One suitcase, my biggest fear for the year

We are nearing the end of our 9th week away from home, living from one suitcase each. I thought it was going to be way more challenging. It was easily my biggest fear, worse than getting sick, (happened to me at age 24 in Thailand), worse than not-so-nice hotels, (too many to count in the past), worse than strange food, (had chickens feet presented on a platter that looked like hands), worse than any of that. 

Every time I thought of a year away from home, I kept getting tripped up by the whole suitcase thing. How much of my stuff would I be able to bring with me? How could I live without all the things I need? The items I use everyday, which I would miss so much if I didn’t have them? How do people do this?

Obviously, I dove into research mode. In truth, most people who travel long-term are young. Like in their twenties, with a rucksack, living in hostels. Living on the cheap and loving every minute of it. Or so the videos on YouTube would have you believe. But, social media can be very deceiving. This I know to be true.

However, I remember what it was like to be that age. I didn’t own very much that I cared so much about. I was poor, having just moved out of my parents house. Most of what I owned was a cast off from somewhere else. New to me, but far from new, and sometimes not even very nice. The only consolation was, it was all mine. Even then, I couldn’t imagine giving it all up for an extended period of time. I was quite attached to it all.

Fast forward, all those years, cycle through all the stuff I had accumulated, the memories attached to everything, it was all very heavy. I could live a whole day, sometimes even a week by looking through, sorting and cleaning all those possessions. I hate to admit this, somehow. I had raised the level of importance of my things to such a height as I couldn’t bear to live without them.

Once I realized that, and got over the shock of it, it was just a matter of getting real, once again. I pretended I was a young person. Taking stock of everything and pairing it all way back. It was not easy, but it was worth it. I’ve written about my process, at length.

But, when everything was said and done and I arrived at my sister’s house, 9 weeks ago I faltered. She could not believe that I was going to live for a year, with only the one suitcase. I had got pretty used to the idea and thought I had shared plenty of my thoughts on the subject, but other people don’t live in my head. Even so, it didn’t matter so much how shocking it looked, for I was the one who would have to carry it all around, everywhere we went. (Not every place would have a lift!)

We had some time in Alberta, staying with family to make a final round of decisions. I left a stuffed duffel bag at my parents house with various things which didn’t make the final cut. And now, we are setting aside another box worth of stuff we will send home, before we leave Barcelona. 

Some things that came over here to Europe, seemingly so important, are just not going to be needed for this kind of life we are leading. There are even some clothes, I have not worn yet. The rule of one to wear, one to wash and one to spare is really all a person needs of the day-to-day items. Except for maybe underwear and socks. The rest of it is continually getting washed. And, I wear clothes for so many more days than I did back home. No, I have not lowered my standards and run around being smelly with body odour. Generally, the quick-dry, synthetic pieces I bought most recently, don’t hold on to anything. They wash well and are almost dry with the spin cycle. They can be put on the line and don’t absorb the community cooking smells from our neighbours. My little cotton dresses, on the other hand, really need a dryer. I was shocked to put one on the other day and recoil at what it smelled like. I will need to replace those with synthetic pieces, once we get down to SE Asia. 

All in all, it is far easier to live with less than I ever imagined. We seem to be continually doing laundry, but we are also continually shopping for groceries. And it is more manual labour for both enterprises, than I am used to. I suspect that, what seems like such a big adjustment is more, moving house from Canada to Europe, along with living in an urban centre. We lived far out in the suburbs back home, driving to get everything done in our lives. Here we walk, or take the excellent public transit options along with more walking.

As I think about our transit to the next stop, it is really comforting to only have one suitcase each, to be responsible for. Even then, I wonder how much lighter I can make it before we head off to the next destination!

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Comments: 1

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    Lin Hermanson

    October 6, 2017

    So I’m curious if the kids’ hoodies made the cut? And besides clothes, what is coming back to Canada?
    My little experiment of 17 days and a carry on was interesting. I didn’t need my knitting (shock!!) But should not have thrown out my paperback after my first stop. I packed an old bathing suit, and my traveling companion suggested (strongly) that I not bother carrying it back home. I did not wear any of my socks, and the versitile over size shirt ended up being very bulky to pack. And I too wore clothese longer – which for me is a miracle;)

    Next time – I will take even less!

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