Jan. 25 – Auckland
I wanted a backpack with wheels so badly I could taste it. After all, my weekender travel case had wheels and shoulder straps, and did I ever use the straps? No. I wheeled it everywhere. Up and down the halls of airports, through the casinos, and up to my hotel rooms, down the block from my car to my apartment in San Francisco. Who needs to carry anything when you have wheels? Or a man, for that matter.
The many veteran travelers I know had advised me not to get the wheels. Everyone except for my ex-boyfriend – who, by the way, was the one who started me on this "why should I have to carry anything" attitude. For two and a half years he carried everything from groceries to luggage, and even my purse on occasion.
I was down-right spoiled in the manual labor department. But look what it did: I turned into a soft little princess with no intention of ever having to work again. I mean, carry my bags again. I used to manage that before – I think. I really can’t remember. Or maybe I don’t want to remember.
So then there I was, at the foot of The Brown Kiwi Hostel in Auckland, New Zealand. It was the first night of my seven-month trip to the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. It was late at night, and the shuttle driver just dumped my brand new, filled-to-the-brim Eagle Creek Endless Journey Women’s Fit backpack on the sidewalk. He followed that with my jam-packed green daypack. I stood next to them with the Eagle Creek’s extension already slung over my shoulder, pulling money out of my purse. Four bags altogether, large to small. But I didn’t really have to count the purse, did I? It could fit into the extension pack just fine.
The van drove away and I stood there trying to figure out a way that I could carry them all up the stairs to the door. This struck me as being very funny and I knew that if I hadn’t listened to the REI sales attendant, I’d have bought the one with wheels. I was ignoring the advice of my friends, but when she pointed out the 5-6 pound difference between the one with wheels and the one without, I knew I’d better pay attention to her. I’d be using up that extra weight later if I weren’t already. Now, looking at my lump of bags in the street, and the stairs ahead of me, I knew the wheels would have done me no good. At least this time.
So I hauled the bags up the stairs, green one on my back, little one over my right shoulder, and the big one by the handle on it’s side. I could do this, I thought, for 10 feet up the stairs anyway. The hostel manager said that my keys would be waiting for me in the mailbox. I looked around for the mailbox but couldn’t find it. I walked back down the stairs and found a box with a horizontal slot. How do I get in there? I looked in back, on top, and finally just reached my hand into the slot and pulled out my envelope. Inside were a key, a map to the hostel, and a welcome letter.
When I entered the hostel I was pleased to find a good-looking man standing in the doorway to what I figured, by the map, was where I’d be sleeping. In fact, I knew this was my room, and I knew he was just a fellow traveller and not a hostel employee, but some mysterious ditz wave came over me and I pretended like I didn’t know anything and I began asking stupid questions I already knew the answer to.
"Excuse me, is this dorm A?" I asked, squeaking out the words. I had a bad case of the flu and forgot that it was hard for me to talk.
"I think so. Let me see," he said looking at my map.
"Huh?" I said, hardly able to hear him because my ears hadn’t cleared since landing for a stopover in Fiji five hours earlier.
"Yeah, this is it." He opened the door, where travelers were already sleeping in their bunks. I followed him through the door as he pointed to the top bunk on the right: the only open bed. Now this was the kind of handsome friendly service I was looking for. I smiled at him thankfully, and he stepped over my bags and disappeared through another door.