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The Red Backpack Traveler
The Tower of Pisa stood before me. I tried to adjust my camera to fit it all in, turning it side to side and changing the zoom, but the Tower was to immense for my camera. There were hundreds of tourists all around me, all taking the same pictures of themselves “holding up” the Tower. I smiled silently to myself at the idea that maybe I, with my black outfit and red backpack, was in the background of all their photos around the world and none of them would take notice of me.
One could say that I too am a tourist. I travel from place to place, taking pictures, sending postcards home, and looking completely out of place from each person I encounter. However, I like to think of myself as a traveler. There are many reasons why tourists spend hours and hours on planes. Maybe they want a vacation from their lives, maybe they want to see famous sights, or maybe they want to encounter a different culture or language. All of these reasons are respectable. I even find them easy to relate to. However, I wander the world because I want answers.
I do not travel to leave life but to find it.
I have gone to many places: Africa, China, various European countries, Australia, and a few more. My family, despite however dysfunctional they are, is wealthy enough to send me to these places, although they would rather have used the money for college. It is a tradition in my family, to go to college. Everyone goes. It was not something that was questioned. But right now, my parents were making excuses, not for my brother because we always knew he couldn’t go, but for me. I knew that I was probably the subject of many family reunions and I knew that my parents were currently making excuses for why I had decided to “wait” to go to school. But now I had been “waiting” for three years and still did not have the answers I was looking for.
My family always supported me despite the fact that I caused them trouble. They had always supported me, no matter what I did.
I see the world as something of a paradox.
My family had suffered through a lot, so much, in fact, that we shouldn’t really still be held together. Yet somehow we were. People also sometimes seem like they should fall apart. I used to hear the news voices murmuring from the television at a volume my father thought I couldn’t hear from the kitchen. Terrible things happened. People died in car accidents everyday. Usually they had done nothing wrong. Sometimes they were children. People stole because they were starving. People stole because they wanted what was not theirs. People killed. People seemed only to suffer and make others suffer.
But I also heard other stories, especially in church. There were stories about a God who died for people even though he knew what they had done. I remembered my mother used to make cookies and tell me about when she was a child. I remembered all the stories my elderly neighbor used to tell us about people she knew. She always had a story, maybe about a school teacher she had know who had spent hours and hours of extra time just trying to teach a child to read. The story I liked the most as a child was about a fireman she had known who would always go into a burning building, facing the possibility of death, to save the person trapped inside. She told a quite a few stories like that, and in the end the firefighter was always able to save the person in time.
Maybe this paradox was what made me go searching in the first place. But as I was saying, The Tower of Pisa stood in front of me and I looked up and saw all the people inside, looking out the windows down at me. The Tower really did lean, and if you looked up at the sky and saw the clouds moving, it looked like the Tower was falling to the earth. The structure was being supported by some metal device. I thought that those people were a bit ridiculous to trust something that seemed so unstable.
And then, at that moment, I put my camera down.
I put it down because I realized the Tower itself was a paradox. It was crooked and unstable and it seemed to be falling. Yet it had stood despite its weakness for years and it had been created by something much greater than its old and leaning brick walls. And that, that one fact, made it something that could, in fact, be trusted, should be supported, and something, I soon realized, that was too big to fit within a 4 by 6 frame.