An American Abroad

Farewell, Old Friend

Having lived and traveled abroad for 19 months, I long ago shed attachments to most of my stuff. In fact, it was the sense of being oppressed by my stuff that was one of the things that led me to light out for the territories in the first place.

Still, I do have a few things I am stupidly sentimental about. And one of them finally gave up the ghost yesterday.


I don’t remember where or when I bought this army surplus bag, but it was at least 33 years ago. Since then it has traveled the world with me. I strapped it to my backpack when I went sojourning through Europe at the age of 22. I bungee corded it to the back of my bicycle when I did my first long-distance ride from Boston to New York. It accompanied me on week-long bicycle camping trips with my sons in Ohio, Virginia and Georgia. It’s been with me in over 30 countries in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. It’s been a camera bag, a first aid kit, a toolbox, and a book bag. I’ve had it mended many times in various countries, to the point where at some points the bag is now more patches than canvas.

Yesterday the heavy canvas loop that connected to a D-ring on the strap finally disintegrated. The bag slid slowly off my shoulder to the ground. At this point, it’s time to say goodbye. And I am sad about that. I guess I haven’t let go of my attachment to stuff as much as I thought I had.

I went to the Sousse medina and bought a new bag. It has five zippers, a useless stylized D-ring, a wimpy nylon strap, and a stupid metal logo that says “Diesel.” Oh, it’s perfect for holding my camera, spare lenses, tablet, and passport. But it’s got no soul and it’s not nearly as rugged as what I need. I’m keeping my eyes open for a worthy replacement.