Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Packing Light

I don't know about you, but packing light has never been easy for me. For years when I was making my daily commute to work on the subway, I carried a backpack FULL of things to keep me occupied: books to read, music to listen to, paper to write on, etc. In NYC, it's not uncommon to see folks, female and male with some sort of bag. (Males' bags are often lovingly called "murses") New Yorkers live a portable lifestyle as we often commute by subway, cab or foot. You learn to pack all that you'll need throughout the day. No one wants to have to make a trip back the apartment because they have forgotten something...

I think my packing habits probably began when I was a kid. My family would take RIDICULOUSLY LONG car trips in the summer. We'd often drive from Boston, MA to Pittsburgh, PA. During those trips, if you wanted something, it was imperative that you had packed it your "car bag" before you'd left. There was no going back. And getting a replacement version once we'd arrived at our destination was not an option.

Additionally, we moved almost to another city almost EVERY summer. (The hotel/restaurant business is so similar to military life in that respect.) And the same rules applied: once something had been packed into a box, you wouldn't have it again until you UNpacked the box at the destination.

I've become somewhat CRAZED when it comes to packing... trying to make sure that I have everything that I could possibly want. Everything that I could possibly need. And the preparation necessary just to leave the house can be maddening!

When I travel to another city, I will obsess for WEEKS about what to bring with me. My biggest fear is not that I'll encounter travel difficulties. Instead, it's that I won't have something with me that I would want. And that quickly turns into something that i NEED.

I've been prepping to head back to Hawai'i next week. I'm heading to Molokai. It's an amazing island. It offers so much... more than I could ever imagine. I'm staying with my extended family in Hālawa Valley--an extremely remote nook thatʻs tucked away on the islandʻs east end. Life there is simple. Life there is beautiful. No electricity. The water that runs thru the PVC pipe into the shower comes from a waterfall. We work. We sing. We tell stories.

Why on earth am I obsessing about what to bring with me?

Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have enough clothing--although one doesnʻt NEED much clothing in the valley.

Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have the right books with me--although in all of the times that Iʻve gone there, Iʻve never been known to sit and read.

Iʻve been worried that I wonʻt have the right song sheets and music books with me--although most of my time there is spent learning NEW songs.

Itʻs so silly. Really. And quite sad that so much energy has been wasted on something as silly as material things. Especially because there, while we have little when it comes "things," we have so very much when it comes to spending quality time with each other. Just being together. Sharing stories. Sharing songs. Sharing the experience of working with the land.

I know that for this trip--more so than any other trip Iʻve been on--packing light is not just a good thing to do, it is essential.


  1. I know exactly what you mean... indeed you and I had a similar conversation not too long ago. Not so much about packing, but about our "things". Things we think we need, things we think we can't live without, things we think are absolutely necessary... But once we make one purging move: to clean out an overstuffed closet, the top of the chest of drawers, behind the computer nook etc, we know how liberating it is to know we REALLY didn't need those things that went bye-bye in the purge.
    Have a great time on Moloka`i. Oh, and remember to pack light... hehehe ;-)

  2. What to pack:
    ted kooser
    "skirt" thingy
    3 undies
    3 t's
    stainless steel h2o bottle
    pre-addressed postcard to me
    toothbrush, hairbrush
    music notebook

    Stick it all in your backpack
    you can thank me later

  3. ah, marina! you are so right! i remember that conversation well... i guess i am a true creature of habit... able to clean my closets, but pack a full backpack! auē! and in letting go of all of that "stuff" weʻre able to travel freely... i love that.

    um, noho1960, RIGHT ON. thatʻs the truth... (but i might add a few pairs of shorts... the kikepa ("skirt thingy") wonʻt work in all situations... most, yes... but maybe a few pairs of shorts, too!

    happy thursday!