Leaving It All Behind

I have a wise friend who got me thinking over the past year. She said, “We spend so much of our time servicing our possessions–cars, houses, appliances, computers. If we were to dedicate even a fraction of that time to improving ourselves or the world, think about how much better off we’d be.” Lest I doubt the truth of her words, in the past month my four-year-old refrigerator has decided to stop dispensing ice and water, the kids have broken one of the captain’s chairs in my big, honkin’ SUV (look for the spinners in the video Google made about Tom),


and the upstairs air conditioning has given out just as the 95 degree heat and 90 percent humidity have descended upon Atlanta. No one will come to look at the fridge for less than $79, and that’s without performing any repairs. The car dealership claims it will take at least an hour and a half at $90/hour just to take the seat apart to figure out what’s wrong. No reputable A/C repair shop can get to us before June 9 (almost two weeks after the stinkin’ thing broke). So for the moment we open the fridge to get out ice, drink tap water (yuck), consider the captain’s chair a rocker, and sleep downstairs in the guest room and on couches. Eventually I’ll break down and schedule an appliance repairman and spend the better part of a day traveling to an auto dealer I actually trust, but in the meantime I’ll waste lots of time and energy begrudging things that break, explaining them in great detail to my friends, and wishing they would all magically restore themselves.

The Offending Devices

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As I’ve tried to prepare for our adventure, I’ve found myself wondering, ” What will it be like to carry everything I need on my back and to have nothing to clean, fix, weed, or wash except a few changes of clothes? How will it be to have no mail to open, no phone calls to return, no lessons to race to, and no schedule to keep other than that which we impose?” The answer is simple: LIBERATING! I’ve got the mail slowed to a trickle, mostly junk that can be tossed on the walk from the mailbox to the house. I’ve cancelled or suspended all the subscriptions except a few of Tom’s work magazines and gone paperless on all the bills. No more mounds of paperwork to ponder, process, and file. I’ve take approximately 387 loads of clothing, household items, and junk we don’t know why we ever acquired to Goodwill. Another wise friend (it seems I’m surrounded by them) has helped me purge our lives of 15 years of physical and mental clutter. When I try to make excuses for why we need to hang onto some useless tchotchke, rag rug or waffle iron, she stares me in the eye and says, “Are you really going to want to look at this thing after you’ve come home from traveling the world for a year? How much will it matter to you then?” The other argument that really works is “If you decide to get back into that hobby or need a thing like this in five years, won’t it be easier just to buy a new one than to store, reorganize six times, and clean off this one? Isn’t there someone who could use this more than you right now?” To the last question, I just hang my head and mumble, “Yes.”

So I’m already looking at our possession-filled life with new eyes. Some days I want to get rid of absolutely everything–clothing (Tom has developed a bizarre midlife penchant for fancy shoes), dishes, office supplies–but then I calm down and realize to do so would be a little extreme and highly impractical. I know, however, that the way we see things when we get back will be markedly different than we do now, and I can’t wait for that new, more seasoned perspective.

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