One of the strange things about moving overseas is that I’ve been forced to distinguish between what I want and what I need. Do I really need fourteen tshirts in London? Well, I mean that’s a no brainer because otherwise how will I be able to show everyone how elite and awesome I am without a unique graphic t-shirt collection? I definitely need to do that. I even entertained the idea of bringing my XBox with me. This idea is, of course, absurd. I can’t imagine with all the studying, traveling, conquering of France that I’ll have time to indulge my adolescent delights. But who knows? Sometimes you gotta shoot ill tempered aliens in the face. That’s what I always say.
In addition, I find myself rationalizing lugging more things around because I have this strange, creeping, irrational doubt that Europe doesn’t have the things I need. Deoderant? Nope. Internet? Please. Shampoo that smells like strawberries? Well, maybe. But of course I’ll be able to get these things in the United Kindong it’s just the exchange rate has every American dollar being equivalent to 0.649 British pounds. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to spend my inheritance in one way or another.
The other thing about packing in general is that you always end up doing it at the last moment. There’s always something you have to cram in, pack or slide into the front pouch of your suitcase because, realistically, what if I go spelunking while I’m overseas? I’ll need my equipment. I don’t want to be that guy who has to stay behind because he doesn’t have the right stuff; like a chainsaw or a croquet set. Or, heaven forbid if we’re playing chainsaw croquet.
I know there are some people who are robots and are truly efficient packers and have rationed the exact amount of toothpaste per day and put their underwear in vaccuum sealed bags that minimize spatial occupancy in a suitcase and they only bring exactly what they need, but that just isn’t me. And I’d like to think most people are not that way. And also, for those of you who are actually really skilled and efficient travelers, stop looking so smug when you’re waiting for us at the baggage claim. I know you need to get to the hotel and watch HBO, but just chill out. We can’t help it! And we over pack for two reasons.
First, we are acquisitive creatures. We enjoy our stuff, our nick knacks and the stuff we have managed to acquire over the years. We like to show off things we have acquired in other places of the world. It’s a display of material plumage to show everyone how great we are. We are a society that fixates on things with the accumulation of objects to validate our work as something meaningful and to assert our level in society.
An aside about possessions. I heard some guy cough*hipster talking about how he thought Marxism was so amazing and how he would totally advocate a Marxist revolution in the United States. Really, then what would happen to your Apple products and your designer skinny jeans during the uprising of the proletariat? Those are all products of a free-market, guy. Now, listen, I’m not one of those neoliberal free-market economic rationalists who thinks the market will always do right and make life an Easter basket filled with justice and Oreos, but you’re not allowed to call yourself a Marxist and then go flaunt the byproducts of the system you were just denouncing with your coffee shop revolutionaries.
The second reason, which is slightly less cynical, is that we are over packing because we’re trying to symbolically take our homes with us. This is because we all are creatures of habit and we are reticent to change. Routine and familiarity are very important to us. With indulging in this form of excess, we are, in a way, trying to take our homes with us. Physics permitting, we would probably put all of our stuff in our suitcases. There’s no way you need to bring your entire comic book collection* with you, but its familiar and it helps us navigate the frontier of the unknown as we establish our abbreviated routine in the places to which we are traveling. It is something recognizable in a sea of unfamiliar.
(*This is of course unless it’s that limited edition crossover series your cousin gave you that has Nightcrawler, Spider-Man AND the Punisher duking it out.)
I know at this point that I’ll be bringing too much. I just hope my suitcase has a special compartment for my TV.