words by Lauren Dundler & photography by Mia Danica & Edana Isobel
Backpacks provide us with the legacy to be nomads in this present time. To wander; collect; forage; explore without superfluity. Backpacks are sentiments and a vestige from this past nomadic lifestyle and insist us to strip back the excess of the modern world and embrace an essentialist approach in reverence to past sentiments. They enforce the ways of our ancestors onto us through encouraging us to be minimalists, modest and restrained.
Whenever we are packing for a long trip, we are always forced to confront how materialistic we are. It is not easy to sift through our belongings and value their worthiness before deciding whether they will join us or stay behind. Undoubtedly, this is a common quandary given the modern propensity of humans to accumulate excessive amounts of possessions. We hoard objects of varying degrees of utility and store them in our homes until the ratio of possessions to space overwhelms us and we are forced to move to a larger dwelling. And yet, when we look to the past, our lifestyle looks strangely cumbersome. Prior to the establishment of modern agriculture, our ancestors were known for their nomadic tendencies as they moved with the herds they hunted and the changes of the season. There were little permanent structures built to house possessions or provide shelter and communities were much smaller and tight knit in contrast to our modern world.
In a society dominated by hunting and gathering practices, movement was continuous and crucial for survival. Any tools, supplies and objects of ritual significance needed to be portable. Such constraints inspired resourcefulness in our ancestors and thus it is no surprise that we see the emergence of the first "backpacks" in this period of human development. Originally made from animal hides and skins, these early backpacks would be used to carry game back to the camp. These resources would have been ideal for travelling between camps as our early ancestors followed the movements of the herds.
Thousands of years later, we still take inspiration from our nomadic ancestors. For the most part our lives are much more static and sedentary, involving permanent domestic and occupational structures, and the tendency to accumulate an excessive amount of possessions and matter that restricts our mobility. Occasionally, we venture beyond this stillness and explore our world in a manner similar to our ancestors. It is in these moments of adventure that we seek to connect with our nomadic legacy and we look to a shared resource: Backpacks.
Sometimes the context for a backpack is an actual adventure – an overseas journey that will span months or even years that will redefine you as a “Backpacker”. Other times, the occasion that we reach for the familiar backpack may be a simple trip to the university campus or into the office for the day. Regardless of the event, the process of preparing a backpack remains the same and we find ourselves asking the same questions. Will you need provisions? Breath mints? Hand lotion? Should you take a book in case you are lonely? Will technology dominate the space, or are you yearning for a relationship with pen and paper? Do you need a coat? A scarf? Photographs of your loved ones? It is in these situations we are required to become nomads in order to navigate the unique demands of the modern world.
When we connect with our nomadic legacy, we are essentially prioritizing our lives with the help of traditional practices. In a life filled with surplus, we are required to strip back and identify the necessary. And in doing so, we reveal to ourselves what truly matters on a visceral level. We uncover our values, our insecurities and our true selves. By inviting backpacks into our daily lives, we are embracing our nomadic legacy and finding ourselves in the process.
“Your true Soul and Body appear before me, They stand forth out of affairs – out of commerce, shops, law, science, work, forms, clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying.”
– Walt Whitman.