To pack for a trip. The light-headedness of an anticipated reality coming to life. The beast stirs. To pack is to leave. You’re standing in your bedroom, but you are not there. You think of all the things you need, the layers, layers, layers with the cautious expectation of varied weather; the mini-everything: shampoo, deodorant, and notebook to scrawl vague but wise incoherencies that seem important in the moment; all the tech stuff you’ll want – beware! Everything has a charger. And so you’re not there. To pack is to empathize so deeply with a place that your vision is skewed and you’re suddenly on a foreign cobblestoned or muddy path, lemongrass nearby, needing a new memory card for a shot of the ancient woman sitting in a low window lined by purple Vanda. Note to self: bring memory cards.
People can become literally imprisoned by their material items, and they end up on an episode of Hoarders as a team of faceless Hazmat suits scavenges for cat skeletons amongst the rubble.
But in the end, the stuff you choose to accompany you surfaces as altogether unimportant. The dirt and wear on your items is proof that you love them. But you have no issue parting with them. No time, no need for material attachment. For you have bigger dealings to negotiate: you sacrificed your last boots for that cliff-side trail along the Haute Route, your umbrella went to someone in a South Asian monsoon who needed it more, your safari hat for a wind-and-sun-smothered escapade on one of the three continents dissected by the Tropic of Capricorn. You’ll make it to all three eventually, and each trip will bring different clothes, packs, conveniences, memories. All of these things will disintegrate somewhere along our linear and limited notion of time, but the memories, the only item of true value no matter how chopped and ephemeral, will stay with us until we leave ourselves.
Minimalism is the essence of travel. You bring what you need, perhaps a little of you want, but nothing more. You can’t spare the weight, the effort, the worry. A prisoner of your belongings you are not. Rather, they are tools to be used and given away. Because you, a solitary person of the world, are not meant to walk about dragging a caravan of kitsch behind. At the very least, people can become subconsciously imprisoned by their material items, like those who dare not walk freely in the rain. At the very most, people can become literally imprisoned by their material items, and they end up on an episode of Hoarders as a team of faceless Hazmat suits scavenges for cat skeletons amongst the rubble. There is a spectrum.
And so I’m dashing off for Southeast Asia soon, hopefully by the conclusion of this year. It’s only a dream now, but a good dream. A dream that will happen.To help make it happen, I’m ridding of most of my material burdens. The stuff I don’t think twice about, anything that sits fingerprint-less and cloaked with dust, the lovely silken clothes that teased me on window hangers but don’t look half as nice on me. That was a different sort of dream.
The process is long and arduous. But with each stamped package destined for a long-away corner of the country, I feel lighter, as if I lost a colossal amount of weight. I feel like my blood flows better, that I stand straighter, the knots in my back gone. That the tracks left in the sand behind me are lesser, shallower.
The joy of an empty closet! It is the joy of possibility. It is the choice of experience over equipment. To travel means to minimize, after all; a backpack only fits so much. And it is hard to climb mountains with a broken back and feet like lead.∗