I am sitting in my son Ivan’s apartment in Phoenix, having come from San Diego today to pick him up to fly to the Caribbean for the first real vacation we have taken together. Tonight we do the red-eye to New York, where we catch our flight to Sint Maarten.
I am still trying to put my finger on why travel feels so different to me now. I used to think it was because I no longer have a permanent home, but I suspect now that there is another dimension as well. I got rid of well over 90% of my possessions when I sold my condo and moved to Victoria. I have a small storage locker there, filled primarily with important papers, a bit of memorabilia I don’t want to part with, books, and out-of-season clothes. The contents of that storage locker, plus my car, are the sum total of what I own in this world, other than what is in those two suitcases over there in the entryway of Ivan’s apartment.
In San Diego, as I was packing to head out to Phoenix, I couldn’t find a favorite jacket. If it wasn’t in my suitcase, I must have left it on the last ship, I thought, but I didn’t see how that was possible, since I checked my room thoroughly and surely would have noticed.
Yes, it’s true that traveling means living only with what one brought, at least temporarily (well, except for shopping.). But there was something about staring at those two bags and realizing, “This is it. This is the bulk of what I own.” I couldn’t call up visions of a walk-in closet, a dresser packed with things I didn’t bring, to soften the impact. In moments of loss, even of something as minor as a jacket, the consequences of what I have chosen leap out to grab me. Fortunately that feels far more often like a caress than a slap.
There is more to this nomadic life I have chosen than simply not having a permanent home. It means truly living only out of suitcases and storage boxes. I am always moving with my possessions from place to place, varying slightly what I have to fit the adventure I am on. That’s why both every place and no place is ‘home.” It’s hard to explain, but sitting here right now in another unfamiliar place, just seeing my bags over by the door grounds me. Just knowing that my winter clothes and boots are waiting in the dark in that locker in Victoria grounds me too.
The story has a happy ending: I found the jacket. I had worn it the last evening on the ship and because I had already packed and locked my bags, I stashed it in a zipper compartment on the outside of one suitcase. Being very lightweight, it was easy not to notice it wedged down there. I am really glad I still have it, but sometimes it takes losing something, even if temporarily, to break open one’s thinking to find something even more important.