Your backpack is the most important piece of kit you’ll take on any adventure. It doesn’t just carry your stuff. Your backpack marks you out to fellow travellers as a potential friend, a likeminded soul with whom to roam the Earth. It serves as your pillow during that 21 hour stopover you booked just to save a few baht, and your bed companion during long nights wracked with homesickness. After a few months it’ll smell so catastrophic you’ll want to kill it with fire.
Every traveller, before embarking on any journey, will spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what kind of bag to purchase. It’s a choice that might say more about you than you realise.
Yeah, you probably haven’t done this before. You’ve panicked about not having enough stuff to last the duration of your trip, so you’ve decided to pack your entire wardrobe, the three-tier first aid kit your mum bought you, a desktop computer, a waffle maker, the family dog.
It’s okay. Many have made similar decisions before you, and you’ll meet plenty of them along the way. You’ll laugh together at your foolishness and forge bonds of friendship from the debris of your worldly possessions.
You might not be the most adventurous person in the world. You’re probably a bit nervous about your first steps into the world. You’re probably sticking to well-worn destinations and group tours. That’s cool. The sheer size of your backpack is testament to the huge enthusiasm you have to try every new experience you can.
You’re also brilliant at buying souvenirs and your family and friends bloody love you for it.
This is a sure sign of a seasoned traveller, someone who’s been out in the world before and learned from their mistakes. You know how easy it is to pack lighter, halving what you think you need and saving a bit of cash to buy some definitely not knock-off designer gear abroad.
You’re comfortable haggling for cheaper prices and getting off the tourist trail, just seeing where the world takes you. But you’re also well-prepared, your bag big enough to house some special travel kit (i.e. toilet roll) that less experienced travellers will envy you for. These same wanderers, less confident about the road ahead, will likely try and hitch their wagon to yours.
You are probably ready to accept them.
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Whoa, check you out! You’re not shackled by the futile allure of stuff. You’ve packed lightly enough for butterflies to carry your bag (if only you could train them, dammit!) and you couldn’t be happier. You’re free! You go where the wind takes you, liberated from needless possessions and crippling back pain. This is living.
The result is a travel itinerary made up of destinations only cartographers have heard of, reachable only by hot air balloon and two days crammed into the back of a sheep farmer’s pick up. But that’s no problem, because your backpack is so tiny. It fits anywhere!
Other travellers gaze upon you with a sort of nervous reverence. The brave few that find the courage to scrounge of your wisdom do so without meeting your eye. You’re in an elite club now. You could even get dreadlocks and play acoustic guitar to orphans and everyone would still think you’re cool. Such is the power of a 20L backpack.
You’re either a shameless attention seeker or this is a desperate cry for help. Maybe you grew up wearing baggy jeans, piercing any loose-fitting bit of your face, and listening to Slipknot in the dark, and you haven’t quite grown out of it. You’re still determined to show the world that your existence defies convention, and a convertible backpack is your latest weapon.
Trekking up a mountain? Hoist your bag across your back and go forth without delay. Sprinting for the last shuttle bus of the day but don’t want to actually look bothered? Sling it over your shoulder and hurry with style.
The convertible bag may mark you out as someone to be avoided. Yet a select few are drawn to your lofty pragmatism. They’ll let their heads be turned by the unorthodox nature of your baggage. After a time they will become more loyal to you than geese to the southern wind.
A distance will always remain between you and them, your eccentric luggage preventing you from ever feeling too deeply, but in time you will come to feel something for them that might just be love.
Congratulations on your thick skin. A lot of other travellers are going to drench you in hot, salty scorn. They’ll tell you that wheelie cases are the domain of middle-aged tourists with skin as leathery as a car seat, their bags crammed with ill-fitting swimsuits, hardback crime novels, and an emergency supply of Jaffa Cakes. You, they’ll insist, are not a true traveller. You’ll be the last picked for any team sports.
A wheelie suitcase, however, shows that you do not care what is said in whispers behind your back. You’re probably a little older than the average traveller, and not too bothered by what these young pretenders think of your baggage. You are confident in the convenience of your choice, and while their vertebrae slowly compact under the weight of their backpacks, you’ll be wheeling and laughing, wheeling and laughing, until we are all nothing but ashes.
This probably means you’ve become some kind of Sherpa or desert tribesman. You’ve been travelling too long. It’s time to go home, see your family, have a shower. You smell terrible.