True Backpackers

“Travelling. The great education of immersing ourselves for a time in someone else’s world. To experience first hand and to wish for a second chance.” ~ Granny Franny

Dear Asher,

Nothing lasts forever, not even the mountains, and today we had to say goodbye to Granny and Grumpy. We were all up at the crack of dawn to catch a taxi to the ADO bus terminal where a shuttle bus would take Granny and Grumpy directly to their airport terminal. It was a sad goodbye since we made so many memories together and you really warmed up to Granny and Grumpy. In fact, soon after they left, you were looking at family photos and you spent a lot of time pointing to the photo with Granny and Grumpy’s faces.

The thing that we loved most about travelling with Granny and Grumpy was that they saw things as we did the first time we tried budget backpacking in a developing country. Now that we have spent eleven months on the road in the last five years, many elements of vagabonding on a budget do not phase us anymore. From the moment I met Granny and Grumpy at the border in Guatemala, Granny was snapping photos of all the chickens and pigs running around. Free range farm animals have become part of the backdrop for us and we have forgotten how strange it is when compared to back home. From the big horned bulls commanding the dark alleys in Varanasi India, to the disabled pigs out front of our door in El Remate, seeing livestock roaming the streets has become the norm for us.

Travelling with Granny and Grumpy was like being with you, Asher, everyday because you also notice every little thing that stands out. When we are on a manicured lawn, you run straight for the single leaf; when we are walking down a paved road, you run right for the single stone. You see things that are out of our field of view because they are familiar or expected. Likewise, Granny and Grumpy constantly reminded us of the uniqueness of our experiences because they were seeing them for the first time. Here are a few things we were reminded of in our great immersion:

Smiling: It seems that those with less seem to be more willing to smile and say hello. Literally, everyone we passed in El Remate greeted us, almost no one in the tourist haven of Playa Del Carmen seems to have the time. Back home, how often do we greet everyone we pass and how crazy do we appear when we do?
Water: All drinking water in Latin America must be filtered so we always drank from large 20L jugs. It is crazy that in Canada people pay for bottled water. What is more unbelievable is that in countries where the average family lives on less than $5 per day, they need to spend a large portion of their earnings on the most basic necessity of life.
Acclimation: On days when the temperature would dip from 32C to 25C, everyone would be wearing long pants and shirts with their babies wrapped in fleece blankets and knitted toques. They would smile at us (especially Grumpy) sweating in our shorts and t-shirts with you always fully nude, and we would smile back wondering how they could wear so many layers.
Transportation: Back home we are accustomed to a certain level of comfort and safety but in developing countries there are only two rules – pedal to the metal and the more the merrier. It is not uncommon to see a family of four riding on one motorcycle; twenty-six adults crammed into a van with only fourteen seats; or a taxi stuffed with five adults, seven large pieces of luggage and a baby. There is never a designated bus stop, you pay when you get off like an honor system and trips only cost about $1.50 per hour.

Color: Everything in Central America is painted with bright colors from the grand 17th century colonial facades to the simple concrete square huts. Color not only captures the eye but enhances the mood which always makes for pleasant strolls.

My dear Asher, we ran beside the bus for a city block while it pulled away and hoped Granny and Grumpy had a smooth trip home. Though Granny and Grumpy had many firsts on this trip, this was not one of them. If you can believe it, they missed their flight again! But my dear Asher, nothing lasts forever, not even the stars, and the stress of missing two flights in three weeks quickly faded like the setting sun when their plane touched down on Canadian soil and Uncle Sean was waiting with open arms.


Granny and Grumpy not only reminded us to examine all that we see, they also taught us that there is much to see at any age, so long as you have an adventurous spirit. Asher my boy, you should be proud of Granny and Grumpy who welcomed a bit of discomfort to gain a wealth of memories. Thank you Granny and Grumpy for joining us on our adventure, for providing fodder for the the blog, and for saying yes. Welcome to the club. It is official. Granny and Grumpy are true backpackers. Minus the backpacks. And minus one wheel on their luggage.

2 thoughts on “True Backpackers

  1. Love the mindful descriptions of noticing and awareness. I love your blog and I am living vicariously through your travels. Inspiring indeed!


  2. Dear Asher, you are a very lucky boy. From a woman that missed out on the pleasure of grandparents, yours flew across the continent to make memories with you! I’m sure that you will treasure the beautiful pictures and stories of the adventures. I am loving following your trip and look forward to catching up in person.


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