Snailshell

I’m feeling traumatised. Lost. I’m having an identity crisis.

I’ve just bought a new rucksack.

Actually it wasn’t so much buying the new one that was traumatic, it was retiring the old one. I’ve had my rucksack since I was twenty. My granny gave me the money to buy it. And it’s been everywhere with me, ever since.

It’s the one that got lost the day I arrived in Prague for my first attempt at living abroad (and later turned up with the bus station police, thank goodness). It would have been new and shiny and bright red and blue then.

It’s the one that went with me by train to Ukraine for the first time, that went from Ukraine to Finland on buses and ferries, that went to Uzbekistan where I was nearly deported (for not having the right visa) and I had to fill it with gigantic torpedo-shaped melons to bribe the local police with.

It went to the top of a volcano in Kamchatka, looking a lot less brightly red and blue by that time. It was used to carry freshly (illegally) caught salmon on the Kuril islands. Kittens and once a Mongolian baby have used it as an impromptu bed.

In Tuva in 2010. Photo by Stanislav Krupar

A clip was replaced in Crimea, a new zip fitted on Sakhalin, one of the straps gave way half-way up a mountain in Tuva and my friend mended it with cobbler’s thread. A broken zip handle was fixed with a keyring from Georgia; in Tibetan China a new top was sewn on by an old man making prayer flags.

It’s a patchwork of where I’ve gone and who I’ve met there. It’s been my home on the road.

And now it’s in honorary retirement, in my friend’s attic in London.

Without it on my back, I’m not sure I know who I am. I’m on the road with a new, characterless, history-less rucksack.

(At least it’s a nice colour, i.e., not pink – can you believe that reputable outdoor/camping/trekking companies actually think women want their hardcore 70l+ rucksacks to be PINK????)

I hope it starts getting some character and history this trip. Or else I’m going to lose it at the next bus station or airport carousel because I won’t recognise it and will be waiting for my old, battered, faded, much-repaired red and blue rucksack to appear, and waiting in vain, in vain.

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