I bought it at an REI store on a sunny afternoon in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2005. It was a replacement for my previous Eagle Creek rucksack which had met a sad demise in a house fire.
Its maiden voyage was a three-week solo journey around Ireland. Its first, not mine, but it was my first solo journey and I found some strange solace in my backpack.
I’d learnt how to properly adjust it and fit it snug and tight around my shoulders and waist.
We battled sideways rain and harsh wind together as I made my way up a small Dublin alleyway to a hostel just off the River Liffey.
Later, I would spend the evening on a piss-up with a group of Australian girls before passing out in the ladies’ toilet and depriving my rucksack the chance to see Belgium. It would eventually get its chance, though not until 2008.
My rucksack had my back on my first steps through Asia too. It braved the overhead locker of a Chinese hard sleeper from Beijing to Xi’an and stuck by me as I tried to sleep surrounded by a group of staring locals.
Sure, it got a bit sandy on the it-should’ve-been-four-but-was-actually-8 hour bus journey down a road that hadn’t been built yet through the Taklamakan Desert. But once we reached Jiayuguan and saw the mud towers at the end of the Great Wall, it was all worth it.
It even let me cry a good cry the day I had to leave my other suitcase – filled with happy memories and a few clothes – in the Shanghai Airport when we departed for New Zealand to see my dad. And when I was so lonesome in Latvia, my rucksack had a surprise in store – a US quarter from my home state emerged from its bottom to remind me that we’re never far from those we love.
Through the years, my relationship with my backpack has ebbed and flowed. It certainly took a back seat when I fell in love and stopped going on long trips in favor of short romantic city breaks. You’re too heavy, too big to carry to Rome, I’d excuse myself, choosing some small generic rolling suitcase that had never been anywhere with me. A case that had never served as my pillow or my backrest or my friend.
Lately, the only time I pack the rucksack up is for the inevitable relocation, which has started to become an annual affair.
I noticed that its top handle is only now starting to fray, and even after six years, countless heartaches, 24 countries, seven international relocations and a very wonderful wedding, my backpack is still with me, taking me where I want to go.
The thing I love about that pack is that it has a lifetime guarantee. This means that, unlike my passport – the other souvenir of places I’ve been – I’ll never have to give it up. It will simply get patched, repaired and spruced up, and it will always be there when I’m ready for that next big adventure.
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