(When You're 40 Years Old)

The idea of hauling everything I would need for the next ten months around in a backpack seemed innocent enough. I was raised in Colorado, after all, where hiking was quite ordinary and camping taught me how to be creative and make use of what is available. All I really needed was a good sturdy pack and a willingness to give it a try. The latter was already there -- the idea of travelling around to different countries and seeing the world has always intrigued me. As for the pack -- well, I had to go shopping.

Things have changed out there in backpack land. I learned about a creature called a "travel pack," where the backpack straps fold into a compartment so that the pack resembles and can be used as a suitcase. And, a smaller day pack zips onto the larger pack. Very slick. My choice was a pack made by Eagle Creek called "World Journey, Women's Fit". Perfect. It looked good, and it certainly felt good, too, although I knew there was a big difference between trying on an empty pack at the store and carrying a full one. It was obvious I needed to "beef up" a little before the trip, since my exercise routine in Florida was, well, somewhat diminished. I began to work out in earnest, riding my bike and walking often so my body could adjust easily to the changes that were a'comin' in carrying the packs.

After a series of negotiations with myself as to what I really needed, I came up with what I thought was a pretty good list of things to take. And, when it was final packing time, I ended up tossing half of those things. I was ready; I left New York bound for "infinity, and beyond," giddy with excitement.

It was a queer feeling, then, that kind of snuck up on me in Madrid as I trudged around town trying to carry all my stuff. The packs were kind of heavy, and I was kind of tired, and where was I going to get some coffee, and it sure was taking a long time finding out where we were and where we were going, and I needed to stop and take a breather, and when we did I turned and looked at my reflection in the storefront window WOW! I really am 40 years old! And I haven't done this for a looooonnnnnggg time. I was staring my age right in its wrinkly little face. (Okay, a little poetic license here. It's not that wrinkly.)

I can make jokes about it now, because now everything's going so well. I've adjusted and readjusted the packs, walked about a million miles through fifteen cities in four different countries, and we've developed a great system of moving around in the places we visit. So, as far as "Travelling by Backpack (When You're 40 Years Old)" -- I'm having a grand ol' time living out here on the road, gray hairs and all. Join me for some highlights: