I had finally reached one of the most pivotal points in my life. Nearly my entire existence had been preparing me for this day. I was making the transition into adulthood. Using just one hand to show my age was a thing of the past. From this point on, I would have to use both of my hands to show that I was “this many” years old. I had just turned six.
For my sixth birthday, I was given a stuffed horse from my friend Isabella. Soon after my birthday, she moved back to her parent’s home in London and I never heard from her again. But when she gave me this stuffed horse, I was ecstatic and named him Teddy Bear. This might seem like an odd name to give a horse, instead of an actual teddy bear, but I’m blaming my mom on this one. Her childhood pony had been named Teddy Bear (for whatever reason) and I even rode the original Teddy Bear in a horse show. It was destiny for me to name my stuffed horse Teddy Bear, and thus, a bond was formed.
That year, in kindergarten, my teacher Mrs. Olivarez had an actual teddy bear named Freddy. Each time a student went on a family vacation somewhere, they took Freddy with them. While on vacation, they would take pictures of Freddy doing different things in unique and exotic places. Then, the student wrote about it in Freddy’s scrapbook. It helped us learn about different places across the world and gave us a fun activity that we would remember for all our lives. I spent many hours looking through Freddy’s scrapbook, engraining every little detail into my mind. After I took Freddy on a motor home trip, I decided that I wanted to do the same thing with Teddy Bear.
Unfortunately, six-year old me didn’t have the foresight to document Teddy Bear’s travels very well. I took Teddy Bear lots of places but have very few pictures from the early days. Before I left on my backpacking trip through Europe, I contemplated whether or not I should take Teddy Bear and make a little scrapbook of his adventures.
I’m probably going to look like an idiot as I walk around with a horse strapped to my back, was my main concern. It was socially acceptable when I was younger but now I’m 18. Is this pushing it?
But it’ll be a unique way to document the trip, the other part of my brain rationalized. Besides, the book you make from these pictures can be passed on to your children and to your nieces and nephews.
As an avid scrapbooker and memory-keeper, I went with the latter rationale. So off I went on my month-long backpacking trip with a stuffed horse strapped to my backpack. I must have been a comical sight as I walked down the street. Some people looked at me like I was crazy.
Despite the strange looks I got from strangers, (it’s okay, I’ll never see them again) taking Teddy Bear on my Europe trip with me was actually a really good idea. It brought out the creativity in me and I had to come up with unique ways to pose Teddy Bear. He had lots of pictures writing in his journal, sipping espressos, and chugging down steins of beer. Teddy Bear also got to sneak a joy ride on a Vespa, experience the World Cup while in Germany, and take a selfie with the Mona Lisa!
One positive of taking Teddy Bear everywhere was that he doubled as a pillow. I spent countless hours on trains and train stations sleeping wherever possible and Teddy was my pillow. When you’re backpacking and have to take as little as possible, everything serves as a makeshift pillow.
I also enjoyed taking such an important part of my childhood with me. Even though I was 18 at the time of the trip, it was nice to have some comfort from home as I slept on a train station floor to avoid getting mugged by drug dealers (that’s a story for a different day).
The most important thing for me though, is the memories I made while traipsing across Europe with my noble steed in tow. One day, I will be able to tell my children and nieces and nephews about Teddy Bear the Traveling Horse and how I took him to Europe. The odd stares I get are completely worth it.