Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Indie Travel - Change

Change can be exciting and bring new joys into our lives. But it can present challenges that frustrate or annoy us. How has travel changed you in the last year? Did you welcome these changes or resist them at the time, and how do you feel about them now?

The subject for today is change. I wish changing my body could be as easy as changing my life has been. I still drag around an overweight body, lighter than five years ago by thirty pounds, but still with thirty pounds too many. If only shedding pounds could be as easy as shedding extra clothes I don't wear anymore or those boring boyfriends. 

In the last year, I worked on contract for a while, and when the contract ended, I looked carefully at how I could reduce the costs of my life and then pared it down. I sold a lot of things, gave a bunch of stuff away on FreeCycle - a very cool way to get rid of things you don't really need anymore, and a way to pick up (for free) a few things you might - gently pushed my son out of the nest, and made plans to travel around the world like a river of molasses slipping across the face of the planet, one little locale at a time. 

How has that changed me? For starters, this new life is a bit like camping full time. I have to stay organized and know where every possession is located, otherwise I'm in a bind. It's easier when there are so few possessions, but still, things can get misplaced and more than once I despaired at losing something. I left shampoo and conditioner at a campground shower. I misplaced a hairbrush and purchased another, only to find the original under my pillow on the van-bed. I looked all over for my little blue tube of mascara, purchased a new one, found an older one in my swim bag, and then the one I'd lost turned up in my cosmetic bag as if by magic, so now I have three. I only have two eyes, but three mascaras. What's up with that?

I pay more attention to the details of life. Things are not so habitual now. I don't wake up every morning with a routine: get up, stretch, take a shower, comb hair, eat breakfast, recomb hair, put on makeup, plaster wayward hair with a bit more goop, brush teeth, get dressed, swipe at the hair one more time, go to work. 

Now I get up and wander around a bit, maybe stretch. If I'm house sitting for someone or renting a furnished place, or in a campground, everything is "in the moment". I have to decide what to do, to actually think about each step I take, and some days it takes longer, and some days I just skip the shower, makeup, and the hair altogether and go au natural. Now comfort has taken the forefront in my life. Am I warm enough? Am I hungry? Do I make coffee or buy some at a coffee shop where I can also check email and the stock market? 

I agonized over buying a cooler. I had a small one but it holds only half a bag of ice when it's full of food. Do I buy one about the same size so I can keep all the food I bought while house sitting, or do I buy a much larger cooler and give the small one away? The woman at WalMart thought I'd lost my mind asking questions about coolers. I bought a small one. Easier to situate two small ones in different locations in the car than a single large one, and a half a bag of ice isn't wasted anymore. In my former life, I would have decided to buy a cooler, bought one, regretted it because it didn't have wheels, or it did have wheels that made it too big. Then I would have gotten a different one, needed to find a place to store it, lamented how much junk I've got, and in moving stuff in the storage shed I would have found the old cooler my neighbor gave me ten years ago. 

Necessity is the mother of invention. And cheap living is the mother of planning. I have to think a lot about things I never thought about before.  Now each minor decision I make can spell the difference between a life that works and one that's frustrating. Before making any decision to buy something, I try to envision myself using the object. What are the drawbacks, where can I store/carry/put the item, do I REALLY need it? Can I make something else do the job?

My 'spiritual' teacher in this arena was a (not boring) boyfriend, years ago, who was from India. He never purchased a thing for his home unless there was a specific place for it, OR unless something of like-nature went out first. Someone gave him a book, and he agonized over which of his several hundred books had to go to make room for the new one. A new skillet meant some other piece of cookware had to go. New pants? Old pants out the door. He was a big fan of the idea that everything should have several uses. A pot could boil water, or serve as a dog bowl. A  flat cheese grater with a handle makes a great strainer for a pan. It eliminates the need for those half-round strainers and bulky colanders, and it grates cheese too!  When you start thinking creatively because you don't want to spend the money or have extra junk to tote around, it's amazing what you find has many uses. On this long road trip, I discovered that a funnel with a No.2 coffee filter works just as well as a Melita Coffee gizmo. You just have to stuff a bit of filter into the hole to create some back-pressure so the coffee has time to steep as well as drain. And a funnel has many more uses than the filter holder. 

Now, to figure out how to lose those thirty pounds. Maybe some planning is in order. 

Thirty Days of Indie Travel

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