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"I'M SIGNIFICANT!!!…screamed the dust speck."

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5 things I learned while backpacking with my Father.

1. You are never too old to try new things.

When we decided to start gathering stuff for the 2 week vacation across various corners of switzerland and paris and berlin, I must admit, I was quite frightened with the primary ideas my parents had regarding packing. A big suitcase?! Are you kidding me! We are not at one place for more than 3 nights. That means 5 different locations!!! There is no way I am portaging that humongous suitcase everywhere. And then, in a humorous attempt, I showed Dad my smaller backpack and told him to use that. In the funniest of scenarios, he would pick it up, spin around his hands in all its pockets, maybe even wear it for fun and then say ‘No, thank you very much. I think I am good with the strolley!’

But then, I had ignored a very hard fact. He is not the very usual of those Dads approaching sixty. For someone who thought till a year back that backpacks are just bigger school bags, and for someone who doesn’t have the best of muscle pull records,it was quite alarming when he said – and I remember it clearly. “Ya!!This is good! Perfect”

What, really?!

And as they say, the rest is history.

We are back from the holiday of our lifetime and he has been more successful in handling the backpack than me. He is a pro at it and I wont be surprised if he decides to take a backpack for his official trips now! It might be the sheer excitement or the fact that he did actually find it comfortable, I don’t know. But he for sure looked cool. But the diligent daughter in me was so concerned in the first few days of holiday that I actually suggested we buy a big suitcase with 4 wheels! But then he said, it is just my delusion. And he was right.


2. Take responsibility for your own stuff

Having a backpack (& obviously on your back), it becomes a part of you when you travel.  And quite literally. Unlike a bag or a strolley, you are not carrying an extra piece along which you have to take care of all the time. Like a pet. Yes, the protruding back can become around 20 kgs heavier, but then, we as humans are used to carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. 😉 As Dad would have it, the backpack goes to exactly the same places as you do, touches the same ground when you are on a break, sees the world from the same angle as you do! Well, and if you love your freedom, you have 2 free hands all the time! Buying tickets, checking timings on bustops, getting on trains with the luggage, or even shopping for souvenirs, no reason for no backpack till now!

3. Settle your things first before offering to help others

Our last night in Berlin before we get back to Amsterdam and Dad was the first one to start packing. We were back from the day long trip at the Concentration camps at Sachsenhausen, which is outside the main city. Looking at the mess, we were in dire need of hiring some consultancy firm to tell us what strategy to use for the packing. But he knew that. We had a lot of adjustments to make, and couldn’t really leave anything to luck because of our carrier’s real strict luggage policies. You cannot get leverage by just smiling and talking to them nicely. So as Mom and I are almost snoring in the cosy mattresses, he is packing his way through. I cannot believe that at the end of a 2 week holiday, and with a pretty decent shopping spree, he comes up with more free space in the backpack than he originally had! (when I had helped him pack). Unbelievable! And as Mom starts struggling with the zips of her bag, he comes to the rescue and added almost one-third of her stuff in his backpack. There is definitely something wrong I thought to myself. Maybe he has donated a few of his clothes? Or forgot some of his stuff at previous locations? What is it?!!!!

4. You don’t need to iron clothes on a holiday!
Well, I take credit for this one. I think a lot of people don’t like using backpacks because clothes get squashed in there. I am sorry, clearly, when I say we are going to Davos, we are not going to the World Economic Forum to address international media. Keep the steam iron where it belongs!

5. Be prepared for Surprises – even from the things you thought you knew in and out!
We are loitering around at the airport at duty-free when my dad comes up to me fiddling with the strings of the backpack. “Did you know there is a small pocket in here too?”, he said. I replied, “No its just a belt, to tie around your waist. Its ergonomics” and started giggling! And then we both looked closely.


It is of course a pocket. The pocket that was destined to be my Father’s find. Something I had not managed to explore since its inception! It was too late to be used for this trip, but it will surely be over utilised in the next!


As I sit back and think about the trip we had, I wonder how exciting it would have been if my Mother also joined in the gang. I don’t see that happening though, but I am not complaining. If being with my Dad gives us the license to go crazy and try untried things and make funny noises to annoy strangers, it is the Mom-effect that brings everything back to senses. You can joke around with her, but the dad-daughter duo will always know – got to listen to the woman!


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