Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Best Bag: Chronicles of the Whole Foods Market Better Bag

The Best Bag: Chronicles of the Whole Foods Market Better Bag

Need a reliable, environmentally friendly, and cheap bag for your travel needs?

The Whole Foods Market Better Bag is my personal choice, although in retrospect it’s quite unusual how I’ve come to this conclusion. I’ve worked at Whole Foods Market in the past and seen the bag used on perhaps hundreds of occasions daily, but the idea that it’s truly an ultra-durable product stuck to my head only after I’d traveled the world using the Better Bag as my bag of preference—along with my rucksack and fannie pack, of course.

Indeed, all of you are reading the aforementioned and probably wondering, why would anyone in the world ever use such a, let’s face it, uncommon bag for their travels in the first place?

Let me explain in as few words as I can. It started out with a trip to Europe that I organized for nine friends and myself. As usual, I was short on time. Working quite late into the previous evening and getting home exhausted, I collapsed into bed, only to wake up at 4 a.m. the next morning to get all my travel needs done: e-tickets, hostel reservations, and sundry travel itinerary. Worst of all, I hadn’t even packed yet! I hastily got all my belongings together, but after printing out my whole group’s travel itinerary—9 flights, eight hostel bookings, one bus ride, and emergency contact information for each person (and, again, there were 10 of us), as well as PDF-file travel guides for each city we were to visit—I realized that I had about 400 pages of information to carry on board that would be too risky to check in if it got lost. And that’s only the beginning: what about my travel books, magazines, and newspapers that I know I can’t do without on an eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight? Quite soon, I had a 40-pound carry-on that I didn’t know how to take on board. I looked around my room and saw two Whole Foods Market reusable bags lying around, so I decided to take them without giving it much thought. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, since I always travel like a backpacker, having a backpack around the shoulders is the sine qua non of any trip. But what’s one to do once the shoulders aren’t available any longer? Indeed, one’s most valuable possessions—addresses, medicine, and a camera, perhaps—must be carried either on the waist or in one’s hands. This is where the Better Bag comes in. It folds up, thereby saving space, and it’s also very lightweight. But many bags are like this, so what makes the Better Bag so special? For one, each bag is made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles (according to the Whole Foods Market website, each bag represents approximately four 20-ounce plastic bottles). But, again, not much of this might matter for the average traveler who, let’s face it, at least on his or her vacation may prefer convenience and comfort to environmental altruism.

Therein lies the lynchpin to this whole concept. With the Whole Foods Market Better Bag, one can travel comfortably, lightly, and on the cheap—all the while doing something philanthropic for the environment, too!

Indeed, at a price of 99 cents each, the Better Bag may have originally been created for re-use in lieu of the traditional oil-derived plastic bag, but it is a highly durable travel bag, too. For day trips when one’s belongings are left at the base (i.e. hostel, hotel, or wherever one decides to sojourn), it is an amazingly light, resilient, and long-lasting item—and one that can either be carried with the hands or strapped around the shoulder.

So long-lasting, in fact, that last year I traveled with different Whole Foods bags a total of 52,435 miles on three separate trips abroad. My first trip was the abovementioned ground setter in January with nine friends to eight northern European countries. I took another trip, this time for a week, less than five months later to Iceland, again taking the Better Bag with me, mainly because it had proved so unfaltering (and partly because, again, I had no alternative [not that I wanted one at this point], since I had procrastinated and packed at the last instant). Finally, I traveled on a trip literally around the world—starting via the Pacific and ending via the Atlantic—for 115 days from late-August until mid-December 2008. That was a total distance of 52,435 miles (84,368 km) traveled last year to 27 different countries with the Better Bags.

Suffice to say, none of the penultimate generation Better Bags has ever given out on me (I’m talking about the bags pictured in most of the pictures: the light-green and turquise bags with an etching of an apple drawn on one side). On my trip around the world I traveled with two—just in case—and both came back intact. True, the color may be coming off some of the handles, and small holes have started to appear in random places, but the bags survived their unexpected tests and numerous other ordeals. I’ve never had that penultimate generation Better Bag rip on me before, although I must be honest and say that previous versions of Whole Foods reusable bags have, occasionally, ripped, though never during my travels.

For 99 cents, this environmentally friendly product that just so happens to be super-reliable is my recommendation to any traveler.

I’ll be traveling this summer to Europe again, albeit for two weeks. In any case, I don’t know much about my trip itinerary yet, but one thing is for certain: the Better Bag will surely be one of my travel companions this time around, and every time henceforth. Frankly speaking, I can’t imagine traveling without it since in the end I needed only one bag to last me a whole trip around the world: from arid late-August Chicago to the nightless summer Reykjavik sky of Iceland, and from wet Bangkok in the midst of Thailand’s rainy season to the harsh Siberian winter.
It is, quite simply, the best bag in town!

No comments: