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.