It is good to breathe fresh air. Crisp and just a bit cool. The air I breathed in while staring at the horizon on a cliff in Inishmore (one of the Aran islands in Ireland: The thrill of getting close to the edge & making friends).
Something took over me when I turned 23. I had traveled before, and I had expressed my desire to backpack travel in Europe. But Ireland was different. It was a special kind of feeling that crawls up from your belly to your heart. Unknowingly at the time, that adventure ended up shaping the future of my life. It lit up a spark. It gave me the tools for rebirth and growth. I knew that if I could spend 10 days traveling a foreign country on my own, with no cellphone, no tablet, no laptop, not a single familiar face…I knew I could do anything.
Two years later I made the best investment of my travel life: my backpack. I spent 8+ hours reading reviews, looking up brands, watching videos. I got it in a brown box in the mail. I hugged it and took pictures of it against the pretty flowers in our garden. It was not an ad picture. At the time I did not even have Instagram, so the thought of tagging a certain brand and becoming a sponsor did not even cross my mind. There is a certain kind of freedom when I think back on those times. I took a picture because it was genuinely a day I wanted to remember. I wanted physical and digital proof that what had just been delivered to my home in Florida, was part of something bigger than myself. That it was life-changing. And it really was.
So I hugged my new pack, and I slept with it in my bed that first night. I was a kid again. The death of my father 4 years earlier had taken away the last shred of innocence I had in me as I grew older. The presence of my backpack made me feel childish, reckless, carefree, happy. I have never possessed something so symbolic of my life. The weight of it sometimes metaphorical to all the things that pushed me down and made me feel small. The weight of it also empowering me, making me feel grand, making me aware of all the times I rose above unfortunate circumstances and came out on the other side…A better side.
The backpack moved to Spain with me. We hiked mountains in Madrid all four seasons. We had our first real snow day in Navacerrada. We felt the heat of the summer sun on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia. I shook, and ached, and sweated, and nearly cried carrying that backpack. I also danced in it. I did a happy dance when I got off the plane in Hungary, and I realized that I almost made a mistake thinking I should stay in Madrid forever…Because I realized I am bound nowhere; therefore, I should go everywhere before I slow down in one place. I almost missed a flight in Portugal. I ran to the gate, barefoot, and with my still open Osprey smacking down on my shoulders. I laughed so hard as I boarded that flight. I cried so hard as I packed up and said goodbye to Spain, a knot in my stomach that went all the way up to my throat during both the Uber ride and plane ride.
A month after leaving Spain, I was terrified as I got in a cab in Mexico City, all on my own. My backpack was my armor when I felt threatened. Its weight planted on my shoulders as I pretended to know exactly where I was and where I was going…Wherever there was. I have returned to my boyfriend so many times after days, weeks or months away, with my pack still strapped to my body as I kissed him hello! Not an everyday “hello,” but more of an insatiable “I’VE BEEN DYING TO SEE YOU AGAIN.”
The plane always lands safely, despite my irrational thoughts of catastrophe. I get my backpack out the carry-on compartment, and proudly throw it on my back again. The clicking sound of the straps securing it to my body, to my current way of existence. “I live for moments like this,” I think. And I feel hopeful that we will have a long life together, my backpack and I. Like some physical form of a guardian angel, I don’t need to look over my shoulder to know it is there. A new adventure begins. Ah, yes. I live for moments like this.