The suitcase is not your enemy, Susan George insists.
Sure, packing and checking bags can be a nightmare. But George, a retired flight attendant, has written a new book, How to Pack (With Style) ($24.95), that she hopes will take the stress out of your trips.
George, who worked for American Airlines in the late 1970s, when you could still use the word “stewardess,” was an experienced traveler. Her first husband hated traveling, she said. Second husband Charlie George loves travel and his job as an attorney has sent the Coral Gables couple all over the world.
“Because of that, packing to me was no big deal,” she said, as she recounts a friend’s comment that led her to self-publish her attractively presented How to Pack (With Style), a subject she will discuss Friday at Books & Books in the Gables.
George went on a “girls trip” with five friends to Maine. “Five girls in rent-a-cars and we had to get three cars and one for luggage. I came with a carry-on and everyone else had humongous suitcases. I had all these outfits for five days and it was unseasonably hot. So we flew back to the airport and one girl said, ‘That’s it! Open your suitcase. I can’t believe you have all those clothes in that suitcase for five days.’ ”
So George opens her suitcase, right in the middle of Miami International Airport, and everything she needed was there, neat and tidy, in that one simple bag.
“She says, ‘Susan, you have to write a book. You are incredible.’ ”
The off-hand comment sent George on an oft-frustrating three-year journey to get her book completed. The process worked its way from a desk inside her Coral Gables home to the Philippines to Doral to China and back home before it was done.
“The writing process was easy — like three or four months,” said George, 62. “I had been sick and my doctor did not want me to do anything for two weeks. I live on the golf course in the Gables and I’m looking out at friends playing golf and my husband is playing golf on a beautiful, sunny day, and I’m not allowed to do anything. I sat at the desk and thought everyone should know how to pack and so I wrote longhand, with a pencil.”
But then George had a how-to book without illustrations and the only way to really sell this project was to turn out an attractive product. She found a potential illustrator in the Philippines and she sent a check. The company couldn’t figure out what George wanted. Six months pass. No book.
“That ended that, so I just put it away,” George said. “Holidays come around and Charlie says, ‘Would you please just print it?’ So I’m sitting on an airplane and the girl next to me is going to Atlanta and she wrote a cookbook and I said, ‘Who printed it?’ ”
George was tipped to Eladio Robertson, the CEO of Doral-based Global Print Services.
“My last hope,” George recalled — and she told him so.
Suddenly, everyone was on the same page. Robertson became the project manager, Pedro Hernandez did the illustrations, a factory in China printed the book, and George had How to Pack in her hands.
The book features chapters on everything from packing the basics to jewelry, to destination visits like New York and Europe, to specialized trips such as family visits and cruises. George’s tone is conversational and occasionally amusing.
For instance, in her Departures page she dedicates the book to her hubby and to actor George Clooney, because, really what woman wouldn’t want to pack Clooney for a trip to the islands?
“I have never met him,” she writes, “but from what I have seen and read, he is the epitome of easy, light, stylish traveling. Clooney has two basic styles of dress: dinner clothes, and jeans with a T-shirt. I have never seen the middle ‘outfit,’ which makes me think he is the best packer in the world.”
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