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  • Susan Conrad

A Different Kind of Adventure


"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m an EXPED ambassador and sponsored athlete. What does that mean? It means I have the privilege of collaborating with one of the world’s top expedition gear manufacturers. It means I get to spread my passion of adventure and the great outdoors with behind-the-scenes support. It means I get to use—and abuse—some of the best outdoor adventure gear that’s out there. And it means so much more. It’s a role that I take seriously with a responsibility that motivates me to keep moving forward with my vision to take INSIDE to the international level that it deserves.

With that said, you may envision me paddling big waves, capsizing in tidal rapids, hunkered down in my EXPED tent, or eating rehydrated chili with my toes burrowed deep in the sand on some faraway beach. Full disclosure: this past summer yielded a radically different experience. I managed to land myself a gig as part of an award-winning program called “North to Alaska.” It was a position where I shared my stories and images about my Inside Passage sea kayak adventure with thousands of people from all walks of life, from an average of 30 different countries. I was a guest lecturer onboard a cruise ship that is as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall. Each of the fifteen sailings I worked on carried more than 4,000 passengers through much of the same remarkable scenery that I paddled through in 2010. It was a fast-paced summer with one major caveat: I was a human yoyo. Each week, for fifteen weeks, I would have to get my belongings and myself not only on and off the ship, but also to and from the associated airports. Logistics have always beleaguered me.

My EXPED Galaxy Rolling Duffel got me there, and back. Did I mention fifteen times? EXPED is a Swiss company. The Swiss are world renowned for their attention to detail. This was no exception. You’re probably aware of how the airlines treat baggage. Imagine that abuse on steroids and you can almost envision how the cruise lines treat baggage! Within just a few short hours, ship personnel have to unload upwards of 5-6,000 pieces of luggage for disembarking guests and then load approximately that same amount for those just starting their trip. I witnessed some pretty frantic behind-the-scenes activity with this critical component of each sailing.

Bone dry and empty, the Galaxy Rolling Duffel weighs 7.7 pounds. The maximum baggage weight allowed at most airports is fifty pounds, unless you want to pay the $75 overweight fee, in addition to the $25 baggage fee most airlines charge. I fondly nicknamed my new travel companion the “Green Monster.” She topped the scales at 49.5 pounds nearly every single time. Why so heavy? Books. Two hundred and seventy two pages of hardcover heft. Plus a sizable amount of other accouterments I’d need for my working vacation: fancy clothes, practical clothes, rain gear (I was going to Alaska after all), signage, and promotional materials. Let’s not forget the hairdryer and snazzy black boots—yes a far cry from my previous Inside Passage experience. Thank goodness I also had my EXPED Glissade 35 backpack as a carry-on to transport my laptop, camera, and various odds and ends. How I ever lived out of a 21-inch-wide sea kayak for an entire summer beats the hell out of me!

While this may not be the exact application that EXPED engineers had in mind for expedition luggage, I certainly put it to the test. If you’re looking for a ginormous (but manageable), weatherproof, wheeled duffel bag that can take a clobbering over and over again, look no further than this bag! What impressed me the most were the wheels. My fears that they wouldn’t hold up were unfounded. Mind you I didn’t merely wheel this bag from the drop-off curb to baggage check-in and then reverse for the other side of that scenario. Each sailing entailed wheeling and hefting this bright green puppy in and out of shuttle vehicles, taxis, ferries, airports, ship terminals, and onto the ships themselves, often times in pouring rain and gale-force winds. Once, I opted to wheel Green Monster approximately one mile down a sidewalk, rather than take a cab to the airport. By that point we were pretty much joined at the hip and she followed along nicely.

The only feature that succumbed to relentless abuse was the footrest that doubles as a handle on the bottom of the L-shaped frame. I imagine ship personnel reefed so hard on it that they managed to rip it right out of the bottom of bag. The two bomber carry handles on either side of the bag remained intact and the rest of the bag held up exceptionally well.

Green Monster was much lighter on my return trips if book sales were brisk on the ship. Thanks to the handy compression straps and roll-top closure, she adapted nicely to the smaller loads. And when she was fully maxed out, the strong extendable handle never caved under the pressure. I discovered the “secret pocket” underneath the removable liner on my very last sailing.

Stable. Balanced. Good looking. That’s my Green Monster. Like a proud mother, I beamed each time someone remarked about my bag. And long before ship and airport personnel began to recognize my face, they picked out Green Monster as we approached. “Haven’t sold those books yet, have ya?” some would joke with me. Note to self: pester publisher about a paperback release.

So that’s the inside scoop on the Galaxy. For more details on its design and features check out this fun and informative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QESdn-S9rZE

The same passion and excitement that brought me through the Inside Passage in a long, skinny boat is the same passion and excitement that allows me to speak in detail about my belief in and the efficacy of EXPED's products. Life's a journey—live it wildly! And check out EXPED's products. You'll thank me later!


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