On the Road Again (And Reflections on a Trip 14 Years Ago)

After a relaxing five days in Phuket spending time with friends, being driven around, and having locals who speak the language, I’m on my own again and ready to do some island hopping.

This seemed like the perfect time to introduce you to my pack.

I got this backpack 14 (!!) years ago to go on my first backpacking trip. It was my “senior trip” just after high school graduation and my friend Amanda and I decided to spend 5 weeks traveling around Europe. I remember choosing this pack on the recommendation of the sales guy at the camping equipment store because he said it was the largest pack that could be considered carry-on size for the flight over. This was supposed to be a bonus so that we could get out of the airport ASAP and not have to wait for luggage. In retrospect, that seems like a silly thing to care about since we took all of one flight (the one TO Europe) for the whole trip. It’s not like we were on the Amazing Race and really needed to get out of the airport quickly! Though it did have the added advantages, I suppose, of not having a chance to get lost and limiting the overall size of the pack; I saw some people with HUGE packs and I wondered how they managed. These days I would never even consider bringing this bag as a carry-on. With all the changes in flying it would never pass the size/weight limit.

One great thing about this pack is the top and front zippers. Some people had top loading packs that were impossible to find anything in because it was only accessible from the top. I can always find whatever I’m looking for, and with 14 years experience in packing it, I have my strategy down to a science.

Another thing you’ll notice about my pack is the U.S.A. patch sewn to the front pocket. This is a remnant of that first trip 14 years ago with my friend Amanda. It was our first trip around Europe and we quickly became familiar with the concept of Canadians and their strong desire to set themselves apart from Americans by attaching Canadian flags (and often multiple flags) onto every item of travel gear they owned.  We finally thought, You know what, we’re Americans and not ashamed to show it. Some may have these patches just to show they’re NOT Americans, but we’ll proudly say that we are. We were in Switzerland and we saw a souvenir stand selling patches for all the countries so we got one each and sewed them on in the hostel that night. After all these years I’ve never taken it off, even on some of my later travels (say, to the Middle East) when I questioned whether it was the best idea to have a U.S.A. patch on my bag. I figured it’s been there for this long, I’m not about to take it off now.

Who could have known when I bought this pack so long ago that it would have been with me so long and traveled to so many places!

And speaking of things that have stood the test of time, check out my watch which I also bought 14 years ago.

my watch

I actually bought this just after I got back from my European adventure.

Funny thing. I was sitting on the plane on my flight back to the U.S. after five weeks of travel and I had a bit of money left over that was just burning a hole in my pocket. But I have money LEFT OVER. I have to spend it! No matter that I was returning home for the summer with no job and was about to head off to college in a few short months.

I was flipping through the Duty Free catalog (which still seemed like such a novelty on only my second trip abroad!) and saw a nice watch with a pretty blue face (I think it may have been a Swatch). When the little cart came down the aisle I asked to see the watch and tried it on.  It was way too big for my wrist so I didn’t end up buying it, but I was determined to get a similar one when I got home. The watch you see here was purchased for $80 at Macy’s the next week.

Although the timing of the purchase and the amount ($80 was a lot to me back then!) was kind of reckless, it actually turned out to be one of the best purchases I ever made. In the last 14 years this watch has probably not spent more than a few days total off of my wrist. And I mean that quite literally. It’s waterproof so it’s been to the sea,  swimming laps in the pool, to bed every night, in the shower every morning . . . I guess that puts the cost per wear somewhere around a penny!

At some point I suppose I’ll have to replace both of these items but since they’re both still working I say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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3 Comments on “On the Road Again (And Reflections on a Trip 14 Years Ago)

  1. So great that you have reliable gear. I love things that get to travel with you, even if it’s just an object–they become part of you/your story. Fourteen years of amazing travel adventures–wow!

  2. Hello! My name is India! I found your blog and it is very interesting and you also have beautiful pictures..love the quality of your camera! I am in college at the moment pursuing my teaching degree (bacherlor’s and master’s) and I would love to teach in Beirut! I am an English major, so that is my teaching subject. Is Beirut full of opportunities for an English teacher? Also, I have a non-teaching spouse and two dependant children. Do you think this would be a good location for a family? Thank you for your response in advance 🙂

  3. Pingback: How I Travel | The Present Perfect

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