The Ecstasy of Unpacking

June 8, 2010 13 Comments »

I have a new appreciation for hangers

When I meet people, I live in fear of people asking me ‘the’ question; but eventually after some small talk, the question always comes.

“Where do you live?”

It’s an innocent question, but it throws me every time. I normally look at the person and size them up before I answer. I try to determine how deep I can go with them.

  • If I don’t think they would understand or be interested in my unconventional tale, I tell them that I live in New York, but travel a lot.
  • If I think that they may be interested in travel or world geography, or simply know where SE Asia is, I tell them that the last place I lived was in Vietnam.
  • If I think they have a passport that has taken them beyond Mexico or the Caribbean, and they have ever picked up a National Geographic magazine, then I tell them that I live out of a suitcase.

Reactions tend to vary. Some people want to know more and some just go oh, and move on; too much for their brain to comprehend. Or maybe they are just trying to figure out if my answer is the politically correct way to say “I’m a homeless person”.

My mailing address

I have struggled to give my ‘situation’ a name and tried out a few words such as:

Nomad
Vagabond
Hobo (my niece’s personal favorite)
Homeless
House-sitter

Nothing really feels right. However the fact is I don’t have a home. I have an address where my mail is sent, but I don’t live there.

It’s become the norm for me to live out of a few suitcases now for about 3 ½ years. Yes. While living in Vietnam I did have some homes where I actually unpacked and stayed for a few months. But they were always semi-permanent and I never seemed to stay at any apartment or room for longer than about 3 months. I’ve been back in the US for 6 months, yet I’m still moving from place to place every 2 weeks, never staying anywhere long enough to unpack.

Right now everything I’ve been living off of since December fits in 2 suitcases, a small backpack and a purse. In the new ‘green’ terms, I have a small footprint. Overall, I love having the freedom to move around, house-sit and try on different lifestyles. I love not having to shop for home stuff (it saves a bunch of time in your week…think about it). Plus, it’s a good workout lugging suitcases around! However, on the flip side, you never get the joy of hanging your clothes on a hanger…ever. Since I’m normally a guest in people’s (or my family’s) homes, I always have to be the ‘good guest’; never leave things sitting out, always clean up, always make up the bed/air mattress, and never leave your toothbrush on the sink in the bathroom.

The best thing about living out of a suitcase is…

…the complete new appreciation you develop for closets

I currently find myself in a situation that I haven’t been in since August of 2009 – I’m in one place for 6 weeks. I’m in Boston house sitting for a friend who’s in San Diego. I have her beautiful apartment to myself.

Utilizing the counter

Week one in Boston and I’ve practically had orgasmic experiences simply unpacking my entire suitcase and hanging my clothes on hangers. I’ve unpacked my toiletry bag and yes, my toothbrush is sitting on the bathroom counter. My lotion is in a cabinet, my dirty clothes get thrown in a proper bin as opposed to a plastic sack, my shoes are in the closet, and once this week – I didn’t make the bed. Joy!

It’s not just about unpacking, it’s about ‘living’ in a community as opposed to visiting it. I now have a plastic card dangling from my keychain which provides me discounts at the local grocery store. I joined a gym in the neighborhood for 2 months. I have a bus pass.

I’m ‘normal’…well….at least for 6 weeks!

Let’s here from you world travelers out there – what’s the best thing about living out of a suitcase?


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