When Living Out Of A Suitcase Becomes A Way of Life

vintage suitcasesAfter four months of living out of a suitcase, I should be eager to go home. But the truth is that I’m quite content to be on the road and free. My wife and I and our two children, ages 2 and 4, moved out of our home and put all of our things in storage on April 1, in order to spend three months traveling in Europe.

We’ve been back for a month, and plan to relocate to a new home, but have been procrastinating settling back down again. The truth is that the traveling lifestyle can be addictive, and once you get used to living with only your essentials, you don’t miss very many of your possessions.

I’ve moved more times than I care to count since leaving college many moons ago, and every time I’m tasked with boxing up my things, I come to the depressing conclusion that I have way too much stuff. So I sell and give plenty away, but then inevitably start accumulating again at the next destination.As I’ve written before, if you’re planning to move, it’s a great time to put your things in storage and hit the road prior to settling in your next destination. But be careful, because you might not want to settle back down again.

On our trip, we brought just two large suitcases for a family of four, but my wife and I also left two smaller suitcases at a relative’s house in the U.S. so we had some other items not locked away in storage. I recovered the second suitcase a month ago, and haven’t even bothered to open it since. It’s amazing how little you really need and when you evaluate all of your worldly possessions, most of it begins to feel more like a burden than a blessing.

What do I miss? My books. Sometimes I miss my Tempurpedic mattress, and, when I’m watching sports, my DVR, which spares me from watching commercials, and allows me to fast forward if my teams are losing. But that’s about it. As a family, we have 7,400 pounds worth of stuff in storage, and I only kind of sort of miss about 10 percent of it.

My wife jokingly remarked the other day that we should just move and start all over again. Leave all of our stuff in storage and let the guys from Storage Wars bid on it. She was kidding but it was kind of tempting.

How do we stay sane on the road with two small children in tow? Most of the time we’ve been in holiday apartments and hotels with at least two separate rooms, which helps. Still, there are days when we’re all sick of each other, but we manage to coexist, somehow, and have actually grown closer together. In some ways, toddlers are kind of like high-energy dogs. Get them plenty of exercise and good food and they’re fine.

family traveling with lots of suitcasesYou can tell a lot about travelers by how much baggage they’re dragging around. With kids, we can’t travel anywhere near as light as we’d like to, but we still do our best to stay lean and mean. The great thing about travel is that every time you consider making a purchase, you’re forced to ask yourself: do I want to carry this thing around with me. In most cases, at least for me, the answer is no.

Travelers who want to prepare for every eventuality by dragging around an enormous amount of luggage are missing one of the real delights of travel: learning how to live with less.

For a few blissful months, I had no mobile phone, no bills, other than credit cards, and no home address, and I enjoyed every moment of it. The truth is that the longer you travel, the harder it is to settle back down again. In some ways, it’s because being settled represents commitments and responsibilities – scary things for a restless traveler.

Soon we’ll be moving into a new home and, like it or not, dozens, if not hundreds of boxes of stuff will arrive at our new doorstep. But every time you leave home for a long time, you come back a little different. In life, I’ve made a few bad choices and, like Sinatra, I have at least a few regrets. But I’ve never taken a trip that I later regretted. Travel is always money well spent, especially when it teaches you to spend less at home.

[Photos by geishaboy500 and Dave B on Flickr]