My Yurt And I
Moving has been a part of my life since I was old enough to have memories.
In the 60s and 70s, when I was with my parents, moves were massive affairs. We were moving, after all, to what was then referred to as third world countries. There was little on the ground in the way of department stores and retail outlets. So, my parents would call in movers, box up masses of clothes, appliances, transformers, and even furniture. Not uncommonly, we would go on massive shopping trips prior to another deployment. The movers would come in and do most of the heavy lifting, and we would then get on a plane and fly to whatever country my father had been assigned to. We would stay in a hotel for several months while finding a suitable house, and then, finally, one day, after months at sea and being cleared through whatever passed for customs, huge crates would show up at our new domicile.
I always thought of it like Christmas. Lots of boxes to unpack, seeing stuff we hadn’t seen in ages, packing material all over the place. As a child, I thought it was fun. When the assignment would come to an end, we would pack things up again, this time with the addition of whatever local goodies we had acquired during our stay. Normally, we would sell lots of what we had brought to other expats. It did seem as if our boxes going back seemed to be smaller. We only shipped back local stuff. Persian carpets, Chinese carved furniture, Burmese bronzes, stuff like that.
However, through the years, it seemed as if we ended up with lots of stuff in storage in the United States and we tended to move less stuff overseas. In the end that did come back to bite us, in a manner of speaking, in the ass. My parents were no longer in the picture at this point, but I still had masses of belongings in storage as I went back to the life of an expat. And I would add to it on my infrequent trips back to the U.S. My ex-wife called me one day and told me that there had been a massive fire at the storage facility. Everything was gone. Not only my parents’ stuff, but all my military items, a sizable weapons collection, and a lifetime of memorabilia. After the initial shock, I found that I felt incredibly liberated.
When I went back to the expat life, I developed an entirely different approach to moving. Two large suitcases, a couple of trunks, and I was gone. And as technology has marched forward, even that has decreased rapidly. Most of my trunks were books, CDs, and essential kitchen equipment. Now, one iPad and my laptop have both collections. I’m down to one large suitcase, one small suitcase, and my carry on. How cool is that? I know because I’m packing to move to Argentina as I write.
Now, I don’t ever move furniture or appliances from one country to another. Sell it, give it away, and move on. It’s so easy to find replacements anywhere you go. And I’m lazy. When moving from house to house inside the same country, I turn it over to my staff and ask them to ’make it so’ à la Jean Luc Picard. Even for simple moves like that, I seize the opportunity to winnow out my worldly goods.
As you can tell, a lifetime of constant moving has stripped sentimentality from the process. I have lived in places I have liked, but no place I am permanently attached to. I have no attachments to furniture or things anymore. I have met people who have lived in the same place, and sometimes even in the same house for most of their lives. I cannot even fathom how they feel. I’m not saying it is bad, just extremely different. I’m a nomad and proud of it. Although my yurt is a metaphorical one, I can pick up and be gone almost as rapidly. It takes me very little time to find a place to stake down my yurt anew and make myself comfortable in a new place. I have combined a lifetime’s experience of moving with the art of minimalism. ‘Stuff’ no longer plays a large part in my life. Travel, people, and experiences do. It’s a much lighter load to carry around.
What about attachments to people? After 56 years I am still learning about that. Those are much harder to shake off, nor would I want to. I consider myself lucky that it so much easier to stay in touch these days. I have lost touch with many good people. I have to be better about not doing that. That is the important thing about moving.