Meet my sombrero. She and I came to know each other in Chile. I was three months into a seven-month solo-backpacking trip, and I’d landed in San Pedro de Atacama, a small, touristy northern border town that looked like a set for a John Wayne Western: dirt roads, sun-bleached adobe house, horses, boots, but with its added fair share of hippies. I didn’t know it at the time, but a large part of Chilean history and culture is deeply rooted in the ranch and country lifestyle—known to them as huasos, akin to US cowboy folklore.
All I had really known, or what I focused most on, was of Chile’s southern mountains and majestic Patagonian landscapes. So, in the sunbaked north, I bought this hat, and together we hitch-hiked hundreds of kilometers to Argentina, and eventually south.
I seldom wore her. She never quite fit my head right, but I loved her nonetheless. She became my best friend, even when this random guy I’d met in Argentina and started traveling with tried to get me to ditch her multiple times a day. (You don’t even wear it. It won’t even fit in your backpack! He might’ve even said she was dumb. Was he jealous, or annoyed that I frequently requested he help in keeping her safe?) I stood up for her like any good friend would. It’s true: she was cumbersome and didn’t fit in my backpack—the only place I could store my personal possessions. But together we slept in gas stations, ran through city traffic, ate lunches of empanadas and alfajores long after the random guy had left. I took her everywhere, and she never strayed.
Now she hangs above my bed in Colorado, where every night I sleep next to that same random guy, who I met again months later and decided I’d never leave. He accepted her, and I accepted him. I still never wear her. But she reminds me of who I am at my core, and the things that will never change: my sense of adventure, my love of love, and my determination to stand up for what I believe in.