Last month I moved from Spain to Portugal. This move was different, in the sense that a new class of objects appeared in my otherwise pretty scarce inventory: guitars. As you may already know, during this pandemic I started to learn to play the guitar. I could have learn it by watching YouTube videos, but doing it on an actual guitar seemed a better idea – hence, I bought an acoustic one. And then a classical one. And then an electric one, in the form of a kit, which I assembled myself, just to learn how electric guitars are made.
All nice and funny, until you have to switch countries. Sending them with the UPS wasn’t an option: way too expensive and I didn’t trust they will handle it with care. So, I took them with me. In my defense, I traveled by train and bus, not by airplane. Here are a few simple tricks that really helped me to bring them here in one piece. Well, some of them were brought in more than one piece, as you will soon find out, but you got my point.
Wrap It In Bubble Wraps
Even if you’re going to use a guitar bag, wrap the guitar, including the neck, in bubble wraps. And do it with at least two layers. If you have a smaller guitar bag, you may not be able to wrap more than two anyway, because it won’t fit later on. I have two fabric guitar bags, if you have a hard one, it may be easier. But even if would have had a hard guitar bag, I would have wrap it in bubble wraps, it gave me so much peach of mind, especially when moving it in and out of trains and buses.
Loosen Up The Chords
It goes without saying that you should do that before wrapping it. Obviously, it will go out of tune, but that’s the idea. If you’re going to spend more than 1 day on the road (as I did) it’s possible you will go through various air pressure areas, and that will affect the strings. It may be possible that they loosen up, but it may also happen that the pressure will increase and they will either break, or put too much pressure on the neck. Better safe than sorry. I retuned my guitars when I arrived in less than 5 minutes.
Lose the Neck Of The Electric Guitar
Since I assembled the electric guitar myself, I knew pretty much everything about it. So I decided to detach the neck (after taking out the chords, obviously) and reassemble everything at the destination. This made the guitar fit in a regular box, saving me the hassle of carrying a third guitar bag. I think every electric guitar can have the neck detached, but depending on how much you paid for yours, this may not be an option, as it may break the warranty.
Wear It On The Back, While You Wear The Backpack On The Front
I find this setup working surprisingly well. So, the guitar bag (which should have handles just like a regular backpack) went on my back, and I put on the small backpack I was traveling with on my front. It did take a bit longer to become functional when I stopped at a coffee shop, for instance, but it was surprisingly comfortable.
Expect People To Look At You Differently
That’s not really a trick, but something that you should be prepared for. Maybe if you busked before you know what I mean, but for me it was the first time I was out with a guitar on my back. There were a few times when I went out in a park to practice, in Valencia, but that was a very short stroll, didn’t have time to meet too many people.
But this trip, it was something else. People were looking at me differently, especially women. If I wouldn’t be too busy taking care of all my luggage, I would have say they were kinda, you know, interested. And indeed, when I got down from the train, in Lisbon, a young lady came and literally took one of my strollers saying: “Let’s help you dear, it must be difficult for you”. There were a lot of people around which may have had a lot more difficulties with their strollers than I did, if you know what I mean.
Also, in a bus station at the border, two young ladies came and sit exactly near my guitars, while waiting for the bus. Normally, this wouldn’t have mean anything, but that bus station was absolutely and completely empty. We were the only 3 persons in that place. And there were like probably a hundred of different places for those young ladies to sit on, and they choose to site near my guitars, while playing bachata tunes on their phones and dancing around.
So, for a couple of days I’ve been a traveler with groupies. Just be prepared for something similar if you travel with a guitar. People tend to project a lot on these “troubadours”…