My minimalism mission meant it was time to go separate ways with my sweet Kelty Redwing 40 hiking pack that I got when I was traveling in Vermont. I bumbled around the gorgeous state and then took a long beautiful train ride down to NYC after about a month or so of walking the long country roads (getting chased by viscious cows), watching the leaves change every shade of red, yellow, and amber, and discovering maple everything for the first time. I took my Redwing to many United States, and rocked it especially hard in my grand finale state, Alaska. I traveled with it to Europe for 6 weeks of early winter all over the continent from Ireland to Hungary to Portugal and beyond. It is abundantly roomy and the compression straps can suck it down to feel like a daypack. It fits in the overhead bin of a plane, or under the seat of a train. When I’ve been lucky enough to get both seats on a long bus ride through Western Europe it sits by my side and I’d fall over onto it like a perfectly sized mushy cuddle buddy. Sometimes it was even my pillow on the New York Subway after a long day of urban trekking.
I have discovered that I have a little bit of a bag obsession. As I pare down in my glorious minimalism, I have found that I simply have too many bags. Too many ways to carry and stow and trek. I know this because most things, like my wardrobe, have been a cinch for me to downsize. I hate clothes for the most part. I am too rough and tumble to be fashionable. I get into an overwhelming tizzy when I have to shop for anything fabric related. Forget sewing! Textiles have a mind of their own and I can not handle the way they change form and shape without warning. Give me power tools over a sewing machine any day. I am OCD clean at home but what happens after laundry is washed? I can’t seem to find it in me to simply hang these things on a hanger and be done with the task. I dump the basket on my bed so I am “forced” to put them away before I go to sleep ~ but NO ~ this does not happen. Putting the clothes away simply never happens with ease. Later, tired and ready to go to bed, I grab the heap and throw it on the lounge chair and go promptly to sleep. The next day I am shuffling through the mad pile to dress myself and the shit goes spilling all over the floor. After a few days the dirty is starting to get mixed up with the clean and, DAMMIT, again, Amy?! Anyway, it’s a nightmare. So I promptly got rid of all but a capsule wardrobe in about 4 whole minutes when I decided to do the 100 Thing Challenge and go hardcore minimalist. So now I have no clothes. I have BAGS. Holy Cats! I’m a bag lady! Ummm…
SO. I was having the hard talk with myself and realized it’s time for some tough love. I simply must downsize, even my precious bag collection, for my ever inspiring minimalist lifestyle. As a Tiny House Movement Wannabe, it just makes sense. Less is more! How many hiking bags do I really need? I already got rid of 3 lightweight generic backpacks. Along with this Kelty I still have a North Face pack and my trusty Lowe Alpine that I got in 1990 when I first started hiking and climbing in the Pocono Mountains. Home turf Pennsylvania say whaaaat! I also have a gym backpack, a beach tote, a waterprood gecko swim bag, a messenger bag…needless to say there are many more vessels in my collection.
I’ve had a few things sitting on Craigslist for the past month collecting dust and trolls and I didn’t really feel like dealing with that forum so I decided to try posting it to a local Facebook garage sale page I recently began following. I couldn’t remember what I paid for it, at least $150, possibly $180. I posted it for $50. Then I looked it up and it is selling for new on Amazon for $264, and it’s an older model. Whoa! Did I pay that much? I never did think too much about what I spend on quality outdoor gear. I barely shop as it is so when I do go for a high ticket item it’s usually worth it. Still, even though I bought it in 2012, 4 years ago, all of those trips I took it on tallied to only about 6 months of use. I take great care of my gear. Wiping dust off with rubbing alcohol, shaking out the debris regularly, keeping the excess straps bound neatly to prevent unnecessary wear and tear. I always hang my hiking bags in the closet between uses, all zipped up and compressed, so pretty. I copied the Product Description and Bag Features from Kelty and posted it with a couple of pics. To my surprise I had a nearly immediate hit. A woman liked, commented, and sent me a direct message shortly after I posted. Well, that was fairly easy.
We agreed to meet at a nearby coffee shop the following afternoon. I slept as hard as ever since I’m now doing bricks to train for my first triathlon. I woke up at 5am ready to conquer the to do list and saw the appointment on my calendar to sell my Redwing. I suddenly had a hint of seller’s remorse. Not as much of a hint, really – more of an onslaught. “This thing is in excellent shape,” I thought. “Have I been underutilizing this bag?” “Should I sell the Lowe Alpine instead? The Kelty is newer technology! What am I doing??” I continued to wonder if I was doing the right thing as I dragged myself out of my house to deliver it to its soon-to-be new owner. Maybe she won’t like it. Maybe she will find it awkward. Yet, lo and behold, when I met her, I couldn’t help myself: my REI member-salesgirl persona came tumbling out all over as I excitedly showed her all the cool features. How it was so big and so small at the same time. The trick velcro side pockets that opened up for tent poles or walking sticks. The secret camelback compartment that opened through the top while doubling over enough to still keep the rain out. Comfy, slim straps for the female torso and an external spine that distributes the weight absolutely perfectly. So much back padding! The perfect bedroll straps, the countless carabiner loops on the bottom, the compartments, the top loading ~ OHEMGEE~.
It was a hard break up, but at the end, my knapsack was starting a new love affair. The best part came when she told me she will be using it to hike the Continental Divide!!! All of a sudden, I was ABOUT IT. YES. So much YES. “Prior to the trip, planning, preparation, and training can take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months. The trip itself takes about six months on foot, when averaging 17 miles per day.”** I am grateful to provide something so useful to this woman’s incredible journey and the look on her face told me she was super pumped! Kelly got her Kelty and I am stoked to know this Redwing has many more adventures ahead. Bon Voyage!
It’s been 11 days and 3 (or 4) countries since I left the US. I barely know where to begin to transcribe all of the amazing that has occurred since I landed in Dublin. The freshest memories are the newest so I’ll start here in the middle, writing from Warsaw. It’s pretty amusing how I spent my first few days getting sorted in this latest foreign language.
I flew to Gdansk, Poland from Edinburgh, Scotland much to the surprise of many fellow travelers I’ve met in Europe. It is apparently rare for an American to go from the UK directly to Eastern Europe, even skipping England completely. If you know me at all then you know I’ve never done anything by the book. I like to do things my own way and I especially like to stay off the beaten path whenever I can help it. My decision to skip over the pond to Poland was easy. For one thing, despite the fact that I am a typical American mutt, I’ve discovered that I am 1/4 Polish from my mother’s side. Coming from a broken family, I wasn’t raised with much culture or genetic awareness and I’ve recently become interested in unearthing the mystery and tracing my roots. It’s a funny thing not knowing much about one’s own ancestry, a bit like floating aimlessly while also being very grounded in pure biological humanism. I haven’t gotten too far into the search yet but it is fascinating to look around at these Poles and see similarities in cheek bones and hair texture to the extent that many look as if they could be my cousin. On a simpler note, the other incentive drawing me to Poland is that my buddy, Daniel, whom I met while we were both traveling in Alaska, lives here in Warsaw and it’s always fun to visit with a fellow traveler. We are a special breed and I always enjoy that unique brand of comaraderie.
Daniel has a job during the week so the plan was to meet up on the weekend. I found a ticket to Gdansk for about $20USD so that seemed like a good place to start on my own. Daniel suggested Poliskibus from Gdansk to Warsaw so I busted out my iPhone to check it out. Google Translate immediately popped up to assist but the translation was some combination of Polish and English, or at least it was some mixture of letters that appeared to be in either language, and the result was completely nonsensical. I fought my way through it for a spell but then I decided to cross reference the budget airline RyanAir and sure enough I found a flight from Gdansk to Warsaw for another $20. I booked directly on the app from a pub in Edinburgh while enjoying a half pint of Innis & Dunn and still succesfully avoiding Haggis…I’m just not brave in that way. When I got around to telling Daniel about my plan he enlightened me to the fact that the airport I booked, Modlin, is quite a long way from the city center. I didn’t really mind. I figured some days are longer than others and I’ve never been afraid of a little extra hike. It typically gives me time to catch up on reading and journaling.
When I flew into Gdansk I hopped on the 210 bus into town and it was about a 30 minute ride. The bus was a bit crowded but it was modern and easy to follow the stops on the digitized scroller. When Brama Wyzinna showed up I knew it was time for me to pop off and then it was an easy 1km stroll through the main plaza. My hosts were hilarious and kind. They made me pierogies and bought me a special honey beer that was delicious. I was provided with a bicycle the next day and biked down the river and all around the town. I adore architecture. I didn’t ever realize this until I moved away from Philly a decade ago and found myself complaining about the buildings. I thought it was an odd thing for me to be going on about but I realized how lucky I am to have grown up in one of the original 13 colonies with so much care and craftsmanship in the architecture. Many modern US cities have bland square buildings that were just assembled quickly and cheaply and it’s quite unappealing to anyone with a creative eye. The old buildings on the square of Gdansk are lovely and feel like a movie set. They are colorful, super tall, and flat in rows. At the top they are curved and had a real eastern european feel. I could go on but I don’t know enough proper architecture terms so you’ll just have to come some my photos when I get my cafe up and running. I’ll have lots of travel pics up as part of the main decor and I’ll be doing a series of exhibits from time to time.
Fast forward to my flight out of Gdansk which was scheduled to leave at 6:40am. I’m no stranger to early flights so I was unphased until I spent what felt like eternity trying to find out what side of the road the night bus runs. Everyone had a different opinion because Brama Wyzzina is a new addition to the night route and also there was some construction happening there. I had 2 reputable sources disagreeing with each other so I decided to walk around to the bus stops and see which one listed the “N3” at the stop itself. It rained all day but it was a soft misty rain so it was irritating but not driving enough to sour my experience. I walked to all the covered stops on both sides of Brama Wyzinna and none listed the N3. I then walked down to the central station and checked the 8 or so consecutive covered stops and only one listed the N3. You would think this was a relief, but it was on the same side of the street as I arrived and I was uncertain if I could trust if it was a pickup and not a drop off location, especially with the locals arguing about it.
I don’t want to spend this whole post complaining as that’s not my style so I will try to summarize the issue briefly. I’ve flown other budget airlines in Europe so I know it doesn’t have to be this way but this would be my 2nd flight with RyanAir and I was starting to discover the hassles that they provide. You can check in with their app but with a US passport they will not provide a digital boarding pass and then as I found out you have to pay an additional $20 to print a boarding pass at the airport. I could’ve printed it beforehand but I’ve never heard of such a thing before and had no foresight the first time. Additionally they want you to be at the airport 2 hours early for some reason. I thought this was all because I was entering the country the first time, but then it was repeating itself as I tried to prepare for my flight to Warsaw from within the country. This meant I had to catch the 4am night bus and the boulevard is so wide that if I missed it for being on the wrong side of the street then there would be no way to recover. I finally said screw it and ordered a taxi to pick me up at 4am. This would cost 50PLN, $13US. If I had done the conversion early I would’ve realized that my sanity is certainly worth that low amount but I was still having a bit of culture shock and was simply taking too much in to realize. Besides I typically like taking the local route to get that extra dose of culture but screw walking to an unknown bus stop at 3:30am.
I messaged Daniel in my exasperation and he informed me that the bus from Gdansk was only 44PLN and drops me at the metro line 10 minutes from the location where I was planning to stay. With the flight it would cost 50PLN for the taxi and the airport was an hour out of the city and would take a shuttle to a train to a metro to get to my place. I don’t know the cost of all the combined transportation from Modlin to Warsaw but the answer was becoming clear: burn the flight and take the bus directly….like Daniel said from the beginning. HA!
SO! it took me a day to get in the groove with transport in Poland but a few days later I’m finding my way fairly easy. I’m living it up now, learning some history and local customs, a few key words, discovering the arts and local scene while meeting lots of fantastic people in cozy boheme cafes. Flow has been achieved.