Backpacking Makes You Taller

Over the past few years, the pain of carrying a too-heavy backpack has convinced me that it’s better to travel light. Yet despite my best efforts, I still suck at it. 

That’s why, when I arrived in Thailand alone, I was carrying a large backpack, which added about a foot to my height, plus a frontpack that held all of my valuables — and weighed almost as much as my backpack.

In my defense, I had just left Korea after living there for two years and was spending six weeks in Thailand – four of them getting my CELTA certification — so my list of essential items was a little different than a typical backpacker’s. But, really, those are just excuses.

So, I was traveling heavy as I walked out the doors of the Chiang Mai airport and waved down a songthaew (pronounced song tao).

After negotiating the fare to my guesthouse, I quickly and confidently hopped into the back of the truck.

Just as quickly (rather less confidently), I found myself lying in the middle of the street like an overturned turtle.

The top of my pack had hit the truck’s canopy and sent me flying backward. I heard a woman gasp as I struggling to stand up. The weight of my backpack, combined with my frontpack made it impossible.

Three people rushed toward me. They quickly picked me up and asked me if I was ok. A quick survey of my body and belongings confirmed that my backpack protected me from all but a few scrapes, and my body protected the breakables in my front pack. Yes, (all but my ego) was just fine.

Travel Tip #145: Take off your backpack before hopping into a songthaew!


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