Bridget Gleeson writer + illustrator

An ode to my traveling companion

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We’d never been on such a long trip together, you and me, so I didn’t know how it would go. Six weeks of traveling through Brazil – no, seven.

At the international departures hall at JFK, I looked at you, and I felt nervous. I wondered whether I had made the right decision to bring you along with me. We were untested.

At first, it was a little awkward.

Isn’t it true that our joys and insecurities are amplified when we’re on the road? In northeast Brazil, I certainly don’t fit in – I am way too white, and my language skills aren’t what they should be – and you didn’t fit in either. I’m sorry, but I was so uncomfortable to be with you then. Looking at you, I saw my own self, who I am and where I am from. It’s not your fault, but sometimes, I’ve wished I could be someone else. And you were always a reminder to me that I will never be anything other than who I am.

At the same time, I loved you, I was so grateful for you, especially at the end of a long day of traveling over bumpy country roads on rural buses. We’d get to our destination and you were always ready to give me what I needed: you had my toothbrush and my pajamas, folded just so. Sometimes you even had chocolate for me – I don’t know how you managed to transport it without it turning into a melting mess in this 95-degree weather. I was so delighted with you then.

But we had hard times too. There were so many times when I thought ‘this would be so much easier without you.’ I looked around at other travelers – the carefree backpackers, the senior citizens descending from their cruise ships – and wondered if they were having a better time, or an easier time, than we were having.

I remember pulling you up a flight of concrete stairs at one o’clock in the morning at some little hotel in some little town. I sighed and wished you were easier to travel with.

There was the time that you were thrown off a bus – there was some kind of misunderstanding with the driver and you were thrown off, unceremoniously – and I had no choice but to follow you down to the dusty roadside.

Other times, I would come back to the hotel room after breakfast and I’d see you lying there. And I wished I could just continue alone without you for one day. But I couldn’t. I knew that you would be coming with me, no matter where I went.

Still, you were the only source of familiarity and comfort in these strange, faraway places – when I got sick, and when I received heartbreaking news from home. At the end of the day, you were really all I had.

We covered thousands of miles together. We rode on boats, buses, airplanes and taxis. We stayed together in dozens of hotels. I look at you and I want to laugh because we’re both worse for the wear – neither one of us is looking particularly good.

But we made it. We made it all the way to Rio de Janeiro. We had an adventure together, we survived the test, and I”ll never forget our trip, not for as long as I live.


alone with a suitcase


You were my suitcase, and I was the girl carrying you.