In just two months, my black and yellow trekking backpack and I developed an oddly deep bond.
I suppose it’s not entirely bizarre, for me, at least. I’ve always been one to get attached to inanimate objects. Not because of any monetary value they may hold, but because of something significant they represent. And this little 50 liter vessel, with its countless buckles and zippers, represents one of the things I hold most dear; my adventurer’s spirit.
Through November and December of last year, everywhere I went, it went too. It was my lunch date, sitting across from me in booths all across Southeast Asia. It was the pillow I laid my head upon in countless airports. I watched it closely, protectively, with any semblance of maternal instinct I have in me, because in it was all I had to my name. It was my only constant companion as I had one of the most fantastic odysseys of my life thus far.
By a long shot though, the most precious thing it has given me is entrance into a most coveted community: that of the backpackers.
Backpackers have always held something of intrigue to a great number of people. They’ve earned a reputation as rugged explorers. Laid back vagabonds and wild and brave wanderers. Or maybe they’re just dirty, broke kids with nowhere to be.
But either way, now I’m one of them. And that black and yellow backpack of mine gave me my in. It was my main identifier as ‘one of them.’ Other backpackers would see that little hump, almost permanently attached to my back, and they’d know we had something in common.
That we were all on a quest, which at some point in our journeys led us to one another. Maybe we were looking for adventure, experience or self-discovery. But whatever it was we were searching for, if only for a moment, we were doing it side by side.
And the connections you make in those times of transformation are almost mystical ones. Perhaps more authentic than most others are the bonds you forge on random nights in a city you’ve never been to with people you may never meet again. Because when you’re traveling, thrown out your element and seeing the world with fresh eyes, when you’re not surrounded by your possessions and your people, the ones you believe define you, you are unequivocally your truest self. And since no one knows a damn thing about you other than what you show them in those moments of true selfness, they know you. Stripped down, without any of the bullshit. They understand the inexplicable part of you that craves places you don’t even know exist yet.
And so you open up in ways you never dreamt you would. You tell a nice boy teaching you to play pool your deepest secrets. You make the kind of dirty jokes you’d never dare utter to anyone but your best friend while having dinner with two sexy Dutchman. You hold hands and skip down the street with a pretty girl from Argentina who swears you’re her soulmate. And you do these things because it’s almost transcendent to feel like someone is seeing the real you. It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now if these bonds were meant to last an hour or whether they’re meant to survive a lifetime.
Because whether we drank too much one night and kissed in a bar or smoked a joint on the beach. Went snorkeling or watched a kickass sunset together at our very first meeting. Spun around in illuminating plankton, sped mopeds too quickly down dirt roads, talked about the universe until 4 in the morning or laughed so hard we doubled over on one another, we are now written into each other’s stories. We play supporting roles in some of the coolest chapters of each other’s lives.
So to the friends from my travels who I talk to nearly everyday, those I message with just occasionally and those I haven’t heard from since I received their friend request on Facebook. To the close few I am making plans to visit in the very near future and those I exchange texts with expressing hope for a ‘someday’ reunion. To those who have sent emails detailing the lovely way I look through their eyes and the one who writes handwritten letters that brighten my day…
Keep being the vulnerable, free-moving wild things that chase dreams and catch flights. Your boldness inspires more boldness. And this world needs bold.
Because of you, the travelers who have touched my life in more ways than I can count, I can’t wait to make countless more connections with fellow dirty, broke kids with no where to be.
And so, I’m packing up that black and yellow trekking backpack yet again.
We’re ready for our next big adventure.