My month in Israel is coming to an end and it has been an interesting experience. I have learnt an extraordinary amount about my attitude to stuff throughout this time. Living out of a backpack is the stereotypical image of a minimalist. Until university is finished, that isn't a practical long-term way to live. It has, however, been refreshing to do for a short while.
Edit, March 2017: A few months after writing this post, I was able to transition to full time backpack living. Take a look at my recent posts to see how it is going.
For this trip, I packed light: a small bag containing clothes and a backpack for my laptop, camera, phone, and stationary. The lengthy journey alone meant I could only take what could be carried.
Colin Wright once wrote on Instagram that everything he owns is either soon destroyed due to his lifestyle, or becomes a treasured artifact covered in scars.
That is something I have also noticed whilst travelling. The belongings I bring can be divided into two categories. There are the very temporary and cheap items which wear or run out fast (eyeliner, work out clothes, shampoo, tea bags, washi tape, socks etc.) They have short life spans as a natural consequence of their uses. I don't attach any meaning to them or see them as a reflection on me. Wherever possible, I try to also avoid making complex choices when buying them to sidestep decision fatigue.
They need to be functional, not fancy. When they wear out, I replace them. Simple.
Too many many people overthink the role of temporary items as signifiers and forget that they are just tools to make life a little easier. Maybe I could live without socks but it would be kind of gross and I would get even more blisters than I already do. Maybe I could live without lotions, though they make my life a little nicer. In short, these are the items which I wouldn't collapse into a pile of dust without, yet which serve a purpose. Without them, life might be a bit harder or less comfortable even if only a minuscule level.
Living out of a backpack for a month has taught he that overthinking these is exhausting. As much as I hate buying stuff, I have had to do it quite a bit more than usual whilst in Israel. Everything seems to wear or run out much faster in the intense heat/humidity/dust here. I have had to buy new, lighter clothes (there is a slight difference between 20C British summer and 40C Israeli summer), skin products (the temperature wreaks havoc on my face), new shoes (working in a zoological garden for 4 weeks wrecked my trainers) and so on.
Then there are the other items; those with an intended long life span. Among these, I would count my two pairs of Doc Martens, Kanken backpack, Lamy pen, Moleskine notebooks and pens, citrine crystal necklace, various garments from Hoodies and so on. I love it when my belongings have history and show signs of wear.
There is something oddly satisfying about seeing a favoured book grow dog-eared, or shoes become battered with time. It is even cooler when they have been around the world. It can hard not to grow attached to items with a longer lifespan and to find a balance between maintenance and emotional connection. This has been more of a challenge than expected whilst travelling; with fewer items, each is more significant. In some ways, I think that this has been a useful realisation as a result of this time.
This has been more of a challenge than expected whilst travelling; with fewer items, each is more significant. In some ways, I think that this has been a useful realisation as a result of this time. Living with even less is easier than expected, provided I take the time to look after each piece. That is going to be influential on how I live at university in September.
Another thing I have noticed is that no distinction between everyday and fancy items is needed. None of my clothes are chosen solely for special occasions. All are versatile. This has felt odd when, for example, going out for dinner with family. It has taken some tenacity to wear the same black/grey, simple dresses as usual. This discomfort has been one of the few observable downsides. I have also found that acquiring new items is somehow easier when you have less too.