I received the long awaited confirmation email of my teaching position in Taiwan on the 7th of August, leaving about three weeks for me to get everything arranged, get rid of or pack all my stuff, say my goodbyes and get on the plane. Not a whole heck of a lot of time. I read a blog by a guy who got rid of all his worldly belongings, minus absolute essentials in 100 days so he could go to China unencumbered. It was impressive. There are a bunch of blogs in the same vein: people either wishing to lead a less materialistic life or because they’re going abroad. I like this idea for both reasons and since I am going abroad, I am doing a similar thing. In less time.
Now, I’m not getting rid of all my stuff. Perhaps I am more materialistic than I think, as somehow I can’t get rid of absolutely everything, as freeing as that might be. I’ve still got that voice in my head that warns me that I might need this stuff later. And for some things, it does seem prudent to hold onto it. Who wants to re-buy all your pots and pans and dishes? And what if I come home at Christmas and don’t have proper winter clothes?
So, kitchen gear, winter boots and jackets and clothes, old journals, art work and other hard-to-part-with memorabilia will be boxed and left at my parents’ house. The rest of it goes. The patio set to my sister and her cute new apartment with the pigeon haunted balcony. Most of the furniture I’m selling to my roommate. Mom gets back her big chair that we reupholstered together, as well as the plants that have managed to survive the ferret and the cat. And everything else is either getting donated or gifted to the next residents of the apartment.
I’m down to just two weeks now, and I can’t believe how much stuff I actually have – where did all this crap come from?! It’s as though it spontaneously generates in dark corners. Just when I think I’ve got things organized, I find another box in the closet that hasn’t been touched since I moved in, filled with stuff I’d long since forgotten about. Right to the bin with you, collection of bags and old shoes.
And the books… I have a ridiculous amount of books. Despite having culled the herd prior to moving in to this apartment, and neatly arranging the survivors in loose categories on the shelves, they have since multiplied. There are now piles of books stacked everywhere, in corners, under heaps of clothes, spilling out onto the floor. A few are lying on the bed, where my roommate’s cat will periodically attack one and beat the hell out of it, as though trying to punish that which draws attention away from him.
It’s enlightening to see how much stuff a person accumulates, even in just a few months, and how unnecessary the majority of it is.
I’m always amazed how much can be accomplished in a few days. Over the past week, I gave work my two weeks notice, I booked my flight tickets (!!), sorted out my Taiwanese tourist visa (much easier than I anticipated), caught up with my newly engaged friend, whom I hadn’t seen since we went to Mexico together 6 months ago, made a decent sized dent in the packing, and the roommate and I found people to take over our rooms. Basically all I have left to do now is the rest of the packing and the goodbying.
I love these in-between times, the wrapping up of the old routine and embarking on the new adventure. Things take on a different intensity, like an anticipatory version of the intensity that characterizes travel. Everything is tinged with excitement because ohmygod I’m leaving soon! Returning to work after lunch I think, “great, only 2.5 hours left of work,” and then I think, “ooh and then only 5 more days of work and then another week and then I go to Taiwan!” And you actually see the friends with whom you’d been playing the “we will eventually have coffee at some point in the future” game. Of course it’d be great to feel like this all of the time, always being able to connect with friends, and always feeling this childlike, night-before-christmas excitement, but then these times wouldn’t have their unique sweetness.
Last day in Canada! Everything is packed, my suitcases are ready to go, my paperwork is together, last supper with the family is organized, all the errands have been run, the loose ends tied. And I’ve discovered that I’m no good with goodbyes. I keep telling people I’ll see them again before I go. It still feels surreal.
Finally, feeling both ready to go and wildly unprepared, my next adventure is starting: Taiwan here I come!