Here we are about to hit the road again, but this time is different in so many ways. Perhaps the biggest difference this time is our readiness to walk away from our apartment and much of the stuff we have accumulated over the years, especially the 14 years we have spent living here in Portland. We have rented the same apartment for the entire duration of our residency here, so much so that we have nicknamed ourselves “Len’s Lifers” (Len is our landlord).
Home Sweet Home
After much consideration and weighing of the pros and cons, we decided to keep our apartment when we left on our year long trip from 2013-2014. What might have been considered a foolhardy move by many actually saw us not having to move anything. The apartment served as a repository for our stuff and the driveway housed our vehicles so that we could return, and essentially step right back into the lives we had pre-trip. All we had to do was find jobs, reconnect utilities and make the vehicles street legal. We paid a year’s rent to keep our stuff in order to conveniently walk back into the life we had walked away from.
Is Home Where the Heart Is?
Even whilst we were on the road for that initial year, once we turned North to head back towards the border, the dread of returning was already well instilled in us. For me personally I desperately wanted to continue our lives of travel with all of our worldly belongings in our backpacks. However I also struggled with the fact that I was predominantly the reason we were returning. The bulk of the stuff in our apartment is mine and unfortunately I have to admit I’m rather attached to that stuff. My internal struggle is I want it all: the stuff and to travel. However my desire to travel and all that travel holds far outweighs my need to keep everything. There will be some sorting to do and there will definitely be some keeping, but in order to follow my heart I need to let go and there will be some tears shed!
In reality, compared to many we don’t have a lot of stuff, but we have more than I ever anticipated accumulating. How does this happen? When we started out together 21 years ago, we each had little more than a backpack full of clothes and some second-hand furniture, i.e. a bed and a couch. By the time we moved to Portland we now found ourselves renting a good sized apartment that was just waiting to be filled with stuff and I happily complied. Earning some semi-decent money allowed me the disposable income to nicely furnish this beautiful space.
“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff”.
– George Carlin
Although my stuff doesn’t define me, I am having some separation anxiety. It is so easy to associate memories and stages of our lives to tangible, inanimate objects that seem to anchor us to those moments. I have collected everything from pieces of furniture and wall hangings, to shells, broken bits of pottery and stones that have caught my eye whilst just out for a walk. I have lived in many places and have gathered mementos which have become my token time capsules keeping me connected to those places.
Jerry is way better at approaching what have become piles of stuff in a much more pragmatic way than me; there is little sentimental attachment, rather it’s just something getting in the way of our freedom, so it has to go. I, on the other hand am quite adept at justifying the sentimental attachment and the “what if” scenarios resulting in a growing “keep” pile.
There are the definite keepers which everyone hangs onto no matter what – photographs. Nothing evokes a memory like a photograph, why else would we busy ourselves with trying to take the perfect picture of those life changing events and moments, captured and frozen in time on a piece of paper. The other papers I am having a difficult time with whittling down are my beloved books, but I am trying; it is akin to picking your favourite child/children – something you should never have to do!
The Letting Go
Daft as it may sound, I want my stuff to go to good homes; someone who will care for it and cherish it as much as I have. Now, I understand I have no control over this. If I get a reasonable price, rationale dictates “let it go”. Naturally I am talking about “big ticket items” or even items with some personal attachment vested in them (bones, coral, shells, pottery shards – my time capsule stuff).
Thus far it seems the universe has obliged in sending the most deserving re-homers my way (Wanda and Melissa), and in particular the new care-takers of my time capsule. Those little keepsakes also went to the new owner of my car. I sold my beloved “Ollie” to a wonderful lady named Alysa, who along with her boyfriend Will, happened to comment on some of the old bones and pottery shards. We knew they would appreciate them just as much as we did over the years, so it felt right to load them into the boot of Ollie with the perfect new minders.
The sale of my car “Ollie”, brought about a realisation; I am giving up one form of independence for a much greater form of independence. This eureka moment still didn’t make it any easier to watch “Ollie” drive away! Having your own vehicle is often seen as the ultimate independence – as long as it’s road-worthy. My new independence is absolute freedom; not being tied to time, routine or location. Rather we are going to live life on our terms, if only for a little.
I had “Ollie” for 12 years, and it is strange to think I do not know when I will drive again. It is also strange to look out the window and see all that remains of “Ollie” is an outline; the remnants of dried-in pollen residue in the porous tarmac, akin to a body outline at a crime scene.
Admittedly, this is not the most enlightening piece about travel. If you have read this far into this piece, congratulations! This is more a self-indulgent catharsis and hopefully a cautionary tale to others who dream of travel: don’t accumulate stuff.
I also want this piece to convey it’s o.k. to admit to having a hard time parting with stuff. Let’s face it, we’ve worked hard at jobs we may not have been “in love with” but it has been a means to an end. There’s nothing shameful in admitting to lamenting the passing of indulgences/necessities which have been “our rewards” for toiling at the daily grind.