What would another choice look like?


Naming is a funny process. Something twigged after the last couple of blog posts about taking a break from the nomad life.

Having decided, in writing, that my days on the road might be over for a little while, I started wondering how daily minutiae would change if I didn’t have to leave every few months.

The biggest shift?

No more living out of 2 bags, and ridding myself of the mentality that goes with it. The former is easily done, the latter, not so much.

I’ve been back for almost 3 months now, and I still operate out of the same 2 bags that house my work and life elsewhere in the world, where I am only a visitor.

Some of this has to do with ease. My clothing bag is packed in a manner that turns it into a closet on unzipping. Too easy. The smaller one that holds my computer, camera gear and everything I carry onboard a plane, is still where my passport, extra hard drives and memory cards reside.

The only exception to this compact arrangement, is the dry box that my camera gear rests in, to stave off the effects of this wet equatorial air. Every week or two I microwave the moisture absorbing beads in it to keep them working.

I own about 10 days’ worth of clothing in total (all of it casual), and 3 pairs of footwear, 2 of which stay here in Singapore when I travel.

How would all of this change?

Permanence inevitably means owning stuff. I don’t think there’s any way around it. Getting stuff: be it furniture or clothing that requires care, an electronic dry cabinet, or shoes that are a little more suited to urban interaction than sneakers or Teva sandals (because I’m not exactly 25). All of my back up drives are still 2.5″ portable ones. I’m waiting for the day where backing up my work on terabyte-capable SD cards are a reality I can afford.

Truth is, living out of a bag suits me. I’m a minimalist by nature, a lover of space around the body, and to be unencumbered by things offers great peace of mind. That kind that I never knew existed when there were mortgages/rents, five types of insurance and various other costs to maintain. It is a massive privilege, being able to explore another way of living. This is not to say I never want things, because of course I do. But the discipline of keeping the weight of my bags down is effectively enforced by needing to carry those bags very frequently. Heavy bags get old fast.

As I am writing about introducing more things into my life, I still fantasize about a day where I travel with a clothing bag that weighs no more than 10 kilos, against the 15-17 kilo one I have now. Oh oh, and a carry-on that is my daily shoulder bag – one camera, 2 lenses, a phone, and NO gargantuan laptop with its accompanying brick house of a power supply. 5 kilos tops, less if I am smart about it. That would be utter, utter ecstacy.

Allowing for the brief digresson, this doesn’t work when you build a life somewhere. I would like a permanent roof over the head, and that comes with bills and rent. Furniture. A job/s to support it all. Dressing myself to suit. Unpacking my bags for the first time in five years.

But that has its returns in what I’ve missed, things that require hanging around somewhere for a while: relationships moored in flesh-and-blood instead of pixels. Meaningful work, perhaps. Building things for the long term. The joy of a shelf filled with books (Mmmmmmm, books). A community of kindred oddballs, if I’m lucky. Savings; ye gods, that’ll be a novelty!

It’s a brave new world in situ.


  1. Erin Wilson says:

    Such a fascinating moment of movement you captured. The fictional character more solid and tangible than the human.

    Love that you’re so clear on the role of things in your life. I hope that aspect–your clarity–doesn’t change, even as you acquire more objects.

    1. Charlene says:

      Hahahahaha spot on Erin! My fictional self has it together, can’t quite say the same for the real one. Then again, the real one has the pleasure of opportunities this fictional one would not, so I’ll take it ;)

  2. Gareth Callan says:

    Apologies for the prosaic question; do you use silica gel as a desiccant and how long do you microwave it for?

    1. Charlene says:

      HAHA! Yes i do. The little amount that i have, if completely saturated, i zap for about 2 minutes. Or until it gets back to its bright orange colour (i use the food safe variety).

  3. Michael Birkmose says:

    Such as say… Kirsten Klein books by any chance? :)

    1. Charlene says:

      How did you know? #mindreader #feedmyaddiction

Comments are closed.