“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, July 02, 2010

To Pack or Wheel?

I had two questions as I packed for Alaska the night before my departure. Do I take a pack or a wheeling suitcase, and should I take my hiking boots? As it was last night drinks and of course the world cup match, I was out with friends and asked their opinion. They said take a pack and don’t take hiking boots and unfortunately, I now disagree with both!! A temperate rain forest means wet and mud, and soaking feet yesterday means that I wished I had my hiking boots (though I do agree they are heavy).

As for the pack, this caused me more turmoil. The last time I used my pack, I was still at university. It’s a fabulous pack and it was all part of the traveler I was then. However, I have had a wheeling suitcase ever since, and never thought to go back. There are certain places that require it, like India and Africa where walking and travelling is rougher, but did I really need it for Alaska? It is true I was a backpacker, and I had my yoga mat/bed roll and sleeping bag. I stopped short of the tent that would have completed the image, but I was definitely the sort of person who would normally have a pack.

So I packed my gear into my pack. I picked it up, groaned at its weight (I tend to overpack), cursed, swore, bitched, moaned and groaned to myself, ‘Do I really want to be heaving this everywhere for the next month?’ I thought about it some more, then decided to unpack it all and put it into a suitcase (it’s 2am by this point and my airport pickup was coming at 4). I went to sleep and tossed and turned (for all of an the hour that it was). All sorts of self-challenging questions arose. Was I still able to be a true backpacker or had I gotten soft? Was I too old to be a backpacker? I remembered the time in Pakistan when the hostel owner told me he expected me to leave because I wasn’t the right “type” for a hostel. I thought about whether having a wheeling suitcase was the lazy option. But then I remembered that that particular suitcase had a broken handle so would need repacking anyway. I decided it must be fate and repacked it back into the pack, cursing more all the while.

So how long did I last with a pack? 3 days. I went to Walmart on Vancouver Island and bought a wheeling suitcase that fit the pack and all else. Pathetic isn’t it!? However, when I am riding ferries that have elevators/lifts and everywhere I am going has nice concrete footpaths and taxis if I wish them, I will enjoy my wheels and save the pack for India and the tropics and another trip.

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