The day we left Buenos Aires I faced the task of slashing my possessions by half. We’d flown in from Korea with two backpacks and one large suitcase, telling ourselves that we had six weeks to get rid of the suitcase. The zippers were broken and no way were we dragging that thing around South America.
I filled it with the clothes I couldn’t take with me and rested it next to a dumpster across from our apartment building in San Telmo. I’d seen other people do this and the bags were snatched up within hours, so I considered it a donation.
Travel is notorious for teaching us how to pare down our belongings. If you don’t want to carry it on your back, don’t own it. The concept of ‘travel light’ was drilled into my head and I was one of those people who could pick up and leave at the drop of a hat. I still insist that my shoe collection is meager compared to those who have building their footwear arsenal for years, though I would struggle to fit them all in a suitcase. Jared and I have managed to accumulate stuff since coming back to Australia in March 2013.
Some of that stuff we now have is a result of travel. Looking around my house, there are a few things floating around that I never would have owned before living in England or Korea. I’m not talking about souvenirs like fans, postcards, or the little collection of elephants (trunks up for luck!) we have amassed. These are practical(ish) objects that improve my quality of life.
For example, our rice cooker. Pre-Asia, I wasn’t big on rice in general (I believe I likened it to maggots), but after Korea I couldn’t understand why I’d always cooked rice on a stove. We had a superduper fancy rice cooker in Yeongwol, not that I ever took advantage of its features. As soon as we moved into an apartment, one of the first things we bought was a rice cooker. It’s not as high-tech, but it does the job.
As does our $15 electric kettle from K-Mart. I’d never even known these things existed until I went to Ireland, where tea was a fact of life. In the rare instances where I drank tea, I also heated it up on the stove. Imagine my surprise when I found out there’s a handy little invention that boils your water in less than a minute, no stove required. Between the kettle and the chocolate hobnobs I bought last week, Ireland and England are never far out of reach.
To counteract all of that electricity usage, I’m also more environmentally conscious than pre-travel Lauren, who basically thought her convenience trumped recycling. In Australia, as in many other countries (but not, to my knowledge, the US), you have to turn on your power points if you want to use them. It sounds silly to even type that sentence, but once upon a time I was baffled by the concept. I can’t tell you how many times I thought the toaster was broken only to realize I hadn’t turned on the electricity at the wall.
We also have a clothesline, and we use it. There is a dryer in the laundry room, but it’s mostly there to make us look like we keep up with modern technology. On sunny days, the first thought I have is “Do I need to do any laundry?” (I know. It makes me sad too.)
Also outside is the beloved Bolivian hammock, which finally has a home of its own on the back deck. In the garage, there’s a surfboard with my name on it. Right now, I am wearing a weird t-shirt depicting two cartoon cats snuggling with each other above the words ‘Myoung shim,’ a Korean phrase that I never managed to translate. All of these things came from travel. They remind me of where I’ve been and where I hope to go.
Home is a place where you want to surround yourself with the familiar. Travel has made the foreign familiar to me, to the point where I am comforted by it. Stuff is just stuff. We can do without it, but when there’s meaning behind your things, they’re kind of nice to have.