the weightless backpack

Relaxing by a stream in Bewts-y-Coed, Wales, after climbing Mount Snowdon. Alone.
Relaxing by a stream in Bewts-y-Coed, Wales, after climbing Mount Snowdon. Alone.

Every day, thousands of people pack their bags and jet off somewhere foreign, somewhere familiar, to chase a dream, escape from life, celebrate it, to discover the undiscoverable. Some of those people you know. Some of you may be the Traveler. And some of you may vicariously bask in the Instagram adventure glow (no way it looks like that in real life…right?), roll your eyes at “clever” Facebook status updates, click through photo after boring photo of seemingly the exact same scene, like you seriously can’t pick out one single difference, click, click, click, isn’t one photo of Poland’s fall foliage enough, Tosha? (To which I would reply, no. No it isn’t.)

Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Like engagements, weddings, and babies over-stuffing your newsfeed (except for my babies, Freddie and Grace, keep ‘em coming, ladies), it sort of gets annoying watching people pimp out their lives, boasting about their adventures, almost like a na-na-na-na-na look-where-I-am-and-you’re-not sort of playground taunt. Especially from those who always seem to be somewhere.

Temple of Demeter, Naxos, Greece
Temple of Demeter, Naxos, Greece

And maybe that is what some people are trying to do. I can’t speak for everyone. But it’s certainly not everyone’s intention to shove their life down your throat in attempt to evoke jealousy.

I never felt totally safe on these December roads outside of Reykjavik, Iceland.
I never felt totally safe on these December roads outside of Reykjavik, Iceland.

Me? I’m overly-conscious about being that girl on Facebook. Am I annoying people? Posting too many photos? Blogging too much? Over-Instagramming? (That is definitely a thing.) And then of course there are all of these articles and musical lyrics stating how social media is the devil, and just makes us feel more alone (which is super ironic, watching anti-social media rants go viral on social media platforms); but here’s something to consider – I up and left everyone I know, everything familiar by choice. I’m already as alone as it gets. I can’t be more alone.

On a solo hike in Kvinesdal, Norway
On a solo hike in Kvinesdal, Norway

Posting pictures on Instagram doesn’t change the fact that I am out there, traveling solo. Writing about my adventures, which is both my escape and something I love to do, and sharing these with my small world doesn’t increase my aloneness. It also doesn’t take away from my in-person social interactions. Sharing photos of the beauty I find in life every day on Facebook doesn’t mean my non-social media self is bumming around the real world like that little depressed puff ball for those Zoloft commercials. It takes like three seconds to share something. The rest of the time, I’m just living.

Riding with the huskies, Tiainen, Finland.
Riding with the huskies, Tiainen, Finland.

Don’t get me wrong, I get what the articles are preaching, they have a point there somewhere, because like all things in life, too much of anything turns a good thing into the worst thing. But though I can pretend otherwise, social media was a huge player in my ability and confidence to just pick up and leave everything and everyone I know. Because no matter where I go, if I want to, I can still feel connected. It’s my choice, and I’m grateful I have that choice. Besides, I was never trying to totally disconnect from the world. I just wanted to connect with the world in a different way, maybe reconnect some broken bits along the way.

IMG_9942
Roman Baths in Bath, England

Being on the road is a lifestyle for the Traveler. They need it, crave it, can’t imagine not doing it, not having a front row seat to the rest of the world. It’s so important to them, to the core of who they are and who they want to be. It’s helped shaped their mind, their heart, their actions. And just like a new mom thinks their baby is the cutest thing since kittens (sorry moms, most kittens still win) they want everyone to be exposed to similar experiences.

Big Ben, London Eye, England
Big Ben, London Eye, England

Those photos, those stories, the status updates, they only begin to scratch the surface of the total experience. We’ve all seen beautiful pictures of beautiful places. We’ve all read something about somewhere amazing. But seeing a picture of Mt. Fitzroy is no replacement for climbing Mt. Fitzroy. It’s just a tiny window to the beauty that can be found in Patagonia. Sharing these things isn’t meant to make anyone jealous, it’s meant to plant a seed.

Fitz Roy
Christmas Day 2013, Mount Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, Patagonia region of Argentina

Of course, not everyone values the same thing. Some people could give two hoots about traveling anywhere, and I’m not here to persuade them to start, and I’m especially not here to convince them they are wrong. Everyone is different. But there are plenty of people who want to get out there, there’s just something holding them back. Maybe they don’t know how or where to start, or think they shouldn’t because of X, can’t because of Y. I was that person. And someone once helped me. And now I am on the other side of the Instagram screen.

Train station, Bewts-y-Coed, Wales
Train station, Bewts-y-Coed, Wales

The Traveler’s social media persona isn’t meant to shout, HEY, LOOK WHAT I AM DOING!! It’s meant to suggest, Hey, maybe this is something you’d like to do? And yes, I know no one’s situation is the same, and there are different ways to do everything. I happen to be in my 30s, jobless, homeless, traveling wherever the road takes me, forking around by myself. And for those of you who have followed my journey from the start (thank you), you know how hard the leap from glorious Wisconsin life, to jobless/homeless/adventure-bound life was for me.

IMG_9880
Houses of Parliament, London, England

And I don’t regret it for a second. But I’ve decided to stop feeling guilty, stop wondering if I’m over-sharing. Because for the solo-traveler, the urge, the yearning to share these amazing experiences with someone is sometimes deep, painful. You climb the most exhilarating mountain, pitch your tent on the most incredible lighthouse cliff next to the ocean, watch the most colorful sunset, and when night falls, you climb into your sleeping bag and turn to face No One to share your most beautiful day.

Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, Québec, Canada
Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, Québec, Canada

So be easy on us. Travel is our baby, our significant other. And we’re just expressing how happy it makes us. So we Instagram. We blog. We Facebook. But inside, we’re holding onto so many more memories, feelings, and experiences we will carry around in our backpacks forever.

And the best part? They don’t weigh a thing.

So salud, na zdrowie, cheers, to all travelers everywhere, past, present and future, from me and this crazy Bosphorus river boat driver in Istanbul.
So salud, na zdrowie, cheers, to all travelers everywhere, past, present and future, from me and this crazy Bosphorus river boat driver in Istanbul. Yes, I bring my own beer cozies.

8 Comments on “the weightless backpack

  1. I will most likely never understand the “love-to-travel-thing”, but I must say that your blogs and pictures mean a lot to me, not to mention your keen Kowalski wit. 🙂 They are the closest I will ever get to seeing the world so please keep them coming. It always makes me smile when I see the email message, “New post on the other fork in the road” in my inbox.

    Like

    • Aw, you make me smile. And so happy to be your kin! May the Kowalski influence always be…somewhere nearby. We deserve a little happiness 😉

      Like

    • Pretty sure my leaps will get smaller and smaller, so bigger isn’t always better. Thanks for reading my nonsense 😉

      Like

  2. Beautiful. You being gone on your adventures has made me grateful for social media. I hadn’t had contact in almost two days and I was starting to go through withdrawal. Perfect timing for your post. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

Talk to me, Goose.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: