What’s In Your Suitcase?

The process of moving overseas causes one to look at every material item in their life and assess its monetary value (“Is the blender really worth $11.30 per cubic foot?”).  But you also find yourself making value judgments about hobbies, passions, and other non-material parts of your life as well.

In the midst of scaling back, it’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally toss out the things you really love.  That sounds incredibly obvious.  But, this past weekend, while visiting Kalpana’s family in the Washington D.C. area, we had the chance to revisit two of our favorite Smithsonian museums (Air and Space, and Natural History).  There happened to be a terrific photography exhibit at the Natural history Museum.  Walking through that gallery got me thinking about my own interest in photography, and things creative and passionate.

I realized that since December, when we started preparing to move to Dublin, I’d consciously begun slowing down just about everything.  Under the auspices of, “I don’t know who I’ll be writing for, or whether I’ll be able to afford to continue travel writing”, I stopped traveling for work, and stopped my ongoing study of photography.  I love sailing, but, as the spring sailing season approached, I knew that I’d have to sell the boat, and rather than treasuring every free second, and racing for the water, I found myself increasingly busy with moving, and depressed by the things I’d not completed on the boat.   This rapidly spiraled into more and more lost time on the boat, and a greater sense of guilt about the boat.

Financial experts tell us that one of the keys to financial stability, a debt free life, and attaining/retaining wealth is not moving.  It seems that the act of moving, even a short distance, burns through personal and financial resources very quickly.  I think this holds true for not just personal finance, but for creative pursuits, personal goals and endeavors as well.

From the beginning, I’d told myself, that, “Yes, you are giving up travel writing and photography for now, but you’ll pick them up again in Dublin.”  And, as far as sailing goes, I told myself, “There’s always the Irish Sea.”

The problem with those things is that, as with anything creative, and any true passion, momentum and trajectory are everything.  When you slow down and/or stop, you lose traction, and it becomes that much more difficult to pick it up again.  It’s quite likely that when you do pick it up again, you won’t be “the same” artist or hobbyist.  That might be a good thing.  You will doubtless be a different person, and bring different experiences to the discipline. That is, of course, assuming that life doesn’t pull you in other directions.

The danger in all of this is that, when we stop practicing the things that make us happy, and make us “who we are”, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of doing nothing, and losing our passion and drive.   And then, weeks, months, or years down the road we have that dreaded conversation with ourselves.  It goes something like this:

“I’m not happy, but I don’t know why.”

“When was I happy?

I use to be happy when I was writing and taking pictures, and sailing regularly.”

“Why did I ever stop doing that stuff?

“I should go back to “writing, sailing, and taking pictures.”

“Maybe later.  Right now I have to finish this spreadsheet (or take out the trash, or get the kids to soccer).”

I guess what I’m saying is that in the midst of packing for the “big move”, or whatever major life change we may be undergoing, it’s important to find some time (even little stolen moments) to keep doing the things that make us happy and fulfilled.  Never sell all of the tools of your passions with the rationalization that you’ll buy them again when you get where you’re going.

Instead of saying, “When I get there, I’ll start again as an Irish writer”, tell yourself, “I want to be the best writer/photographer/sailor I can be wherever I am. And I can only do that by practicing wherever I find myself at any given moment.”

There has got to be room in your suitcase for the things that make you unique.  No matter how busy you get, don’t forget what those things are, and don’t forget to take them with you.

Emigration Day: July 12, 2011 (12 Days)

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

  • The Clothes On Their Back: Final Choices About “Stuff”
  • The Logistics of International Moving
  • Moving Pets

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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4 Responses to What’s In Your Suitcase?

  1. You are a smart man, Glenn. And that’s not a typo, it’s not like I meant to say “smart ass man” and fell short. You strike a very good point here.

  2. aly says:

    Great post. Makes perfect sense. We only live once – might as well not put anything on hold. As mark twain said “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

  3. Donna says:

    Glenn: I ditto–great post. I enjoy your writing. Loved the last paragraph!

  4. Mark says:

    Great post, Glenn. I told my wife about your blog and after reading it she posted links to it on her Facebook page, followed by another post quoting your last paragraph. Very profound and worth keeping in mind. Looking forward to you next post.

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