Friday, January 15, 2010

Leaving it all behind: Packing and materialism


My cushy stay back at home -- even life as I know it in the U.S -- is about to end. Thank God. I'm itching for some independence and a return to an urban lifestyle, ready to discover a whole new country.

But it's bittersweet. After a few extended stints abroad I know I'm in for some sacrifice. I'm leaving my family (along with a certain cuddly cat). And I'll be doing without some shallow comforts as well.

That leads to a confession: I'll never be a hardcore, Swiss-army knife-carrying backpacker. Yes, I'll skip a few showers and sleep in a tent, but please, I beg you, don't deride me because I powdered my face and brushed on mascara before I started trekking through the Peruvian Andes. Don't roll your eyes because I won't skip conditioner or give up my moisturizer. I'm already savoring my last days with a few luxuries that won't be taking up space in my luggage: a fluffy bathrobe, a pair of cozy house slippers, a designer flat iron, and a light-up makeup mirror.

Because while I don't know anyone in Chile or where exactly I'll live, I do know that for the rest of the year I'll be living out of two 50-pound suitcases.

I remind myself that it's a good exercise to cut back to a more simple lifestyle. Since I moved back to the States in May I've already started accumulating more stuff. I'm buying into a materialistic culture fueled by millions of advertising dollars that convinces us that consuming more things will make us happier.

Some of my recent purchases were good investments, like a Mac notebook, an iPod (my first -- a refurbished Nano), and a DSLR camera. But at the same time I've realized that the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to worry about, and the more complicated life is. Having less can be freeing.

Until the day you must settle into your own apartment and realize you don't have anything to put in it. I'll save that predicament for next year.

(Exploring Incan ruins, with a bit of lip gloss.)

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