That’s all we have left to live on in Jakarta.
It’s a ridiculous amount to reduce your possessions to, at least after spending the last five years unknowingly hoarding a houseful of stuff in America.
It’s also a ridiculous amount to manhandle through luggage check-ins and customs screenings.
But reducing your earthly materials to a fifty-pound rolling bundle is impossible for most of us. And opting for international shipping seemed a headache comprised of both an expense and a lengthy wait. So my wife and I opted for the compromise—the best and worst of both worlds—tossing out an awful lot beloved stuff and fetching the remnants we couldn’t part with along for the plane ride.
I wish I had a dollar for every snide glance we received in the airports from the smart and snappy seasoned passengers with their prim and tiding carry-ons gliding smoothly behind them. Yes, I admit it, we bumbled and staggered and held up all kinds of sassy travelers while wrangling all our earthly possessions through the ticket queue.
They didn’t have to hawk over us, though. “We’re moving,” I found myself shouting to them all. “We’re really not divas with a thousand surplus outfits.” They just stared more. A dollar for every such stare would be nice.
347 pounds of luggage means the worst part of the airport experience is not the prolonged hugs and bittersweet goodbyes, but the breathless anticipation of setting the bulging suitcases on the airline’s scales. After wrangling awhile with the luggage and the fees, the agent at the ticket counter finally summoned a small army of minions to tote away our baggage to the x-ray machines. I’m divided on whether or not foregoing the remaining weights was from pity or a desire to get the towering line behind us moving.
A dollar for each glance? It would go a long way toward paying those extra luggage fees.
Here’s the thing: while the final lineup of baggage looks neat and easy in the picture, I assure you, neither of those adjectives came into play while arriving at that end. It was the result of no less than eight thousand harried trips up and down our apartment’s three stories of stairs. It came only through the merciless junking of coffee mugs, candles, vases, and appliances once held dear but far too impractical to pack. It reduced the two of us, at one point, to finger-scooping globs of a mango parfait (spoons already history)—the thoughtful gift of a considerate neighbor—into our mouths, over the sink, laughing hysterically in a vain attempt to keep from breaking into tears.
“They just better not lose our bags,” my wife sniffled, her fingers stained with mango and eyes with red veins.
Oh, if those shined-shoe airporters could have seen us in that moment, what would they have said?
My younger brother is a hiker. This means for every trip he has a backpack. A day hike? A backpack. A two-week mission trip? A backpack. A move of undetermined length to Mexico to teach English? A slightly bigger backpack. “Oh man,” he said to me, “did I ever overpack for that one.”
So I look at my 347 pounds of luggage stuffed and vacuum-sealed into five different suitcases and a constellation of carry-ons and personal items, and I wonder how well I’m succeeding in the living-lean department. Is 347 pounds a lot or a little to live on?
Already I’m thinking how we’ll ever get it all back home—because surely we’re not going to spend the next couple years relinquishing possessions.
That thought bothers me, but I’m not sure what to do about it.
Maybe my month spent reducing my life to 347 pounds is just the way to check that unintended materialism and incognizant hoarding. Maybe my sleep-deprived morning cajoling those pounds aboard an aircraft amid the stares of the masses is just the ticket. Maybe if I can tattoo on my wallet and my subconscious that image of herding stubborn baggage through the tame and prescribed lanes of the airport ticket booth, then I’ll think twice about bringing more cargo to my home.
347 pounds just isn’t easy to live with.