.
- Try packing a kite or two in your hand luggage, but leave your bars in your golf bag. In some parts of the world (Dubai, for instance), bars can be seen as weapons, and it's not worth running the risk of confiscation.
- Roll your kites ... even if you can fit the same amount of kites in without rolling them, rolling your kites makes your golf bag look smaller and less stuffed. It's about perception here, and if the bag is perceived to be smaller they're more likely to cut you a break.
- Use the smallest bag you can find that will fit all of your gear. (When we ran out of Small Golf Bags briefly, Miguel had to make so with a large one, so he cut off the outer pocket to make it look smaller. Again, it's all about perception.)
How to roll your kites:
(It is not recommended that you store your kites this way for any long period of time, especially if they're EZ-pumps.)
1) Start out with your kite in a big jumbled mess. (This kite is a 10 Bularoo.) 2) Lay it out flat. If your kite has battens, remove them. 3) Fold it in half lengthwise.
4) Folded in half, another angle. 5) Fold the kite in half again. 6) Starting at one wingtip, roll it, sushi-style, towards the center strut.
7) Closeup of rolling the kite. 8-9) Roll the other wingtip towards the center strut.
10) Continue rolling towards the center. 11) Marvel at the difference between the finished rolled kite and the jumbled mess featured in picture 1. 12) Optional: Secure it down even further with a plastic bag and some duct tape. (Note: do not apply duct tape directly to the kite.)
13-14-15) Pack up your stuff, get on a plane, and go kiting.