To the girl with the unused backpack


Maybe it’s because we all lead such busy lives, or maybe it’s because we need to find time to be one with nature or to find ourselves – whatever the reason maybe, there is a growing increase of our generation taking vacations. A person would post at least one post on wanderlust, which seem to be quite contagious. Coming from a country where a girl who travels alone after 6pm is looked down at, it is rather difficult to quench the wanderlust that we have (this is not to say I don’t travel). And that, my fellow people, is quite quite sad.

I went to Miracle Valley for a weekend getaway last weekend. That was quite a wonderful experience that I shall elaborate on it on a separate post. However, two pieces of conversation took place during that weekend that got me thinking.

One, was something my SO said to me. While I was entranced by the beauty around me, he remarked “…and to imagine three years ago, you couldn’t even dream of doing this”. Very true. I come from your typical conservative Sinhala family, and until I was 21, I had to cry and beg to be allowed out on a day trip with my friends. Even then it was a resounding “NO” about 80% of the time, the reason being “girls don’t gallivant”. I was the girl with the unused backpack. The girl with many dreams which were unlikely to be ever realized. The girl with a bucket list which she knew she could never tick off. The girl, with a packed backpack, who could never hoist it on her shoulders.

However, circumstances changed, things happened, I changed, and long story short, my life has become more or less independent of the parental influence. And therefore, they know better than to say “You can’t go out on a weekend! Is that how a girl behaves?! Marry whoever you want, and then you can go wherever you want with him!”.

The problem is this. With the girls having careers and becoming financially self-reliant, they, too, need time to get-away; time to be by themselves and get in touch with their inner self. This is something that you cannot do on a trip with parents – the purpose of such is to bond as a family – especially if they, like mine, are not willing to let you walk out of their sight. As much as our society admires the career girls (provided the career is one “suitable for girls” of course), they are not willing to accept the entire package.

The second incident was a phone call from one of my closest friends, who called me to ask how the place is. She had seen the pictures I had shared on IG. Our conversation went something like this:

Friend: “That place looks so pretty! Are you having fun? What are you doing? What are you planning to do? I called to ask how it is!”

Me: “It’s really really awesome! You should have come! I TOLD you to come!”

Friend: “You know I wouldn’t have been allowed to. Make sure you take a lot of pictures for me, okay?”

And that, broke my heart. Why is it wrong for a girl to go on a vacation? Why does being a girl mean you cannot stray out of the house unless a male relative or your immediate family accompanies you? Why is that boys are given the freedom to travel, while both boys and girls are with wanderlust?

Dear girl with the unused backpack; I am sorry. I am sorry that this society fails to understand that culture is a social construct. I am sorry that this society doesn’t realize that if they made the construct, they can change it too. I am sorry that I had to break the rules of an accepted family relationship in order to follow my heart. But dear girl with the unused backpack; you know what? I am not sorry that I followed my heart. I am not sorry for sleeping under the starry skies. I am not sorry for trekking through mud and forest to try and get to the second highest mountain in the country. I am not sorry for all the time I spent in the sea, all the shells I collected, or all the memories I created. Most of all, I am not sorry about the stories I have made to reflect back upon in my old age – to think “I can’t believe I did that” and not “I wish I could have done it”.

Dear girl with the unused backpack; I cannot change all the experience you missed living. I cannot reverse time so you could have gone on that school trip with your friends. But I can promise you one thing. If one day, I have a daughter, I will make sure that she will have a backpack rugged from use, if that is what her heart requires.


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