Coming up: my online travel writing class for Catapult in mid-April.

Scattered vs settled life

Last Monday evening, I returned to New York after nearly eight months of travel. I don’t count the three-week interlude back in March, between my extended stays in Chile (2.5 months) and Croatia (4.5 months). And that’s because I hotel-hopped for an assignment, instead of living in my Brooklyn apartment.

So now I’m officially back. With mixed feelings.

As I slowly unpack and settle back into the New York groove, a thought keeps popping up. During my eight-month absence, I lived out of one suitcase and a couple of bags. Literally. And I felt happy. There was lightness to such an existence. I loved knowing that I could pack up my (current) life into these bags and actually carry it/them.

Since I’ve returned to the Brooklyn apartment, which has been my base for the last nine years, I’ve been unpacking, reorganizing, rearranging and basically putting my life back into order. Or at least what I think is order. In that process, I’ve been struck with a realization: I have way too many things! By other people’s standards, it would probably not be a lot at all, as it still fits into a one-bedroom apartment that I share with my husband and his things, too.

In the past, I found it a comfort to know there’s a place that stores my earthly possessions, a home that I can go back to and surround myself with – well, stuff of mine. Here I mean objects of mainly emotional value that I’ve been collecting for decades. Since 1993, to be precise, when I left Croatia for pastures global. But after this extended leave from New York life, I feel all that is more of a burden than a boon.

A part of me wants to give or throw away 80% of what I own, in one surgical strike. Do a reset, so to speak. Another part of me is holding on, to things, as if they mean my life. But they don’t.

This brings me to the idea of a scattered versus settled life. Mine is certainly of the first variety, as I’ve been all over the globe in the last few years. By scattered, I mean untied to geography, freed of location-specific dues (although some are always involved).

There is beauty to this scattered life. And it lies in freedom from becoming slave to what we own.

I won’t deny the dark sides. There are days when a settled life seems so sexy that I want to stay put for years and roll in routine. Or at least I think I do. But even in this vision of my settled life, I dream of reducing stuff to a suitcase, or two.

I think I’d feel richer with less.

Blog Comments

I know these feelings so well – conversely I have moved to Croatia (via NZ, Scotland & Canada, Nepal and others). We have been living out of suitcases for long while as a renovation project is taking a LOT longer than intended.
The majority of my ‘things’ are in a friends loft in Scotland and I wonder how many of them I really need to move here… i know I had a good cull of belongings before carrying them up the stairs, but what do we really need. For sure I want the ceramic collection and the rest?

Have just discovered your blog and am really enjoying your writing style and great photos. Cheers, Ruth

I know I’m not alone in this, Ruth. There are so many of us on and off nomads who deal with these dilemmas. Sounds like you’re one of those. It’s so freeing just to get rid of stuff and realize we don’t need them.

Glad we connected and I hope you’ll be stopping by my blog again. Admittedly, I’m quite sporadic with my posts but hope they’ll continue to pique your interest.

Best,
Anja

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