the backpack


There is an unavoidable truth about traveling: To travel is to make oneself a figure of potential ridicule. Travel makes us vulnerable. Most experienced travelers know their basic needs can be met wherever they may be. You just have to ask for what you want and accept what you get. This is not as easy as it might sound. It takes confidence. It takes faith. It is usually easier to bring your own stuff. This is not the backpack’s fault. Anyone who has experienced being dropped in the middle of a Warsaw winter with nothing but a giant suitcase on wheels that must be dragged over bumpy old cobblestones as it careens and falls over and over again into the snow knows the so-called comfort of this kind of luggage to be a farce. Wheeled-luggage travelers are like an army of Queequegs who strap their sea chests to their wheelbarrows only to carry the whole bundle up the wharf. The very act of packing is a confrontation with who we are at home and who we can be when we are away. It’s never easy to leave home and harder still to make oneself temporarily homeless. This is true if you are traveling with a carpetbag or a steamer trunk. But no luggage more bluntly — or more honestly — expresses the fears about packing than the contemporary backpack.

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.