It was a cold winter day at the Salt Lake City International Terminal. Brian’s brightly colored board shorts and my strappy tank top spoke volumes: we were headed someplace warm. Plus we were toting around a giant surfboard, which was attracting a lot of attention.
“Surfing the Wasatch?” joked a friendly businessman, dressed to the nines. I gave him the hang loose sign and we both grinned.

We were indeed going someplace warm: to our sailboat in French Polynesia, near Tahiti. We sailed across the Pacific last year so this would be the first time we would fly to the South Pacific to reunite with Magic, our sailboat. This would be the most complex international trip either of us had ever taken, and the “learning experiences” started right away.

Each of our four checked bags was slightly overweight. We were allowed 50 pounds each, and our scale at home had not been accurate. We formed a plan. I had some new sheets and picture frames I was willing to part with, and the lady at the baggage counter was excited to take them off my hands. With each bag now weighing exactly 50 pounds, we continued on to the next counter, where a smiling man spent a lot of time on a phone and then delivered some stunning news to us. We couldn’t take our surfboard.

What!? Both of us had researched this beforehand on the airline’s website. But the smiling man told us we can’t believe what we read online, we have to call the airline directly to ask questions like these. OK. So now we have to do something with this surfboard, and we don’t have time to drive it all the way back home and put it in our garage.

I started to think about all our wonderful friends in Salt Lake. I felt grateful and happy when several people sprang to mind who I hoped may be willing to help get this surfboard off our hands. I started making phone calls.

As I looked through my hefty list of contacts, mostly people I don’t ever call, I thought of a recent TED talk I saw online. The speaker mentioned a longevity study, which tried to determine the factors most important for a long life. The top two predictors for longevity turned out to be social, with the most important predictor being the number of people in your life you can rely on. These are your true friends, or as Ann of Green Gables would call them, your “Bosom Friends”. Bosom friends will loan you money, or sit with you if you’re having an existential crisis, or come and get your surfboard at the airport when you can’t take it to French Polynesia.

I started calling, and heard the receptive and kind voices of my friends on the other end of the line. They all wanted to help, so I tried to figure out who was closest and who could be there the soonest. Within thirty minutes Mike and Heather came to the airport with smiles and hugs, then whisked away our surfboard in their SUV. Problem solved. Thank you, Mike and Heather! A million times, thank you!

With our surfboard gone I had plenty of room to pack my discarded sheets and picture frames in the empty surfboard bag. I returned to the first ticket counter and sheepishly asked if I could have them back. The lady behind the counter returned them with a smile. Now I would have an ample stock of fresh sheets for the South Pacific. Laundromats are few and far between.

We also brought a bevy of shiny new camera gear, which Brian gave to me for Christmas. A Panasonic GH5 camera capable of shooting professional quality 4K video, with all the accessories, ports, lights, and lenses to shoot underwater was stuffed into backpacks we would carry on. We could not allow all this delicate glass to get tossed around on the airport’s conveyor belts. I vowed to guard my new camera gear with my life during our trip, and never let it out of my sight.

We also had four laptops between the two of us, which we also carried on. It’s a good thing we’re young and strong! This year I turn 40, and may need to invest in one of those sensible wheeled carriers for my future trips to the South Pacific.

Our trip went well until we went to check baggage for the final leg: a flight on a miniscule plane from Tahiti to Raiatea. My mouth formed a perfect O when I saw the little sign saying we could only carry on 5 kilograms. My international travel brain was sleepy, but immediately realized the consequences: our camera gear would not be able to come with us as a carry-on. Our 5 kilograms would be mostly consumed by our laptops. We padded our sensitive things with clothing and sheets, and then we had to hope for the best as someone else took our backpacks full of camera gear. I had to let go of the outcome. I would not be able to protect these items as I had hoped.

We landed in Raiatea, got our rental car and went to Magic. Brian hauled our heavy bags aboard using a pulley. Magic was in the boatyard, up on blocks, floating in the air in long term storage. We climbed a sketchy ladder to board Magic.

I whooped with joy as I took a test photo with my new Panasonic GH5 and then reviewed it. Everything worked perfectly. I turned on my video light, bright as the sun, then examined all the ports and lenses. Everything was intact. We had successfully completed our biggest air trip and were back at our sailboat. Another sailing season begins!

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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