The Days Before Madrid: Backyard Gear Check

I haven’t had much time to talk about it, but I am so pleased and grateful to announce that my Indiegogo campaign was a complete success — more than a success, really. At its closing at the beginning of the month, the campaign raised 101%, or $1,820. I struggle to sufficiently express my gratitude to all of my donors, to all the friends, family members, and strangers who believed enough in this crazy sojourn to support it. The funds have all gone toward my plane tickets, my gear, and my lodging in Barcelona and Madrid, as promised. So, what now?

The Backyard Gear Check

Luckily, winter has finally loosened its grasp on my little blip in Western New York. Admittedly, the 45 to 50-degree temps aren’t quite paradisaical, but they aren’t exactly something you’d see in “Frozen,” either. The last week has provided ample opportunity to feel the weight of a full pack on the road — well, as close to full weight as I can get before the travelers’ curse pops up to add a few extra pounds — and there have also been nights where the stars twinkle just brightly enough and the wind settles itself temporarily to make putting up my tiny tent and sleeping out possible.

tent le roy words from the road


Admittedly, the results of my backyard gear tests have been mixed. On the one hand, my sleeping bag keeps me toasty, even with the wind trying its damnedest to insert a drawer’s worth of ice blades through any and all bits of exposed skin. The tent, while snug for my…girth, allows me to keep all of my gear inside, and the rain cover seems like it could keep Noah’s mythical flood waters from sinking this particular ship. 

In truth, the only problem I have is comfort, and that’s such a first world, pampered, middle-class white kid type of complaint. I guess my problem is that my ultralight tent, sleeping bag, mat, and tarp do not a hotel room make. What did I really expect? Did I truly believe that backpacking meant the air mattress-lined, barbecue smoke-filled high life that I had grown so accustomed to on my limited camping trips as a child? You bet.

But whatever; what is there to complain about? In 11 days time my feet will carry me to the point of exhaustion day after day, such that I could fall asleep atop a bed of coals. Comfort was never the point — living as I have for 27-years was never the point. So long as my feet work, I stay dry, and I keep moving, that’s good enough.


Driven to Travel

Gearing up and studying for the upcoming trip to Spain has been equal parts exciting, stressful, and terrifying. The excitement is all too easy to describe, so I won’t bore you with the details. The fear is a mixture of irrational childhood phobia’s and fanged animals; the loss of new friends made in what I’m assured is supposed to be a lonely writer’s life; and, most sensibly, the fear of failure.  I have little doubt that as soon as I step foot in Madrid’s airport that the fears will dissipate, making them little more than temporary nuisances.

The stress comes from something else entirely: expectation. By and large, travelling remains this enjoyable thing you do when you want a vacation. Much as writing is perceived as a hobby more than a profession, to travel is to waste one’s life on frivolity. Life, we’re told, is meant for a 9 to 5 slow march towards retirement — a wife/husband, children. Yet every morning the Dremel carves my eyes open to view the same world, filled with the same problems, and the same disappointments. Where’s the exuberant bang, the fanfare playing me into the Ruins of Petra, the stifling dust kicked down my throat on a road through the dried heart of antiquity? Without a doubt, it’s somewhere beyond the keywords, the dungeon, and pauper’s paycheck.

Yes, even knowing that the rules of 1950’s America aren’t for me, I’m saddled with expectation. How do you look a parent in the eye who thinks you’re wasting your life, money, and opportunities to start a family? As far as I can tell, you do it with a smile. Just as they cannot understand a life undefined by salaried structure and outdated rules, I will never understand the need to fulfill the roles others have thrust upon me.

And so, I stuff my sleeping bag into my pack and hope I have enough water, food, and coin as I pull the straps tight around me. Only a fool would say with any certainty that the smell of the same “Bubbling Brook” laundry detergent, the acerbic feel of the same unrequited love, and the stress of the same work done ad nauseam won’t be missed, but they must certainly be left behind with the rest of the preordained. From now until Barcelona and beyond, the expectations I strive to reach are my own.