(A once around-the-world hat that was given to me by the manager of the Bi-Lo in Waynesville. Yeah, I know, pretty gross.)
Before each of our year-long round-the-world trips we for the most part bought all new gear – shoes, hats, socks, jackets. (And I did the same for my second trip to Africa.) A handful of items made it on both trips – my Vortex backpack, both of our sleeping bags (Moonstone and REI), an Eagle Creek document bag and toiletry bag. One item – a Pur water filter pump – went to Africa once, around the world once, and halfway around a second time before giving up the ghost in a campground in Tasmania. And an Eagle Creek money belt went around the world once, spent nine months in Africa on two trips, and visited most of Central America and even Venezuela.
(A one-and-a-half times around the world Petzl headlamp, bought in Nelson, New Zealand.)
A surprising number of items from each RTW trip are still around, and several of them get regular heavy use – something that is immensely satisfying for a person who likes to buy just one thing and use it until it is useless. (Beyond that, I think it's also plain cool to think that, say, a single backpack has been held by the hands of people of dozens of nations, or that a headlamp has lit the night in hotel rooms and campgrounds from Dubrovnik to Dhaka.) But things pass, and in the past few weeks a couple of well-loved things from those trips have been put to pasture.
On the next-to-last morning of our trip to the Olympic peninsula I was getting dust and twigs out of our Mountain Hardware Meridian 2 tent when the center pole snapped. This tent was used 59 out of 62 nights on our bike trip across Victoria and Tasmania in 2008 (in a different camp each night) and has been used for warm weather camping in Montana since. Mountain Hardware advertises a lifetime warranty, so I sent the poles in, but I’m not confident this will fall under their normal wear-and-tear clause. But even if not, I’d still say we got our $159 worth.
(The tent, when it was still standing, in the Hoh rainforest, Olympic National Park.)
While mowing this week the strap on one of my Keen sandals snapped, rendering these lovely, smelly sandals rather useless. They were purchased new from the clearance rack at Mast General Store in Waynesville for the second round-the-world, and have stood on six continents. (Incidentally, my Chacos purchased for the first trip are still in daily use – and completed 36 miles of rough hiking in two days in July – but are clearly in their final days too.)
(The Keen sandals, resting nearly where they broke.)
Finally, the one I least want to let go is a tattered, disgusting shirt I bought under unusual circumstances on La Rambla in Barcelona.
I say ‘unusual’ because it was a moment of fun that presaged a near-tragedy. A few hours earlier we had bought bus tickets from Barcelona to Tangier, and at the ticket seller’s suggestion we went ahead and put our bags on the bus so we did not have to lug them around. Then, since we had a full day before the bus left, we saw Barcelona, one of the world’s great cities. When the sun set we went back to Estación de Nord to get on the bus, only the bus was not there, and while trying to figure things out and squelch a growing panic realized we had suffered some grave misunderstanding about when the bus was to depart. (To this day I still don’t understand what happened – and no, it was not the common problem of confusing the European 1000hr for the American 10:00 pm.) We eventually found a bed for the night – in someone’s home – but it was of little comfort as I imagined our fully stuffed backpacks being gobbled up on a streetcorner in Morocco. We had on us our cameras, a guidebook, some documents, and cash and cards – and the shirt I had bought. At first light we were back at Estación de Nord and happily sat through a prolonged berating in three languages from the bus company staff, who said they looked throughout the station for us before mercifully pulling our bags off the departing bus and locking them away in a storage closet for the night. Everything worked out fine – they even changed our ticket for free – but it’s still hard not to look at this shirt and remember that night in some stranger’s living room, and the feeling that while I was buying that shirt, all our stuff was headed south into the night.
Anyway, here’s a picture of a baby who just woke from a long nap: