One of my favorite Hermann Hesse covers

One of my favorite Hermann Hesse covers

In preparation for my departure from Portland, I’ve needed to evaluate which books, furniture, etc., are essential and which aren’t. A friend, who has just finished his self-described world tour, advised me to “travel light.” Until then, I was trying to figure out how much I could mule around, not how little, and that comment completely reversed my approach. Would it be possible, I wondered, to travel with one bag?

I contacted a more experienced travel friend and asked if she thought that my ambitions were possible. She said yes, and then shared a photo of a 36-liter pack and its contents which a friend of her's carried through Southeast Asia. Even more inspiring was the narrative attached which spoke of just taking, and living with, only the essentials. 

Considering her gear, and looking at her pack, I realized that there is so much in my life that’s superfluous and should be discarded. Rather than travel with a 36-liter bag, I’m going a bit larger with a 40L Osprey that I expect to meet my needs better.

But what to do with my possessions that I won’t need while traveling? Honestly, I’m getting/have gotten rid of most of them. Many things were easy to discard, such as furniture, kitchen goods, computer scanner, etc. Other items, such as books hold a deep attachment for me and are harder to part with. 

Realistically, I think that I’ll travel with one small, thin edition of poetry by David Whyte, which isn’t available as an ebook, and use my iPhone for all my other reading (I’ve even sold my Kindle Oasis since it would take up unnecessary space in my pack). 

Discarding books is difficult for me, but I've hardened my resolve and sold bankers boxes of texts to the local bookstore. I thought that I had eliminated all I could, but, after looking again I found another box’s worth to discard. With the box full and waiting by my apartment door, I sat for meditation. Just as a voice came to Socrates and told him to make music and work at it, a voice came to me, telling me to release my attachment and get rid of more books. Like most bibliophiles I know, I have a love of gorgeous covers and make a point of finding a handsome edition rather than the cheapest one.

So in deciding which books to eliminate, I let go of editions of Hermann Hesse with the cool ‘70s covers, along with my Penguin Nietzsche’s, with these very attractive images. The books I kept were ones which I read with a friend (and had strong feelings attached to them), read in a college class or ones where I knew the author. And naturally, I kept a few that aren’t available as ebooks.

It wasn't easy, and I continue to winnow away at my possessions and expect to own about a tenth of what I once did very soon. And I’ll travel with even less.