When I first caught the travel bug, I was a college sophomore with only about a half-dozen Caribbean family vacations under my belt. Then, within a matter of 18 months, I took my first trip across the globe (to Dubai), which was followed by five more international excursions (through China, across European cities, and then a brief stint in South Africa). During that time, I not only discovered my love for travel, but I also realized my $200 three-piece luggage set—the one with the cute red elephants I had purchased my freshman year—simply wouldn’t cover my frequent-economy-flyer aspirations. What I didn’t know is that this would lead me on a journey through the vast, expensive world of premium suitcases.
I was looking for a bag that was durable enough to weather aggressive baggage handlers, simple enough to keep for years without it feeling dated, and compact enough that I could lug it around with no issue. Plus, I had to feel comfortable investing significant money. I was familiar with the big-name, super-popular dedicated luggage brands and also open to discovering new names stocked at department stores. I exhaustively browsed through reviews from travel bloggers, magazines, and e-commerce sites; I even censused my friends about their experience with different brands.
Eventually, I settled on Briggs and Riley’s Large Upright Duffel bag, which retails for $599. It’s an all-black, 29-inch piece of luggage that alone weighs 11 pounds. Out of all of the bags I looked at—hard shell, soft, traditional—it was, by, far the biggest, something that was extremely attractive to me, as I planned to spend extended periods of time living out of my suitcase.
The simplistic but functional design was another major plus: It has a large main top compartment that I can put my clothes in and another spacious section right below that can hold toiletries, shoes, and other things.
This was the most money I had ever spent on any single item. (It was also the first time I spent an entire paycheck.) I remember begrudgingly handing the store attendant my money and hoping on the subway back to Brooklyn with a bag that cost the same as my monthly rent. As soon as the transaction was over, I was overcome with fear: My parents and siblings had discouraged me from making such a large purchase while still in college; now my bank account’s balance felt even more unsettling.
I tried to cure my early-manifesting buyer’s remorse by going through the usual arguments—it was an investment, I wouldn’t have to replace it for years, I had a warranty, and so forth. All my doubts and nerves started to wane as soon as I started traveling with it.
The inaugural trip was also my first time in Europe—and while on it, I started to realize how big a difference good luggage makes. Yes, the basic functions (it holds things, it zips shut) are pretty much the same, but the fabrication is where you can tell how much you’ve spent. I no longer worried about the chaotic struggle most bags go through at the airport because of the bag’s abrasion and water resistance. The lifetime repair warranty was even more reassuring.
It’s been three years now since I purchased my big, black $600 duffel bag, and I’m still reaping the benefits of my version of an “investment piece”: For my corporate friends, that might mean a designer handbag—but for me, someone who’s turned travel into a habit, this feels like something worth putting my money into. When I think back about all the places I’ve traveled and the ease for which I was able to do it, I understand the value of spending on something that will not only compliment but also enhance my chosen lifestyle.