We have been approaching our world tour with our heads, hearts and whatever fits in our backpacks. While traveling we like to spend as little money as possible (though we occasionally opt to spend more money in the name of comfort). We travel lightly in part to see if we can thrive with less and also because it’s way easier to travel with small bags (they’re easier to carry, we don’t have to check our luggage for air travel and we have fewer wardrobe decisions to make). It is a challenge that we enjoy and offers opportunities for us to reflect on our enculturation that more/better belongings = greater happiness.
We thought it would be fun for us to list our cargo (as it’s referred to in Guns, Germs and Steel) and possibly interesting for you to read about. Kind of like how it can be fascinating to look into someone’s medicine cabinet when you’re in their bathroom. Below is a list of most of the things we carried with us on the Camino, though some of our belongings have since been liberated
In the months leading up to our departure from Portland we sifted and sorted through our possessions. For David this process took 6+ months of mental preparation before he even felt ready to let stuff go. The apartment was emptied. Many of our belongings were gifted to friends or donated to Goodwill. The remaining items we’ve chosen to keep are being stored by generous friends and family (thank you Erin & Nathan, Kjell & Hillary, Anne, Allison, Jason, Kagan & Danielle and Neighbor Dylan!) or kept in a low-cost storage unit (thank you, storage unit).
Parting with stuff can be a difficult and sometimes emotional process; “I know I haven’t used this in three years but what if I need it later?”, “I love this [random nonfunctional item] so much”, “I got this thing on sale for only $8! I can’t let this go!”, “This is an heirloom/has sentimental value/is a pile of legal or tax documents that I should probably retain for future reference”, “These pants don’t fit quite right, but if they did they would be my favorite” were bargains, pleas and sentiments we wrestled with frequently. Because one of Austin’s favorite activities is purging personal belongings (What does she like even more than than getting rid of her own stuff? Helping other people get rid of their stuff!), we did pretty well at the task. Now that we are far away not only do we not miss having access to the stuff we’ve chosen to keep (though Austin does miss her Fluevogs), but we can’t even remember the things we’ve gotten rid of and we’re certain there’s even more we can do without upon our return (yes, Mom, this means we are still planning to return).
After months of getting along comfortably with just the bare necessities (like our small quick-dry microfiber towels, for example) normal accoutrements that we otherwise take for granted (like freshly laundered, full-size cotton towels) feel like the most amazing gift of luxury. The best part is how good it feels to be so appreciative of things that are so easy to take for granted.
Dear French Knife That We Left Behind,
We really loved you. How many picnics did we share together? Countless. How many times did you open packages that teeth could not tear? Innumerable. How many times did we rely on you for protection when we found ourselves in the midst of a brutal knife fight? OK, none, but we definitely would have considered it had the need arisen.
You were a beauty beyond comparison. We are sorry that you look so pixilated in this photo. It really doesn’t do justice to your dangerous curves. We think of you fondly and will never forget the time we could have used you to gut a fish had there been an opportunity to do so in Spain.
Please don’t dwell on the fact that we abandoned you in a hotel room with a red poncho, pair of winter gloves and a camping fork when we left for Norway. Your joke about bringing you along in our suitcase was a good one, but we didn’t realize you were actually serious. That would be a federal crime. We will miss you but we definitely won’t miss any more of your bad ideas. Like knife fights.
David & Austin