barcelona’s trash is my treasure, and new travel bag


One important piece of travel gear is a day bag to carry around the various cities you will visit during your travels, and of course to hang off of the chair of the café that you may be in at any given moment. This day bag need not be a huge backpack – that would be counter to the flying north minimalist mantra and would encourage you to carry around more junk than you actually need.

This bag should be big enough to carry your passport[s], a pen, an iPad mini or smartphone/tablet, a small umbrella, and other small items such as chewing gum [unless you are in Singapore of course]. It should also be stylish enough so that it can go from day to evening. A backpack just will not do.

For many years I have carried around a small Freitag bag that has served me well. Made in Switzerland, these bags are assembled from old car seat belts, old zippers and used tire tarps. My bag has lasted many years and has been all over the world. Unfortunately these bags are now quite costly [more than $250 for the smallest bags] and the design has changed a bit over the years such that I fell out of love with the new line. So, my long search began to obtain the next generation of flying north day travel bag.

Unfortunately, for many years this search was fruitless. That is until I happened upon a small shop on Bonsuccés not far from Pl. Catalunya in the center of Barcelona. It was here that I happened upon the Vaho Gallery. This store is reminiscent of Freitag, but clearly from Barcelona. Like Freitag, Vaho sells wallets and bags of all sizes from recycled materials. They have five stores in Barcelona. However, Vaho has two advantages. Firstly, the price point is much less than Freitag [only around €50 for a small bag], and second and most importantly, are the materials used for the fabrication of the bags. These bags are made from vinyl – recycled vinyl that came from vinyl advertisement flags that have hung around the city of Barcelona. As they say on their website, “PVC advertising banners are our raw material of choice, and are taken to our workshop to start a new life. The fairytale starts as the events come to an end… Production takes place in the workshops of La Modelo prison in Barcelona, in partnership with the CIRE, the Centre for Reintegration Initiatives. The banners regain the will to live and this is where their rebirth begins.”

Accordingly, these bags are more colorful and interesting than the Freitag bags, and are more personal to the Barcelona experience.

In an age of being able to find the same products in every major city on earth, finding something unique is truly a pleasure. Finding something that also fits the flying north travel requirements is just another plus.

As the company states, “Advertising banners which used to be destroyed, burned and buried are now destined to a long and happy life. You are giving them a new lease on life.”

You can shop online for Vaho products at or like them on Facebook.