Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The backpack, or "In which I reveal my lack of camping experience"

We have to talk backpacks.

Beth's backpack

When Will and I were still in Pittsburgh, we went to a store on the South Side which I, in my excitement, called "Ree." Unbeknownst to me at that particular moment, we were actually headed to a very well-known chain similar to L.L. Bean (REI, sounds like "R. E. I.") that everyone else in the country seems to know how to pronounce. My lack of outdoors experience comes to haunt me, once again.

It was kind of like the time that we decided to go camping in the Appalachians, and I insisted that we first get a snake bite kit at the local Walmart— You know, just in case. I bought the kit only to come home and read the instructions to learn what one actually does with a snakebite kit, and promptly decided for a few hours that there was no way on earth we were actually going to camping. Did YOU know that snakebite kits include scalpels and other similarly ominous tools of extraction?? Okay, you probably did. But I was absolutely shocked. I had envisioned something equivalent to a tube of souped-up neosporin. The experience provided me with a wake-up call to the realities of camping, to say the least.

But that is another story for another time.

Today we're talking backpacks.

At REI, I tried on multiple backpacks, and, having never owned a "hikers backpack," I decided on the blue pack pictured above. I'm fairly certain that the last time I owned a backpack was in grade school. (In high school, I had convinced myself that wearing a backpack was ugly and unnecessary, so I just carried all my books. Not my smartest era).

So this backpack is all I will be carrying for 74 days as we travel around New Zealand, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. As a girl who is used to packing a bit more, how shall I put this, thoroughly... I've been somewhat overwhelmed by the prospect of living out of a backpack. But, I know that the less I pack, the more we can bring home for our friends and families, so I'm going to do my best to travel light.

In fact, I really shouldn't be complaining. I blogged this summer about an article that the New York Times published about the "Six Items or Less" challenge— a project that became the inspiration for thousands of people across the globe who pledged to wear only six items of clothing for the entire month.

Photo courtesy of The NY Times

I speculated in the entry that these minimalist trends, however fleeting, were ultimately beneficial for society. Well, that was easy for me to say with my closet-full of work clothes in Pittsburgh.

In turn, I've decided that it's time to take my own advice, and embrace the backpack as not a curse but a blessing. An opportunity that will help me prove to myself that one doesn't need limitless clothing options to be happy.

Plus, I already asked, and I'm not allowed to bring a hair dryer. So, at least that's one more item I can cross off the list!

I'll update a few more times prior to our departure next Thursday, but before I forget I want to say thank you to our readers! You've proven yourselves to be an incredibly loyal bunch — our site has had over 2,500 hits since it went live last week — and our trip hasn't even begun.

Keep coming back! And be sure to contact us with any suggestions, comments or questions @


  1. It's amazing how practical a small length of rope and a few clothes pins can be, and they ca be squished in anywhere!

  2. Thanks for the tip, anon! Come back and visit again soon :)

  3. Just to reassure you, the first time I saw R.E.I in Boston, I called it RAY. Much to the amusement of my friends.

    Also, I have no owned a backpack since 6th grade. You are not alone!

  4. So glad to know I'm not the only urbanite who got "REI" wrong the first time!

  5. Hmmm. I'm feeling guilty about that tablecloth now. Remember, you can always bring an extra bag and plan to leave it here when you head out on the next leg of your journey. Can't wait to see you, Holly


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