Rumble: My Life in Four Bags #1

Just before leaving home, I wrote a short story about my life in bags.. I will publish it in bits over the coming days.

My home is a set of bags. Four bags to be exact. Packed after one year of sabbatical. The full inventory of my life for the new start of my professional life can be summarized on two sheets of paper…

One computer bag, one small backpack. Both carry-on luggage. One duffel bag and a backpack with my clothes, toiletry and some basic medical supplies. All together maybe 30 kg. My life compacted to 30 kg…

Here is the deal: after my sabbatical, I am starting my professional life as if it were a white sheet of paper. You can look at the white sheet of paper in a negative, or in a positive way. You can say ‘empty’, ‘no information’, so.. ‘worthless’? ‘Lacking something’?

Or you could say ‘virgin territory’, ‘potential’, ‘opportunity’.. After all a white sheet of paper could become an item of high value if Picasso drew something on it. Or if Monet painted one of his summer landscapes on it . Or if Tolkien had written the introduction to ‘Lord of the Rings’ on it.. Or it could just become a worthless piece of scribbled notes. Folded a certain way, it could fly. Or propped to a ball, it could be kicked into a wastebasket.

I look at the new start of work in the ‘potential’ way. I start afresh. When I left home, I had no clue yet as to what job they would ask me to do. Nor where. Could have been anything, and literally anywhere in the world. Only one thing I knew: I will come home early July to go on holiday with the family. Between now and then, the space is filled with blanks. Blank pages. Blank sheets of paper. Could be I was off to Darfur in a week. Or Colombia. Or Cambodia, Afghanistan, Azerbaidjan, Timor or Nicaragua. Or I could be asked to stay in our HQ, in Rome for two months.

So how do you pack for something like that? What did I pack? Pfft... the normal stuff I usually pack. My personal secret supplies, and multi-purpose clothing. Plus one pair of sandals, one pair of shoes, one sweater, a rain jacket, and oh, I packed my sailing gloves too. You never know…

All in four bags. My life. Packed in two hours. I did not loose the habit, the touch to pack fast, even though stuff was spread over all the closets in the house this time. Different from the previous times I was at home, in my “two months work, one month break” regime. Then I did not bother to unpack when I arrived home, as each time I was only in Belgium for a few days before going on holiday with Tine and the kids. So I literally lived out of these bags for.. how long now? Since Kosovo, 1999.

I know the contents by heart. I packed these bags hundreds of times already. On the move all the time. During certain trips never staying anywhere for more than a couple of days. Phnom Penh one day, Vietnamese border town the next, transiting in Bangkok two days later, Vientiane after that, and then Jakarta. Hotel in, guesthouse out. These bags have been hauled into cargo planes, trucks, 4x4s, boats, and long distance commercial passenger planes. They have been checked in, lost in transit, thrown off trucks, attacked by mad monkeys and pulled out of my hands by bell boys in the New York hotels.

As I packed this time, I took the trouble of going through the contents… I amazed myself by the ‘small habits’ I have grown to have. Small things I counted on, to have with me, and who have saved the day so many times already. These are my ‘secret supplies’. The things I assembled along the way during tens of thousands of miles, hundreds of trips. And so many countries, I do not care to count anymore…

So what are my secret supplies? The things that make the life of an aid worker, a “globetrotter by necessity”, sustainable? Tomorrow, we'll take a look in the bag!


vagabondblogger 17 May, 2007 16:36  

I always look at that blank piece of paper as something to look forward to, regardless of where it is - a new adventure. And my one little stand-by piece of equipment, that I habitually carried on my keychain, was confiscated at Heathrow (several years ago) - my teeny, weeny pink Swiss Army Knife. Now, I have none. Boo hoo.

Post a Comment

To avoid spamming and profanity, comments will only show up after I (manually) clear them.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Kind people supporting The Road to the Horizon:
Find out how you can sponsor The Road

  © Blogger template The Business Templates by 2008

Back to TOP