27 September 2010

Backpack

I spent almost 2 weeks in Germany in July. I love Germany. I don't know why. I get off the plane in Frankfurt and I sigh with contentment. I just "fit". I speak enough of the language to get me in trouble, but not out of it, and that doesn't stop me. In the States, I don't do well in the congestion of the big cities - masses of human flesh tend to send me into panic attacks. But in Germany, the masses of people are the oxygen in my air - it brings me alive and I relax - I am home.

When I take my backpack on my travels, it's like putting on my shoes - it just naturally fits against my back. All I need in my backpack is my camera, passport and a little cash. The rest, while nice, I can do without. The stories my pack can tell - about misreading train schedules, getting on and off the wrong train, carrying the essentials in the hopes (yes, I said "hopes") that my suitcase would get lost. It could tell you of the speeds traveled, the people met and the sights seen that my camera just cannot capture. It has been drenched in the rain and in my sweat. It's protected my camera, gave me a second set of arms and carried my pillow. It could tell you of the Coca-Colas hoarded because of the early closure of German stores and it could tell you the kilometers it carried those empty bottles just to get the 5 cent pfand (deposit) back.

My backpack is my wallet, my adventure, the proof that I'm going, that I've been and that I'm living. It's not fancy, just a cheap ole school pack, but it suits me well. And I've gone through several. My first pack, on my very first trip to Europe, was just my school pack. I emptied it of all the papers and pencils and pens about 2 hours before I left. Back then I wasn't as careful with my pack - it held all I needed plus. By the end of my 2 month trapse through Europe, I had gotten the art of the backpack down. It then held only a book, a passport, a camera and, since I was coming back Stateside, a ton of chocolate. The first pack that I took with me to Camp Lachenwald in 2003, I still have. A mouse ate through it to get to the chocolate, it was threadbare and wanting for wear but I can't dispose of it. It's got too many memories attached, too much sweat, too much German rain. I swear I can still smell the fields of Hommertshausen in what remains of the threads holding it together. Much too precious to toss.

My latest backpack is grey and still has some mud from a deluge of a summer storm in it. It carried the first aid kit for my girls, my knee brace when my 42 years started to show and yes, chocolate. And of course, my "essentials" - passport, cash, camera and Eurail ticket. I've added two new items to my pack - a fanny pack (thank you, Digs) for the times when a backpack is just too much and a journal. The fanny pack can hold everything but my camera and allows me the freedom to go in and out of places that have bag check and when it's just too hot to have anything else near my skin. The journal is so I can work on my writing. I've a lot of writing from my latest trip - all still too raw and unrefined to do anything with. But my journal represents my potential, a goal, if you will, of taking those raw thoughts and turning them in to something that will be worthwhile to read.

I take my backpack with me on my travels throughout the States as well as on my trips for business. But it isn't the same creature then. It's a product of convenience, not a close friend who shares my adventures. I just came back from Germany and yet, I long for the chance to go back. For the opportunity to take my dear friend out, go through the last memories in it and prepare it for more. I name almost everything of importance to me - my car is 'Harrison", my GPS is 'Keegan', my camera is 'Howard' and I even named my children - and yet, I haven't named my backpack. Perhaps, before my next adventure, I should name my pack. But that just doesn't sound right. Somehow, 'my backpack' fits. And it fits ever so wonderfully in Germany.