The Story Behind MyShittyBackpack®
The malecon of La Paz.
Welcome to our backpack family. We are a French/American family that live in La Paz, Baja, Mexico - a beautiful locale with wonderful beaches and warm weather year round. Except in summer. Then it's really hot...
Christelle with her older sons who live in Europe.
The Nomadic Lifestyle
Around the beginning of 2011, my husband and I had created our American dream. We lived in our own home in beautiful Durango, CO with two young children. Except this dream did not relieve the tension in our lives. The kids came home from school stressed out every day and we were kept busy putting out emotional fires, both theirs and ours. My husband and I had traveled extensively during our lives and there was an urge to expose our children to other cultures and a different way of life.
Come springtime, my older son from my first marriage began talking about a trip he and his girlfriend were planning for the end of the year. They were going to fly to Panama and slowly travel northwards to Mexico over a three month period. He encouraged us to join them somewhere along the way. The idea created a lot of excitement inside me, but I had been experiencing a reduction in work and our finances weren't that robust. The stress was increasing.
Near the beginning of summer, a close friend of ours called and spoke about a recent trip he had taken to Central America. The conversation ended with him stating, "You have to check it out. The nature is beautiful. And your kids will love it!" I hung up the phone and repeated the conversation to my husband, Peter. Due to our financial situation, he wasn't open to the idea of going on yet another extended vacation. But the common denominator was that these two people, our mutual friend and my oldest son, were the ones that encouraged my husband and I to originally meet. Once I reminded Peter of this, he said that the only way we could afford the trip was to rent out our home and just leave. I said okay. The conversation lasted less than a minute. And that was how the idea of traveling abroad as a family came to fruition.
On the solstice of 2011, after 6 weeks of yard sale, putting whatever was left in storage and renting our home, Peter and I, with our two children aged eight and ten, boarded a plane to Cancun, Mexico with no return tickets, no plan or final destination. We knew that we would take life one day at a time but we were unaware that our travels would take us to four countries on three continents. By the time we had returned to Durango almost two years later, we had visited Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Thailand.
We wandered through Mexico to Guatemala by bus for a couple of months, did not find a place we really liked, then went further south to Ecuador by plane. El camino (the path)
led us to Vilcabamba,
a small traditional village with a wonderful local culture. Located in the south of Ecuador, Vilcabamba is nestled in a tropical valley with stunning 360 degree views of the Andes.
On our first day in the central plaza, our 10 year old son said, "This feels like home." That’s when we knew we had reached our destination, and we stayed for almost a year and a half. This was a magical and unforgettable experience for all of us.
The front yard of our home, just seven blocks from the main plaza, was a paradise of bamboo, mango, avocado and passion fruit trees with a beautiful creek behind the house. Until it rained. Then the gentle creek became a raging river rushing huge logs downstream.
Our daughter in the center with two hands on her belly and her classmates at the local elementary school.
Our son, second from the right, with classmates in the computer lab. Our children learnt Spanish from scratch the hard way, but it really worked.
Our daughter taking foot massage classes in Pai, Thailand.
We returned to Durango, CO during the fall equinox of 2013 and moved back into our home. We tried to resume our lives, but didn't realize at the time that we were at a crossroads. It became clearer over the next year that we had returned to sell our property and venture abroad once again. We explored Mexico some more and lived near Teotihuacán for eight months before relocating to La Paz in southern Baja.
Our complete travel blog since 2011 is here.
The Backpack Love Story
MyShittyBackpack® is a family-owned business where each one contributes in their own way. Whether it be my seventeen-year-old daughter Angelina taking videos and photos or my nineteen-year-old son Louis coming up with the name of the business in an offhand remark, we all have input.
My name is Christelle and I am a sixty-year-old mother of four. I started MyShittyBackpack® in 2019. My first adventure came at the age of five when I traveled alone on a plane to visit family in the south of France. I absolutely loved everything about the entire experience, and my love for travel has been a part of me ever since. At 13 and 14 years of age, in the 70s, I travelled to England twice on my own from France and loved the freedom it brought me. Back then going to England was like going to the other side of the planet.
I also have a love for quality fabrics in natural fibers, and backpacks, which is also rooted in my childhood. These two loves combined to plant a seed in my unconscious mind that would eventually sprout over fifty years later into the idea that was the genesis of this business.
I had been futily searching for the perfect backpack online and in stores for over fifteen years. I could see the image of the design in my mind, yet was unable to find it outside of myself. In a moment of deep frustration, a very powerful thought popped into my head. Why not make my own backpack?
At about this same time, a mentor shared some of his wisdom with me. One way to discover your calling in life, your occupation or what you do for money, is to examine what it is you like to do when you have taken ill or are feeling discouraged. How do you comfort yourself when feeling down? For me, it was browsing backpacks on the internet! This information merged with my love for travel and cloth materials to provide the impetus to strike out on my own.
The Handmade Episode
I knew exactly what I wanted in a backpack, so I made a list and came up with a design in the fall of 2016. I boarded a plane to Oaxaca, Mexico and visited many artisans both in and around the city. Many weavers had no interest in taking on my project. They only wanted to make their products and weren't open to new ideas. But life finally guided me to a master weaver who readily agreed to weave my complex backpack. She loved the design and encouraged me to continue with my business plan.
The original prototype and hand woven version of the MyShittyBackpack® model.
The Hemp Backpack
Hemp is no longer the future. Hemp is now. Utilizing hemp in manufactured products is becoming more mainstream as the stigma associated with medicinal and recreational cannabis dies off. In 2019 I decided to have the hand-woven model made in hemp. Since hemp was not available in Oaxaca, other manufacturers had to be sourced. To be honest, the idea for this backpack had been ripening in my mind for over fifty years. And what you see in the photo below is the latest incarnation. Click here if you wish to check out the backpack.
It is nice to sit down and empty the mind for a moment.
The following list is what I was looking for in a practical and durable backpack for both everyday life and travel:
- a key organizer and a dedicated cellphone compartment
- an external water bottle holder
- comfort to reduce back pain
- the optimal size for daily use
- reliability with a touch of class for everyday use in town
- durability that would endure the wear-and-tear of travel
- breathability for hikes, horse rides and bike rides
- a low profile so that one can carry valuable electronics without attracting unwanted attention
- and of course, natural fibers and washability.
- all for an affordable price
Those were a lot of requirements. Some quality brands came close to fulfilling them, but not close enough. Maybe you've been looking for something like this too?
The prototype backpack being worn during a horse ride in Baja.
For now we have only one backpack model in beige. We are working on a new model, in black, that will be available in the future. Stay tuned!
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Now that you know how and why this business started, it’s time to tell you a few surprising things about hemp. An arguably magical plant, hemp is highly underused considering its potential and amazing qualities. Hemp products are exactly what our planet needs in this era of high consumerism.
Hemp belongs to the family of Cannabis sativa plant species. Environmentally conscious manufacturers are increasingly evaluating its use in making paper, rope, clothing, textiles, paint, insulation, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, oils, food, animal feed and more. Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth and has almost zero THC content.
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