Summer sage in Portland, Oregon. (Jennifer Willis, 2020)

backpack possibilities and daring optimism

It’s no secret that I have something of a backpack obsession. I’ve written about this previously, on my search for the perfect travel pack. And I find this urge arising again, in no small part because eBags is having a major sale on their inventory in advance of some mysterious changes they’ll be making.

But the current pandemic, and my aging body, have forced me to consider what “the perfect backpack” even means anymore.

Maybe this whole backpack thing started for me when I spent a couple of weeks traveling solo through France and Italy when I was 24. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare and both my funds and research tools were limited, but it became clear rather quickly that a backpack was the sensible solution to my plans for hopping on and off trains and walking around so many cities and towns. There weren’t as many options in 1994 as there are now, so choosing a pack—a big green Kelty backpack with an attachable daypack—didn’t take a lot of time. And I was young and strong(ish), so getting the perfect fit wasn’t a true obstacle.

Flash forward to 50. I’m older and more experienced now, and the miles have long since caught up with me. I struggled with my TLS Mother Lode Weekender Junior as single-bag travel during my last trip with flights involved—because it was to heavy for me, and because I was traveling pre-dawn on poor sleep. I figured I could just work out more or add more weight to my exercises to make travel easier next time. Unfortunately, chronic illness and pain don’t make accommodations for something—from increased exercise to expanded work hours—just because I want it.

So now I’m looking at wheeled versions of the Mother Lode and at smaller daypacks, and even at the redesigned, lighter-weight version of the Mother Lode Junior—and feeling kind of angsty about the whole thing.

Because I don’t have any trips planned for the rest of this year, or maybe even for years into the future. I can’t travel during the pandemic. I have no plans to attend even local cons until there’s a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and/or effective treatments for Covid-19, and that could take a good bit longer than the government’s “12 – 18 months” estimate.

So why am I looking at backpacks right now? This is what I had to ask myself. I’ve been interested in backpacks for so long that there’s probably an automatic pull at this point. But it’s not difficult to understand what travel gear represents: the possibility for adventure and change. Chronic issues had already limited my activities and kept me close to home, and now I’ve been in necessary isolation for long months due to a pandemic that is far from over. A shiny new backpack speaks to a future in which I’m strong and vital and can travel with daring optimism.

But that’s not the world we’re living in. I may never have those options open to me again. But, boy, it sure is nice to dream.

I restrained myself from spending untold hours browsing the possibilities yesterday, but I do have a few items sitting in my digital shopping cart, awaiting my final decision.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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