“So here’s an example of a short jaunt. I fly from Toronto to LA – that’s around 6 hours. Then from LA to Fiji, that’s around 12 hours. I get to Fiji at 5:50am – in time to watch the sun rise, while sitting on a bench just outside the terminal. Then I’m in meetings all day. In the evening I jump on a flight back, 11 hours to LA, 6 hours to Toronto. And it wouldn’t have been such an easy trip, had it not been for the LAT_56 Red Eye.”
Meet Eugene Gerstein. He’s logged over a million travel miles and his idea of a 2-week business trip is flying from Canada to Russia to Kyrgyzstan to Dubai, to Thailand, to Burma, back to Thailand…
I get lost trying to keep up with Eugene’s intended destinations. You watch movies about guys like this. Now I was speaking with one.
“I guess I’m not an everyday person,” Eugene says with a laugh.
Indeed. Eugene skipped grade 9, instead working full-time for a year when he was 14, and by age 18 had completed two years of university. Then he served in the military, returned to complete his undergrad, and went on to postgraduate studies. He studied video production and is also “a bit of a linguist,” speaking 7 languages and is taking up Chinese. He had a telecom start-up in the ‘90’s during the first “dotcom” bubble and has spent the last decade in the airport industry. He’s audited airports around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, and mostly travels to developing world countries, working on infrastructure investments and development. When a colleague asked him what his secret was, Eugene decided to start his own management consultancy firm.
Eugene’s manic globe-trotting lifestyle has aptly made him the King of Luggage. He knows how to travel and with what to travel. After logging so many miles to all the far reaches of the globe, he’s decided to start his own blog called Confessions of a Luggage Junkie.
And he’s got quite a few stories with his trusted LAT_56 Red Eye. Here’s how it began.
“I was baggage shamed.”
Eugene was standing at the luggage carousel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the CEO of the company he worked for at the time. The CEO wasn’t exactly pleased that he was made to wait, considering that he had come with a single piece of carry-on. When Eugene’s suitcase came around, his boss was horrified. Compared to his boss’ neat, little carry-on suitcase, Eugene’s bag had 2 weeks’ worth of clothes inside. “Show me what you have inside,” his boss demanded. Eugene acquiesced, opening his case. “At the end of this trip, I want you to tell me what you actually wore.” A few days later, Eugene had to confess that he hadn’t worn or used 96% of what he had packed. This is when he decided things had to change.
“When I decide I want something, I go crazy for it,” Eugene explains. “Like road cycling. I didn’t even know whether I would like road cycling but I bought all the gear, the expensive bike, and went all in.” And that’s just what happened with luggage. (Luckily Eugene does actually enjoy cycling and begins each morning with a 30 km bike ride.)
So Eugene got on the Internet and started doing his research, scouring the online forums like Flyertalk and reading all the reviews he could find. He finally decided on LAT_56’s Red Eye Garment Bag. He was going on a trip from Toronto to Moscow to Beijing and back and wanted to carry only one bag. The result? “It was the most liberating experience.”
“The degree of liberty is such that I can go on a jaunt and not book a hotel on the last day. I go from a meeting to the airport, change in the trunk of a car, and am ready for my flight.”
Because this actually happened. Eugene took his Red Eye, climbed into the trunk of a hire car and changed into jeans and a t-shirt (he never flies in suits, he says emphatically). Then he nonchalantly entered the Almaty International Airport in Kazakhstan and boarded his flight home. “The mobility is just insane,” Eugene says. So is changing in the trunk of a car. But it’s just another day in the life of Eugene.
Here’s another story.
“People are always asking me about my bag,” Eugene tells me, “It’s a great conversation piece. Sometimes I tell them it’s a sniper rifle. That’s one way to end the conversation,” he laughs.
But one time he got into a bit of trouble in the Ukraine. “Customs authorities at the airport asked me what was inside the bag,” Eugene explains, “So I told them I had my tools in there. They made me open it up and found my suit and ties. ‘You said there were tools in there,’ the guy said. ‘These are my tools,’ I said.” Eugene is laughing, never afraid to get up to mischief.
Eugene’s Red Eye has logged over half a million kilometres and has been with him to over 25 countries. His enthusiasm for the bag is “infectious” and now several of his colleagues own LAT_56 bags as well.
“We all love the customer service. It’s clear you guys are doing the right thing.”
Recently, Eugene’s been on the search for a suitcase with a garment carrier. Luckily for him, the new Road Warrior range has just launched. He’s over-the-moon, eagerly awaiting his next trip so that he can test out his new suitcase, “I want to go somewhere NOW!” he nearly laments.
So whether it’s dealing with Ukrainian customs authorities, negotiating sticky business agreements in the Congo, Eugene has had more than his fair share of travel experiences to last a lifetime.
And I’ll just be here, waiting for his next story.