The other day I spent my evening laying out everything I’m taking to America. I’m hoping that ‘everything I’m taking’ is the same as ‘everything I need’. I was impressed by the surprisingly small amount of stuff I ended up having in front of me. It is unbelievably satisfying – having luckily lived with a wardrobe full of clothes, cupboards full of food and a home full of comfort and security – to see all your possessions for the foreseeable future in one small area of floor, waiting to fit snugly into a few bags. There was even a load of spare room after this had been done, though I am pretty sure this will soon be taken up by as much food as I can fit in, and by the bits and bobs that are always inevitably acquired whilst travelling.
Only a very small number of frills have been allowed to sneak through, and I’ve tried to keep these frills as functional as possible. They are nearly all (perhaps with the exception of juggling balls and a Sudoku book) things that will help me interact with my constantly-changing surroundings more productively. The GoPro, sound recording device, sketchpads and pencil case are all there to help me unlock experiences of the journey that would otherwise be inaccessible. Other than that it is the bare minimum. What is essential comes, what is not stays behind.
There is something – similar to that satisfaction I mentioned before – very attractive about this philosophy of lightly casting off all ties and escaping in some sense out into the unknown. Our possessions so easily weigh us down, and this statement works on a physical and spiritual level. The more you have, the less able you are to adapt, escape, move and grow: literally and figuratively. Obviously we all need a base minimum of comfort and security; even a certain amount of money to get by. It’s hard to get anything done if you are constantly worrying about keeping yourself afloat. There is a flip-side to this, however. It is that securing those things that you see yourself as needing can become the whole game. This, I believe, is because the extent to which you could be wealthy, surrounded by luxury and living in material security has no upper limit.
In this way, it is nice to feel that you can, whenever you really want to (although this may prove the hardest step for people), emancipate yourself from the webs of things that are supposed to enable you, but have somehow become a hindrance to your own growth and even wellbeing.
We must, however, be careful not to let this approach spill over into our relationships – it is very easy. There is a rejoicing loneliness in the call of the wild that invites you to desert everything in exchange for everything, to forget completely, and to become utterly submerged in the world. To accept this unbelievably tempting offer, however, is to underestimate the strength of the connections you have to those around you, and to fall short of your responsibility to act in a way that actually takes those people and your impact on them into account.