Guys, I am so stoked. SO STOKED!
First, you all guessed correctly – I’m currently on the first stop of the Trans-Siberian railway! I’ll be sending out e-mails to get your addresses for postcards :) Technically, we’re doing the Trans-Mongolian, as we pass from Beijing into Russia via Ulan Baatar. My friend and I are spending a few days in Beijing before heading to the steppe, and I seriously couldn’t be more excited to hike the Great Wall, go church-hopping in Russia, and finally get to Mongolia.
(What I’m not so excited about, however, is all the mutton in our future…)
But, what’s making this trip even better is the inclusion of one key accessory – a fancy new backpack for my epic adventure. After all, once the Trans-Siberian ends, I still have at least six months to a year of backpacking ahead of me. I didn’t think my old college bag was going to hold up.
I first heard about Ethnotek bags from a Matador article, which highlighted a company two former backpackers had started to partner with artisans they met on their trip. They bought textiles from artists in the countries they visited and used them to make backpacks and messenger bags, thereby supporting local trades and providing these artists access to a wider audience outside of their home countries.
I LOVE this idea. Not only do the bags have some truly beautiful designs, but there’s a broader purpose behind them. In addition, each design is limited edition, and Ethnotek never tells the artists what designs to make. Check out their mission statement for some serious inspiration!
However, I had to wonder – was there any substance behind the image? Sure, the backpacks were beautiful, but are they effective for long-term backpackers? Would they take a beating and still be going a year down the road?
So, while I knew I wanted to support a company with a mission like Ethnotek’s, I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t fade after the honeymoon period. Thus, I’ll occasionally update on the state of the bag during my travels across the world and back over the next year, and I’m going to be brutally honest.
As for my first impression, I have to say….I love it. Not only is the bag just as beautiful as in its pictures (the design I have features an Indonesian batik fabric), but the bag itself is serious quality. Even stuffed with my entire life (and trust me, there’s something crammed into every nook and cranny) the stitches aren’t showing signs of strain. The roll-top lets the bag expand with whatever you put in it, so if I need to get more room, it’s there. One of the side pockets opens into the main compartment, letting you get quick access to anything at the bottom of the bag. And best of all, there is a serious laptop compartment in the back – the padding is at least 1 inch thick, which makes me feel a lot better about putting my frail little laptop inside.
So far, so good. I’m stoked to see how it holds up on my trip. The only thing it’s missing is a waist-strap, but for now it’s definitely won plus points.
But before I go……while almost everyone guessed that my current epic adventure is taking the Trans-Siberian, there’s still some debate on where I’ll end up after it. Here’s another hint: the city is going to launch me on a longer, 6-month (at least) backpacking trip through a region of the world which I haven’t yet explored. You still have time to guess for postcards! ;)
(This post is written in partnership with Ethnotek, one of my new favourite organisations. All opinions, however, remain always and forever my own!)