Eight Reasons Why You Won’t Find a Maple Leaf on My Backpack

We’ve all seen them, the backpacks decked out with the red-and-white maple leaf patch—a proud proclamation of Canadian citizenship…or so the wearer wants us to think. Without any interaction with the owner of this maple-leaf bedecked backpack, it’s not always clear who’s sporting this piece of cloth. Is it, in fact, a Canadian, who would rather die than be thought an American? (Because, you know, we are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people.) Or is it an American who thinks that by sewing a maple leaf to his bag he can dupe everyone into liking him, because who, after all, dislikes the Canadians? (Or knows enough about them to have feelings one way or the other.) It’s one of life’s great mysteries. But let me clear one thing up for you: if you see a maple leaf on a backpack, you can be sure it doesn’t belong to me. Here are eight good reasons why I won’t be buying a patch and getting out the sewing kit.

8. I’ll be found out as soon as the weather turns cold. I’ve been to Niagara in January and Winnipeg in February, and the weather those Canadians put up with is brutal. It was -50 degrees Farenheit outside and the man I was working with in Winnipeg was training outdoors for a marathon. Crazy people, I tell you. I don’t do well when the temperature drops below +50 degrees Farenheit.

7. I firmly believe that the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zee,” not “zed.” One round through the alphabet, and I’m screwed.

6. I prefer Aunt Jemima to the real thing, which would probably be considered sacrilege by the folks dwelling north of our border. Also, I like to be able to tell my bacon apart from my ham.

5. My iPod contains zero songs by Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, or Celine Dion. And if requested, I wouldn’t be able to sing the Canadian national anthem beyond the second line (although I could sing that much with gusto). But, hey, wait, how many Americans can make it all the way through the Star Spangled Banner?

4. I don’t sprinkle my speech with nearly enough “ehs” and “you knows”, and when I’m tired a bit of a southern accent can come out. I’ve yet to meet a Canadian with one of those.

3. Hockey is maybe my least favorite sport. I couldn’t hold a coherent conversation on it to save my life.

2. I’ll go ahead and admit it, I have no idea who the prime minister of Canada is. Those real Canadians would smoke me out in a second.

1. And oh, yeah, here’s a good one. Because I’m an American, damn it, and I’m proud of it.

Let’s face it, at the current moment, America isn’t the most beloved country in the world, but if you take a moment to think back through history, you might remember that the U.S. has in its relatively short history done a lot of good for the world. Like most every other nation, we’ve had brilliant successes and startling failures; ours are just usually on a grand and very public scale. I do feel that we have done some shameful things; I also feel that we have done many noble things. As a person, I’m the same way, and I don’t disown myself, so why should I disown my country?

Additionally, in my previous travels, I’ve found that the majority of people distinguish between a people and its government. After all, not every Venezuelan agrees with Chavez, every Iranian with Ahmadinejad, every Zimbabwean with Mugabe. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, they will return the favor.

And finally, as a respectful and responsible traveler, I have the opportunity to have people associate good things with America. Why should I, with a maple leaf sewn on my backpack, give Canada undeserved credit for producing a traveler that respects cultural values, that strives to speak at least a bit of the local language, that cares about what local people want, need, believe, and care about, and that believes that every other life is just as valuable as my own? There’s no way I’ll do that. No, instead I’ll let it be known that I’m from the United States, and I’m not loud or obnoxious, don’t travel to get drunk for cheap, and I don’t so much as own cut-off jean shorts, a fanny pack, or a star-spangled bikini top.

So my fellow American travelers, I now challenge you to join me in putting on your big boy pants, just saying no to the maple leaf, and traveling as a proud representative of the United States. Let the world know that you, brave traveler, are from the good ol’ U.S.A.

(Unless of course you are a loud, obnxious, frequently drunk, navel showing, bikini-top-to-temples wearing, “do you speak English” yelling, ugly, ugly, ugly traveler. Then, by all means, please get yourself a maple leaf for your backpack, the bigger the better. )

(Sorry, Canada.)

14 Replies to “Eight Reasons Why You Won’t Find a Maple Leaf on My Backpack”

  1. LOL, Theresa. I think the only time that I downplayed my nationality when I was living in Austria was when one of those loud, obnoxious Americans got on my bus. 🙂

    By the way, I can’t believe you like Aunt Jemima better than real maple syrup! Blasphemy!

  2. this is a great post. and i coulnd;t agree more. If i just didn’t drink 3 nottles of wine at dinner, I’d go into my whole deal as to way I hate backpackers like this…..simply enough, you are who you are…deal with it….

    thanks for this!! co,me visit more!!!

    see you in asia

  3. I should not blog after wine. Look at those typos!! can we erase that lol!!!

    Anyways, I love this post. I always get sick when I see people like that. If you are that ashamed of America, then move to Canada! You are who are- you can’t change it. Make it better or leave! And you are right- why should canada get the free press!?! We need it! If you want to go prove to the world American’s aren’t bad, putting a canadian flag on your backpack is not going to help.

    On another note, I included your site in today’s blog post.

  4. No, no. Real Canadian backpackers do not spot each other because of the maple leaf on our packs. It’s all our Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) gear!

  5. I am glad you and Jeff will correct the prejudices held by so many others against American tourists, and I do not mean that in any sarcastic way. Are there really Americans out there who sew a maple leaf on their backpacks? I doubt that, quite honestly. You may be right about Canadians trying to make sure they are not mistaken as Americans, however, and I can even understand why they would do that, given the impossible and loud manner in which so many American tourists behave when they go to other countries. It’s embarrassing to be associated with such behavior and ignorance. So try to look at it from the Canadian travelers’ point of view. I am pretty sure that it is not a display of patriotism, as I have come to know Canadians as very laid-back and tolerant people who just live and let live. Since I lived in the U.S. for so many years, I know better than to stereotype Americans, but not everybody out there in the world is afforded such insights. Go set the record straight, and prove them wrong. It’s much needed.
    I really checked in to give you the address of an interesting website which might be useful for you in regards to planning the African leg of your trip: http://www.hillmanwonders.com/safari
    Couldn’t help but comment on your lastest post, though, argumentative as I am.:)

  6. I’m Canadian and wouldn’t be caught dead with a maple leaf on my backpack so it amazes me there there are Americans out there sticking them on there. It does happen, though I’ve only ever encountered it a couple of times. I don’t really think Canucks put the patch on there to avoid being seen as American. The patch thing has taken on a life of its own and now, I think, is just done because it’s tradition sort of. A cliche one, but tradition nonetheless.

    Aunt Jemima rules (shame on me, I know). For the record, I don’t have any Shania, Avril, Bryan or Celine on my ipod either.

    Matt I think you can be ashamed of your country and still live there. Not everyone has the option to move away. Plus a lot of people dont define themselves based on their nationality so when it comes down to ‘you are who you are’, where they were born ranks pretty low on the list.

    Caro it always amuses me to see a maple leaf patch on an MEC bag over a Roots sweatshirt.

  7. I remember that guy that traveled with is that one day in Egypt. He had one on his backpack.

    And those people in the market that one day thought we were Spanish and we went along with it for fun. I’ll take it as a compliment to my tan. Ha.

  8. I’m glad to see everyone took this as the humorous post it was intended to be. Jeff was afraid we’d come back from our camping trip to a slew of comments from right-wing crazies rambling about American patriotism or super offended Canadians telling me that I was just playing up stereotypes (obviously).

    I’ll have to be on the lookout for the MEC bags and Roots sweatshirts so I can identify all the Canadians who don’t wear the maple leaf. 🙂 The comment about Roots reminded me of the year that the U.S. Olympic teams wore Roots gear and how absolutely odd I found it. It’s the Olympics–We’re supposed to be representing the best of the U.S.–Are there really no decent gear manufacturers in the whole of the U.S.?

  9. Gah. Roots! Apparently it’s insanely popular for Aussies to buy that stuff here, because of the sexual connotations it has down under!

    MEC is sorta my standard. Although there are no flags on my gear. I don’t want to be targeted as a “rich” tourist and have someone rifle through my dirty underwear looking for valuables that don’t exist!

    Kirsty: You’ll be happy to know most the Canadians I know don’t have Shania, Avril, Bryan or Celine in any collections. Although the summer I spent in Mexico I heard enough Shania to make me homesick- to go home where I don’t have to hear it!

  10. The fake canuck thing always bothered me too and I figured the same thing that I’m an American…and even though I’m not proud of my current government I am a proud American. I could however sing the Canadian National Anthem because I love hockey and it’s my favorite sport, I prefer real maple syrup to the the sugar water kind and I’ve been out of the states so long that I say “zed” and “how ya goin’ mate?” and “good on ya” with great frequency.

    Anyhow, on a person to person basis I have always been received well by other people worldwide – you’re right, people are able to see you for who you are rather than judge you by your government.

  11. A typical conversation from me:

    Random Person: Where in America are you from?

    Me: I’m from Canada.

    Random Person: I’m so sorry I called you American.

    I think the citizens of any nation that produced two Bob Saget shows, and Baywatch, deserves scorn when traveling abroad.

    Just joking. There a few good scenes in Deuce Bigelow Part 2, regarding Canadian backpackers and the maple leaf.

    I’m a citizen of the world and treat all I meet based on their merits. I respect each country as my own. A flag doesn’t dictate commonsense.

  12. Hi Theresa and Jeff,

    I live in Lexington, MA and have been a Blackinton researcher for many years. I accidently stumbled across this fantastic blog and website.

    I think it is fantastic that you are traveling for a year. I have not traveled much except Europe and my favorite place to visit is Italy (but not in the summer).

    I am a science geek that works in the biotechnology industry and think taking a year to travel is wonderful. As an American I always feel funny visting countries where they speak English and I speak very little of their native language.

    My father recently told me to do all the things I want now and not to wait until retirement which is many years away. He is now retired and not feeling well and my mother has been ill the past few years. They wish they had traveled when younger. Their current circumstances make travel diffucult and not enjoyable. It is better to look back after many years with fond memories of your travels than to not have regrets and no memories at all.

    Have a great time.

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