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I’m Pretty Sure Sloths Can Morph Into Turtles If They Save Enough Cash.

Yesterday I did not paint the trim in our bedroom.

Nor did I scrub the baseboards or putty the holes around the windows.

In fact, all I did was shop vac the popcorn remnants before hitting the showers so I could hang out with an old friend who’s back in town for a few days.  We sat at a wine bar for the afternoon and talked about girly things.

It was all kinds of wonderful.

Of course, after regaling her with harrowing tales of my adventures into the design world and my big plans for the master bedroom, the talk inevitably turned to travel, as it usually does with me, and we exchanged stories about places we’ve been and where we’d one day like to be.

And I realized.

It doesn’t matter how many light fixtures or curtains or duvet covers I buy — it will never be enough to keep me grounded.  To keep me from wanting to island hop through the South Pacific; to explore the Dalmatian coast of Croatia; to swim with the jellyfish in Palau.


Since I’m not in a position to travel right now and I’d like to stall a little while longer before painting baseboards, I’m going to start with a travel basic for you — the backpack.

Those of you used to taking a grand vacation to a single destination without the slightest intention of removing your belongings from the comfort of your hotel room for the duration of your stay may not be aware of the benefits that come from backpack travel.  You probably think backpacks are for beatniks and bums — the aimless Dean Moriartys of the world and white people with dreadlocks.  Or maybe you think it’s more like an exclusive club — one where you have to know how to play acoustic guitar or roll a superior joint before you’re allowed to become a member.

Well that’s simply not true!  Backpacking is a club, but the pack itself is your membership card — your elite access to some of the most interesting, well-traveled, well-read, and well-rounded people in the world.  If you’re out in the Great Unknown and see that unmistakable sign of a fellow traveler, you know it’s likely a fleeting friendship can bloom over smiles, tip exchanges, and any number of language barriers.

A backpack means freedom — freedom from the hindrance of staying in one place, freedom from the worry that someone might scratch one of your Louis Vuittons, and freedom to navigate city streets and cramped public transportation without getting tiny wheels stuck in sidewalk cracks and bags tipped in gutters.  Two free hands.  Your life strapped to your back.

The turtles, I think, might be on to something here.

If I could, I’d take a refurbished 1920’s Craftsman Bungalow and strap it to my back.

But I can’t.

So when I went to Costa Rica, I took these 2 bags:

Travel Bags

Two months of my life packed snugly inside the homes I’d carefully selected for the trip.

Of course, a nomadic pro could probably condense to one, but I don’t think I did too shabby for a noobie.

The black pack, The Lowepro Primus Minimus (I know, like a Gladiator!) was my carry-on, and completely necessary because it safely held my giant bulk of a DSLR camera, 2 lenses, memory cards, cleaning supplies, and power cords in the base compartment; plane ride paraphernalia including novels, guidebooks, MP3 player, headphones, and spare underwear in the top compartment; and my minuscule Netbook in the outside compartment.  An entire office in a single bag.  What’s more, it served as an excellent weekend bag, with camera in the bottom and plenty of room for some rolled-up dresses, undergarments, swimsuits, and toiletries in the top.

The green pack, which I checked on the plane, required a bit more research since I knew nothing about travel packs and the difference between various structures, breathability, and designs intended for campers, photographers, hikers, mountaineers, or just general travel.  Not to mention the fact that some packs are built specifically for a woman’s frame, which can make all the difference in the world when you find yourself carrying, like the most cumbersome tortoise, all of the things you want with you at a moment’s notice.

Think about that for a second.

Because when you strap that puppy to your back, no matter how well the bag is designed to distribute the weight where it’s easiest for your body to carry it, heavy is heavy.  And there is no better shock therapy for trimming the fat from your life — or your luggage — than by shoving it all into a backpack.  Or two.  Then strapping one to your back and the other to your front, so now you don’t only look like a tortoise, but a pregnant tortoise, with visions of tipping headfirst with the weight of yourself and not caring a bit because you know you’ll just bounce — and that, I think, is unbridled freedom.

The one I ultimately settled on was a Gregory brand Jade 60, a woman’s pack designed to carry 60 Liters.  However, since I ordered the size small to fit my frame, I believe that took it down to 55 Liters.  Fifty-five Liters, it turns out, is enough room to carry a life.

A small life of materials, but one filled to capacity with experience.

Was that cheesy?

Yeah, that was cheesy.  Even for me.  But a girl can’t help but get mushy when it comes to talk of love.

And that’s what this is, albeit unrequited.  I feel like a horse at the starting gate — held back for some lame league rule decipherable only by those who make them up — just itching for my chance to run.

My pack is too clean.  Too new.  Too green.

But that’s okay.  For now.  We’re just biding our time for a second run.

Many people, especially families I hear, feel the need for a vacation after a vacation.  I think I know why that is and what we can do to fix it.

And the first step, my friends, is a decent backpack.

Would you consider traveling with a pack, or do you think you’ll always stick to basic luggage?  Do you like the comfort of sticking to one place when you travel, or do you like the freedom to explore.  I’m curious.  There’s no RIGHT way to travel.  What’s yours?


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Kat Richter

I felt so weird (albeit a bit more grown up) during my last trip abroad, during which I brought a suitcase for the first time instead of a pack because I had a conference to go to…


I know… I suppose we all have to outgrow our packs at some point… :)

Sara @ Russet Street Reno

Oh man, I really hate travel. I like when I get to a fabulous place, but the journey there is no good for me. I definitely hate not knowing where I am and I get nervous and anxious and it’s just not good. I will definitely never backpack around anywhere! ha


Lol, Everyone’s different! If travel stresses you out, I can see where a backpack might not be a good idea. :)


Hmm. We’re planning a Spain/Morocco trip at the moment (so excited!) and debating on backpacks versus suitcases. True that with backpacks you have two free hands and they do have their charms, but I quite like the wheels on my suitcase. (It’s just one of those little wheelie ones. Not Louis Vuitton. If it gets scratched, I’m not concerned.)


I realize that at the end of this post, I should have stressed that it’s more the *idea* of a backpack rather than the actual pack – that it leaves you mobile and open to exploration, seemingly more-so than a suitcase. That said, we took a suitcase to Spain. Practicality-wise, we could fit both of our things into one (wouldn’t have happened with a backpack), and we knew we’d be leaving it at my sister-in-law’s place most of the time. Different trips definitely warrant different packing methods!

Wow, when are you going to Spain/Morocco? What an amazing trip that will be!!


Going in May. It *will*be amazing. It feels like forever since I’ve had a big adventure. Not traveling or not at least planning to travel tends to make me feel kind of empty, so booking those flights the other day was such a wonderful high.


We’re those annoying people who try to fit absolutely everything for the entire trip in their carry-ons to avoid the stupid baggage fee, so even the 7yr old gets a backpack and a laptop bag. I miss my pre-kids days when travel was much more frequent and spontaneous.


Ah HA! You’re the reason I get stuck having to check my carry-on because there isn’t enough room in the overhead bins and for some reason I’m always in the LAST group boarding the plane! I’m ON to you, sister. ;)


Haha, that is totally what I was thinking!

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