She loves nothing more than her backpack…
This was the original tagline for Jessie on a Journey, before I changed it to “Taking you beyond the guidebook” to reflect the quirkier and lesser-known experiences I wanted to share. That being said, the original tagline still rings true for me.
I still remember the day I found my backpack. It truly was fate. I was 21 and had planned a backpacking trip through Europe for the summer, so my parents bought me an expensive backpack for Christmas. Although it felt awkward and forced me to stick my head out like a turtle I kept it, figuring I was inexperienced and this was probably the way it was supposed to feel until you got used to it.
It only took about five days of traveling around Ireland until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. My back ached, my neck hurt and I dreaded the thought of having to put the backpack, or what I more commonly referred to as “the torture device,” on my back. I was in a small waterfront town called Dingle, full of local shops, restaurants and pubs and vast stretches of countryside. It was probably the last place in the country I would have expected to be able to find a backpack, but one day while I was trying to find the Visitor’s Center I stumbled upon a store that sold a few outdoor gear items. It had a single backpack hanging from the wall, so I figured there was no way it would fit; however, when I tried it on it felt like a second skin. I immediately knew I had found my perfect pack: The Gelert Wilderness 55. And best of all, it was only around $60.
I left the other expensive but uncomfortable backpack behind at my hostel and continued on in my trusty new Gelert Wilderness 55. Together, we spent the entire summer backpacking Europe, getting into trouble, missing trains, getting lost in new cities, meeting sexy locals, making new friends and just having a genuine adventure. When the summer ended, I decided this backpack was my new best friend. She not only kept me organized and gave me the ability to travel from city to city with my belongings, but she inspired me to continue traveling solo and backpacking the world.
I became addicted to backpacking culture. Becoming fast friends with strangers in hostels, walking long distances everyday just to save a few bucks, eating street food, traveling without making plans and immersing myself in local culture instead of hiding behind hotels and expensive bus tours. I’m not sure I would have turned out the same if I hadn’t found my Gelert that fateful day in Dingle.
At of the time of writing, my backpack and I have been traveling the world for six years together, and she’s practically as good as new, albeit a little worn and dirty; however, this only gives her character and reminds me of the numerous trips we’ve been on together: Teaching English in Thailand, hiking through China, doing a homestay work in Ghana, spending a summer traveling through South America by bus, traveling solo through French Polynesia. Even if there comes a day when I need to replace my Gelert, I don’t think I could ever part with the pack. It’s like a first love. You never really forget them. And you shouldn’t, because they helped shape the person you are today. That’s how I feel about my Gelert Wilderness 55.