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  • Writer's pictureeschaden

Who Are All These Light Packing Travelers?

Enroute to the East Coast today I noticed the people. All the people, but mostly I noticed the ones traveling unencumbered, the ones who were moving to wherever they were headed, without coats, or bags or luggage. Who are these people? And why for the love of God do they not have stuff with them?

Most people were similarly laden with technology, various articles of clothing that now must be carried or stowed because it was way too hot in Phoenix to wear, snacks, and reading materials. This is most people, traveling with their indica of domestic life in tow.

But who were these other people?

I stood behind a man in line to board the plane, he had on sweatpants, running shoes, a sweatshirt and that was all. I didn’t see a phone, a book, a drink...nothing. The only thing in his hand was his printed boarding pass. It unnerved me. Where was all his shit? I stood behind him in line somewhat in awe, and somewhat mistrustful of him. I mean who can travel like that?

I made myself feel better by telling myself stories about his lack of accouterments:

He checked a steamer trunk at checkin;

He was off to a monastery where all that was needed would be provided;

He was in the middle of a divorce and said “fuck it, and just left the wife and the whole marital affair in some mad adventure”; (more on this in a moment)

He really needed nothing - no snacks, no entertainment, no bullshit to travel with...he was literally and quite really flying solo.

It was this last thought that disturbed me most as I stood behind him in my carefully selected outfit, with a backpack and a purse large enough to carry a medium sized dog, each. This was in addition to my jacket, a sweater and a blanket.

I thought, “am I just over the top?”

I nodded my head in recognition that I am indeed over-the-top almost always.

Merry jaunt back into the history of my life...(I said above I would say more about now I am). I met a man once in a bar in Ireland who was in the middle of a nasty divorce. At the time he appeared ancient to me, he was like 32. He had a career, a wife, a life, a fairly good sized accumulation of money and the stuff money buys. And as it drug on, fighting about who got what and what was fair and right, he just said FUCK THIS WHOLE ORDEAL! Signed over all the crap, cashed in his 401k, bought a backpack and took off to see the world. And it was in a pub in Ireland where I met him as we were the only two people not attending the wedding that was occurring in the very same bar concurrently.

He told me of his heartbreak, his loss, his complete disgust at the whole process, little did I know that in a few years my own life would be consumed and funded by divorce. That in fairly short order, I would spend a great portion of the rest of my life, being mired in love’s demise and a sometimes demigod in who gets what and why.

I often dream of just selling it all and moving to a retreat center where my days are more simple and predictable. I do labor, I get food. I walk. I meditate. I pray. I eat. I sleep. Repeat. Forever. For now, it is just a fantasy. And likely one that I will never actualize because whatever it is that causes us to consume, I seem to be plagued with it to my very core.

I checked two bags at the airport ticket counter. Two suitcases for five days. It will cost me $140 to move all my crap from one side of the country and back again. Why do I need so much? Why am I not happy, in fact I am adrift, with less? Why are my things, so important to me?

As I marveled at this unadorned man in front of me, I almost asked him why he had no belongings. I did not because I thought it would be rude and arrogant and might make him feel like I thought he looked like he couldn’t afford more. That was not at all what I thought or meant. But I was afraid that my attempt at a very awkward explanation would make him and the people nearby worried about my sanity. And on a flight, it isn’t good to be viewed as crazy. Out in the world it isn’t either but not in the same way it is on an aircraft...

So I ended up keeping my musings to myself and boarded the plane with rapt attention to all his lack of carryon luggage and personal item. I really didn’t see how he could possibly do it I pondered, as I adjusted my at least 10lb backpack to ease the strain on my back...

I do not know why I need so much. And perhaps it isn’t need, instead perhaps it is want. Wanton want. That is all. This desperate and conniving attempt to gather things to me to provide the structure and support that I lack without it. Who am I without the cute boots and coordinated outfit? Does it matter to anyone else but me that I have the perfect beret in my bag that pulls the whole ensemble together? Why the fuck do I care so much about this kind of stuff?

My thoughts returned to the young man in Ireland. He was ancient to me at the time, me only being 19. 19. That was a million years ago. I sat in that pub and listened to him talk of the complete failure of his attempt at life thus far. Head in one hand, Guinness in the other. I think we also talked of music and my somewhat desperate pilgrimage to Ireland to find...I don’t know what because I am still looking all these years later.

He had a plan. I don’t remember what it was. It involved traveling until he found himself again. And that I got. That was exactly what I was doing...traveling to find myself in my world. I, like him had already made the grave mistake of becoming unmoored from my own life. Him at 32 and me at 19.

We talked until the pub closed and we were invited to the wedding reception because the Irish are always polite. We declined and instead walked the grounds of the hotel. I remember us walking in silence. No sexual tension between us, at least none felt by me. He was too old for me and I was not interested in men his age. I have no idea what he thought of me, whether his involvement and interest in me had an illicitness to it. Regardless, the encounter was held to a purely purient exchange.

I will never know what in me held his interest for that evening. But for me, my interest in him was that an adult squarely lodge into adulthood could just decide to dislodge himself from his rapidly crumbling life and just take off to parts unknown, to a life to be determined.

That provided me great comfort as a 19 year old. So adulthood would be ok, and if it wasn’t I could just cash it all in and say “Fuck it” and end up talking to some 19 year old in a bar all day and then moving on.

And I realized that this is where I am. I am on the edge. I am either going to start ridding myself of all the trappings of this middle aged life or I am going to continue to accumulate in some sort of misguided effort to stave off death.

Until I figure that out, I guess I am going to continue to be totally in awe and amazed by the light packing travelers I encounter...I just don't get them...I just don't.

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