I’ve been out of the US for a little over a week now and just now finally letting the dust settle. Tara and I got to singapore a day or so before Joi which means I didn’t have much time to put things in order before jumping into full time GSD mode as we only had a few days to take care of things in town together before he headed out again. So while we were settled in our apartment here in Singapore I was leaving at 7am and getting home at 11pm and didn’t even get around to unpacking until a few days in. Of course the fact that my super indestructible suitcase suffered fatal damage on the way here means I wasn’t really *packed* that first few days either. Anyway, those bits are behind me and the next 3 weeks here should be a little easier to manage.
Well, after I buy a new suitcase it will be anyway, and I think I’m going to go for something a little smaller because as I suspected (and predicted) being out in the world facing an extended trip has me thinking a lot about the stuff I have with me vs the stuff I need with me vs the stuff I left back at home. It’s even more on my mind because the stuff I left back at home isn’t so much “at home” as it is “in a box in a storage unit” which I’ve always thought of as the purgatory on the way to the landfill. I thought I was being extremely minimal on what I brought with me and I already know a few things I brought that I won’t need, though most of that is weather related. I can only think of a few things that are packed away in Los Angeles that I wouldn’t mind having with me, and honestly those aren’t really that big a deal – things like it would be nice to have 4 short sleeve shirts rather than 3. Nothing crucial.
The other night I was talking to a guy at the hackerspace who was in town for Echelon2010 from Bangkok. He’d left New York City 6 months ago after subletting his apartment and clearing out a storage facility. We talked about the stuff he had been and I currently am paying to keep locked up in an off site box. He had stored large (yet empty) suitcase that probably cost under $500 for over 10 years in a storage space that cost over $100 a month. This is something with zero sentimental value and easily replaceable. It’s also something that goes out of date because as I’m finding out in my current luggage replacement search, luggage tech has improved greatly since I last looked. A $500 suitcase from 10 years ago is crap next to one available right now. Yet just do the math on how much this guy had spent to keep something that was both easily replaceable and essentually worthless in storage all those years.
This has me thinking long and hard about the stuff I opted not to sell at our garage sale, and to box up instead, as well as the stuff I did try to sell but that no one bought. I’d planned to donate a lot of the unsold stuff but I ended up boxing it and storing it with the stuff I wanted to keep. Right now I’m having a hard time justifying a lot of that stuff and I find myself wishing it was all just gone. Obviously I don’t really want it all just gone, but in a way I kind of do. Between Singapore and Paris we have a few days in LA which will certainly involve a trip to the storage space to trade out some items, but I’m dreading both that I’ll have to dig through and extremely packed unit and that I won’t have more time to get rid of some of it. I should have been more ruthless when packing, but I had other things on my mind.
Of course this is an easy stance to take when I’m looking at living out of a suitcase for the next 8 months or so, but I don’t think that is really a bad voice to listen to. If I don’t need it for that length of time while traveling around the world, why do I really need it if I’m parked somewhere more permanently? I remember how free it felt when I lived in Florida knowing that everything I owned could be fit in a car and moved in one shot, and I know how tethering it feels to think of a 10×15 storage unit packed to the brim. I have 4 bikes in that unit. I love my bikes and can’t imagine being without one, but at the same time I don’t have one here with me and the ones there are gathering dust. If I had the option to trade all 4 of those for something like a freeman transport bike that I could more easily take with me I’d probably do it, and be happier because I had less physical clutter and thus less mental clutter. Boxing those up and mailing them around the world to places I stay frequently is an option, but requires a lot of time and effort to coordinate.
My head is swimming with a technomad minimalist manifesto of sorts. One thing you can use always trumps any number of things you can’t. Portable and compact trumps sizable and unpackable. Multifunction trumps single use. Durable and reliable trumps cheaper and breakable, price isn’t the issue to worry about. Buying once beats buying often, and at the same time the is no reason to save something that isn’t being used if it’s easily replaceable. These are things I need to think about and remember more often.