I had to say goodbye to an old friend recently, and the loss has been weighing on my mind a bit. As I sit here typing this post I can still picture the last few moments we shared together…..
I’m not very good at goodbyes, so it was no surprise to me that I stood there lamely shuffling my feet and staring at a vase on the coffee table. I let out a small sigh and picked at a piece of lint I saw clinging to the hem of my t-shirt, casually flicking it off my thumb and watching it lazily fall onto the hardwood floor. I felt that words needed to be said, something to affirm my sense of loss and an acknowledgement of the times we’d shared together. Yet as I stood there clumsily staring at my friend I knew the words would never come, and that this was the end.
Accepting the inevitable I bent over and took my friend in my arms, carried him to his new home, and lovingly closed the door on him and a chapter in my travel life.
This was the scene a few weeks ago as I bid adieu to the large, red Victorinox backpack that has accompanied me across the globe since my first major international trip in 2009. Yes, I can imagine you rolling your eyes right now. “All that angst over a #$%&ing backpack?” And trust me, I can see where you’re coming from.
But hear me out.
While it’s admittedly more than a bit worn and torn, that backpack has more travel experience under its belt than most Americans. The average American doesn’t even own a passport and yet this bag has touched down on five continents and crossed three oceans. With the exception of my iPhone, there is nothing (nor any person for that matter) that has been by my side through more adventures.
Together this bag and I have –
- Seen the Taj Mahal
- Climbed to the top of the Acropolis in Athens
- Frozen our asses off during a winter storm in Helsinki
- Hiked the Great Wall of China
- Visited the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima
- Taken a ferry across the Rio Plata between Argentina and Uruguay
- Sat on the steps of the Sydney Opera House
- Drank a Coke Light on the walls of the Dutch fort in Galle, Sri Lanka
- Watched whales breach off the shores of Maui
- Knelt in reverent silence in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul
This bag has laid under beds in Indian royal palaces and Japanese hostels. It has been crammed under tiny economy seats on fourteen hour flights and has been lovingly tucked into a closet by First Class flight attendants. It’s been on trains, planes, boats, buses, tuk tuks, and rickshaws. It’s carried salmon rice balls, water purification tablets, sandalwood incense, chess sets, and ema boards. It has served as a clean place to sit while eating in a park, an impromptu umbrella in torrential downpours, and something to hug when things got a little too crazy.
When I made the decision to purchase a new bag, I realize that my current bag meant much more to me than a simple collection of red fabric and zippers. We’ve got a lot of history together when it comes to travel. I’ve taken my friends and family to many far off destinations, yet for most of my adventures across the US and the globe it was me and that red backpack jumping on a plane and facing a new destination alone. Me and my partner in crime.
Time catches up with all of us eventually though, and a few months back I knew that our days together were most likely numbered. The telltale signs of fatigue and old age were beginning to show themselves. I searched high and low through stores and websites, yet nothing seemed to fit the bill quite like what I already had with Victorinox.
Eventually I just bite the bullet and made a purchase. My new travel companion will be a canvas and baby blue backpack from Hershel. I recently tested it out on a trip to Hawaii (it seemed easier for me to test it there since my Victorinox had already been) and I have to admit…. it just wasn’t the same.
I’m going to give it some time and see how things pan out with Hershel. For now Victorinox has been laid to rest in a “retirement community” that consists of a few other travel mementos I’ve collected over the years.
Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to come out and play on a few more adventures…..
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” – Shakespeare