"It was a Sunday morning in August, and Rachael and I were eyeing each other from across the living room of her summer house. Her children sat between us, vacantly filling their mouths with cut-up pancakes, their attention fixed on a Dora the Explorer
rerun. Rachael and I have been cracking jokes together since sophomore year of college, when we danced to old Cure albums in our dorm and made tragically ill-advised hair decisions. That was when we discovered our mutual love of water parks; in the years since, we'd constructed a million half-assed plans to visit one, but something always interfered: work; her kids' schedules; the fact that we were, you know, adult women. But when we realized that a water park was just a 15-minute drive from her place, we started conspiring in the kitchen, our whispers masked by Dora's incessant '¡Hola!
's. We couldn't bring the kids; that was a given. They'd make too many demands, take away valuable slide time, cramp our style. So we invented a dreary-sounding errand—'picking up a prescription'—and backed out of the driveway while the kids and our partners watched suspiciously through the picture window. Then we headed to the cheesy park, car windows all the way open. Grabbing sun-bleached inner tubes, we spent the afternoon whipping down the slides again and again and again, being shot out into a pool and capsizing as we scream-laughed. We knew we'd have to answer for our wet hair when we got back, but in the meantime, we had each other all to ourselves for a few stolen hours of silly joy, a two-person party in chlorine."
"My brother gave it to me in 2008—an unimpressive piece of swag from his college orientation. The 16-by-13-inch black bag, with cushy straps and abundant pockets, was just what I needed: a push to get out and explore. Since then, I've taken what I call my Adventure Backpack everywhere from afternoon jaunts through Chinatown for mini egg cakes to the top of Budapest's Gellért Hill, where you can see the entire city, split down the middle by the Danube. I stock it with the necessities: water bottle; facial wipes; stick of deodorant—also handy for chafing thighs; pocket notebook and pen for moments of inspiration; ibuprofen, because obviously; floss for MacGyver situations; plastic bags for storing trash or sitting on wet grass; and a snack, to ward off inevitable hangry episodes. Whenever I'm consumed with wanderlust, my Adventure Backpack is there, ready and waiting in the closet, an open invitation to anything at all."
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