Inside My Head, Travel Gear

Saying goodbye…

16 Comments 06 July 2010

Leaving for my career break 2006

At the end of my career break travels 2008

In Memorandum – Saying goodbye to a dear friend

My throat immediately tightened and my swallowing became slow and laborious. I could feel the familiar sting in my eyes and my abdominal muscles contracting into a knot. I was going to cry; dammit, I was going to cry! I tried to hold back the tears, but somehow it made it hurt more. I took one last look at my dear friend, gently ran my fingers down the back remembering all of the fond memories, and turned around and left; knowing I’d never see my friend again.

After 4 years of living out of my Eagle Creek suitcase, our relationship was over.

Sure, there were signs of it aging now for some time, but I chose to ignore them. The Eagle Creek label was the first thing to fall off, but I didn’t need to label to recognize my old, loyal friend. Next it was scarred a few times, but the durable fabric never actually was punctured. It was tattooed with stickers from various customs and security agents, making it completely beautiful and unique in my eyes. The extractable pull-handle started sticking a year ago; but I knew how to wiggle it just right to make it work.

When the zipper that held the daypack on to the bigger backpack broke, I knew it wasn’t a good sign, but I still wasn’t willing to give up on it. There are always rough times in a relationship, and I knew we could get through this zipperless bump in the road. I simply used the nylon straps to secure the daypack instead.

The broken wheel... 4 years of nonstop travel mileage on that held in there as long as it could!

Occasionally the other zipper would get off it’s track, but I was always able to fix it; a labor of love. However, the day when the one of the two wheels fell off – I knew it was the end. I had to put it out of its misery and put it down.

Down in the garbage room of my friend’s apartment.

I remember when I first got it. I must have talked to the REI salesperson for at least an hour trying to pick the exact right pack solution for my upcoming around the world travels in May of 2006. The salesman and I filled the pack with heavy weights and put it on my back to see if it would be comfortable. I walked around the store to test it out. I was nervous about the decision to let it into my life, but that was to be expected. This was my first big career break trip I was ever taking in my life. I was full of nervous excitement for the 6 months leading up to my career break departure.

When I brought it home and put it in my bedroom I would look at it every day trying to get my head around the idea that in 4 months I would be living out of this lovely aqua blue bag every day; this thought terrified me. How would I ever fit everything into it? How would I downsize my life enough to make this work?

I did my test packing a month before and realized it would never work. I had to downsize more. I did. It worked. Soon I found myself in Penn Station with my beautiful new bag ready to depart on my adventure of a lifetime…just me and my Eagle Creek bag.

At the beginning of this epic journey, I had no idea how much of a fixture this bag would become my life. This is why today, as I had to leave it, I felt like I was abandoning it. I thought about everything it carried for me, how it never got lost (a miracle!), how it always stood out in a crowd, and how when I asked and pleaded really nicely, it would fit one last impossible thing inside and still allow me to zip it up.

Oh – the memories.

The final resting place...

Goodbye dear friend, I will remember you forever as you will always be my first around the world bag. Thanks for the memories.

You can find my more formal review of the Eagle Creek Switchback for extended travel on Briefcase to Backpack.

This means I’m in the market for a new bag – can anyone hook me up?!  Help a nomad out!

Your Comments

16 Comments so far

  1. DAD says:

    Sort of reminds me of my old army duffel bag. I still have it in the garage, but it had no moving parts to wear out except maybe a hook with a spring steel piece that kept it latched. Had a serial # stenceled on it, mine. Certainly no zippers or wheels. It too held all my things for a couple years.


  2. It’s funny that when you shed all of your stuff to travel on a career break how important the few items you do own become to you. I’ve had my backpack for 15 years and wouldn’t know how to say goodbye to it. So many great memories in that dusty rucksack. I mourn your loss.

  3. Betsy Talbot says:

    My shiny new backpack (also from REI) is in the closet now, packed with all the clothes for the trip. I look at it every day and wonder how I’m going to live out of that thing, but I get excited at the prospect!

    My condolences to you on the loss of your travel buddy, and I look forward to seeing what new companion you will pick for future travels. (My backpack is here: – I picked it out the same way you did but also with the help of @almostfearless’s review)

  4. Nick Laborde says:

    Sorry for your loss, I’m sending positive vibes your way. I can just imagine the moment you knew it was over.

    It’s much better to part on good terms. Rather then waiting for that inevitable moment when your dear friend just can’t go another mile and throws all your stuff on the airport carousel.

    I’ll soon be on the lookout for my new home of a backpack. I hope to have many fond memories like yours.

    Good luck with your search.

  5. Mark H says:

    Aaahhh, the memories. My beloved backpack finally disintegrated, the desperately sewn threads and precisely curled paper clips no longer holding the faded fabric any longer. Beautifully told and hopefully some fine memories of your times together.

  6. Ekua says:

    I found this post through a retweet on Twitter. I can definitely relate. I never got rid of the big suitcase I used to always use, but I have definitely transitioned into using a backpack for my bigger trips. It was a sad end of an era at first, but now my love/hate relationship with my backpack is all love. I´m sure there will be many more memories with whatever you choose to lug around the world next 😉

  7. Anil says:

    Saying goodbye to a backpack is one of the hardest things. What size are you looking for in a new suitcase/backpack?

    • admin says:

      I’m looking for something on the larger size – the switchback was 4700 cubic inches and that was my primary bag. It was a suitcase and a backpack. You could very easily turn it into a backpack and carry it – I liked the versatility because honestly most of the time you can roll your suitcase…even in countries like Mongolia!

      Any ideas?!

      • Anil says:

        I think Barbara has one like that, she would be a good source to ask. I use a Kelty 3100 and have used the REI Mars, but neither of them can be rolled. Sounds like a good excuse to visit REI, even to browse :) I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for you though and let you know if I hear of any good suggestions.

  8. Earl says:

    You’re courageous! I’m still clinging to my Kelty Redwing that I bought for my first trip back in 1999. Although, apart from the knife slashes it has sustained at the hands of suspicious customs officials, it’s in perfect condition. I simply can’t imagine traveling with anything else.

  9. Aurora says:

    Oh that IS sad! I can well imagine how you must feel about it, I would feel pretty much the same I think. My own dear bag that has been with me all over the world is slowly but surely falling to pieces. The fabric is ripped in one place, the zipper isn’t always working properly, and I’m afraid the wheels will soon give up too… It’s funny how you develop such a strong attachment to a thing like that. But true, when you are thraveling in a way your bag is really like your home. 😛
    I hope you find a new one that you will be just as happy with as with your previous one, and that you’ll have many marvelous adventures together! :)

  10. I laughed till I cried, and the other customers in the coffee shop thought I was losing my mind. Best laugh I’ve had in ages. I had the very same suitcase and finally decided to change because I no longer wanted all that weight on my back. I couldn’t find a new style from Eagle Creek that suited me, so I’ve now been through two more, different brand cases. None of them are as good as the Eagle Creek. I just wish they’d come out with exactly the same style without the backpack that takes up so much of the interior room and adds so muhc weight!

  11. I really like your blog. Finally somebody that gets “it”.

    • Annie says:

      Your site is a source of inspiration… Thank you

      Most probably too late for this comment, but as i am shopping a bag .. i am under the impression Eagle Creek has “Guaranteed for life/No Matter What® Warranty” policies and would have replaced your old friend with a new bag…..

      • admin says:

        Yes – I believe they do have that guarantee – and yes I should have probably used it – but when you are constantly on the road – it’s not easy to find time to ship stuff back and wait for a new one!
        Thanks for your comment and glad you are enjoying the site! Love to hear from people!

  12. Well, Barbara used to have an Eagle Creek Switchback that was in pretty good shape, but now Sherry has it! Hope it serves you well; it probably has a few more good years in it.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Where am I and Where am I going?

Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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