Travel Possession Confessions

Posted on Nov 1, 2011 in stories | 0 comments

Our backpacks are the standard size for international carry-on luggage: 22 x 13 x 9 inches. This is exactly as much room as it suggests (i.e., not much).

With such limited space, I continually find myself making value judgments about my possessions. Some things fall out of my favor after awhile and get left behind. I can even name them: 2 frumpy button-up sweaters in Ascot; my travel pillow in London; a too-short shirt and a large bottle of sunscreen in Bristol; my Cetaphil lotion (I miss you!) in Marham.

I’ve also picked up new things along the way: two dress shirts and a pair of stilettos in Ascot (so I could work with my Dad in London), nail polish and a yoga mat in Bristol, hair cream in Marham.

Whether I abandon it or adopt it, the same concept holds true: every item becomes a part of my memory of that location.

Living with such tight constraints can get tedious if you let it. The trick is to think long and hard about the value of something in your life before you give it up or buy it. I’ve found myself missing my expensive sunscreen and lotion (didn’t think those through well enough, I guess), but the clothes I tossed hardly ever cross my mind. I should have thrown them away long ago.

Traveling provides great lessons about the amount of energy things take to keep. We sold most of our possessions to get here, and that took a change in habits and perspective. We’ve then been living out of a suitcase for 3 months, which also takes certain habits and perspective. I no longer have a closet full of clothes to wear, so I’ve had to be really careful/creative about the clothes I keep. I have a long way to go to reach my perfect traveling wardrobe ($$$ is the main factor there), but I’m slowly getting there.

No matter what your lifestyle, possessions always demand some level of your emotional attention (even if you don’t notice you’re giving it). And it is 10 times worse on the road. If I am stubborn enough to keep something pointless (and I have many things like this at the moment), then I am forced to carry that weight on my back until I can no longer justify keeping it. If I see something I really want to buy, the same is true–will I be able to carry it feasibly? Okay then.

Sometimes I’m amazed at how long I keep black-listed items around before I chuck them. I’m on another continent, living a completely different lifestyle, and I’m STILL fending off ridiculous attachments to illogical or unnecessary possessions?! Ugh. When will I learn?

I guess it shows that old habits die hard, but the good news is, I am progressing. I can now recognize which items are worthless to me, what these silly items are taking from me, and then relinquish their control over me at any time.

We humans really don’t need that much stuff to live happily. (Our travels are evidence of this; we don’t have much and yet it usually seems like enough.) It just pays to be smarter about the things we buy and the things we keep.

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