As perennial nomads we travel light. Once we traveled with enough gear to equip an airborne battle group, but then we were on business and dragged with us the tools of our trade around the planet. We also had a crew to deal with the suitcases, rucksacks, garment bags, trunks, cases and other impedimenta.
When we shucked off the husk of our former occupation and began journeying without its schedules and strictures I proposed to ML that we adapt the luggage strategy I had used in my younger days: carry little, move lightly. ML agreed without hesitation.
Now we travel with only one bag each. I do not mean we each check a roller bag stuffed to bursting and barely making weight. Or that we each lug a maximum sized carryon bag, plus a purse or shoulder bag, and camera and computer bags. No. We travel with two laptops and camera gear, clothing and necessities in small backpacks you can sling over one shoulder – total weight about fifteen pounds each. Doing this requires method and discipline, but bears many rewards including freedom of movement and simplicity that brings liberation from things and from thinking about things.
ML has become a dedicated minimalist and is ruthless about pruning unneeded items from our travel gear. I doubt she’d make room in her bag for a signed Picasso. Gone are our days of collecting art, crafts, books, or much of anything really. We no longer buy souvenirs. Gifts and mementoes we mail home from wherever we happen to be.
However, even the most austere travelers will often pack some small object that resonates of home and family. I carry a small carving of one of the Taoist Immortals: The Traveler. He’s a fat jolly fellow with a small knapsack, a lantern and a jug of wine, a good companion for the long road. My son gave me this carving, and when I set it by my nightstand in a new location I remember our journeys together, our family, our home.
During the past week, while preparing to depart Calypso’s Isle, thoughtful and caring friends who know our ways have given us gifts that will join our little carving in our traveling bags, talismans that conjure up memories of loved ones and happy times.
One night we sat up late swapping stories with Geoff and Anne, an open hearted couple who meet adversity with equanimity and by example teach the essence of grace under pressure. I told them a little of my family, that my maternal grandfather was Welsh, but that I knew little of family history before they departed England for the colonies. A few days later Geoff presented me with a Welsh flag emblazoned with a great red dragon and the word: Cymru. More than a piece of colored fabric it is a token of fellowship and a link to my unknown ancestors. The flag folds up small and easily fits into my bag. Unfurled it flies large and proud.
Steve and Kathy, about whom I have written much, gave us a tiny replica of a Mustang in memory of our project and long days of hard work and good fun. The Mustang now sits on ML’s nightstand and whenever I look at it I remember those days and hear Steve and Kathy singing, “Mustang Sally” for the 47th take, and doing so with verve, patience and good humor. Steve and Kathy also commissioned a well known British poet to write a poem for us. Loving and filled with true feeling these verses occupy a small envelope that is somehow larger than it’s physical dimensions indicate, much like Steve and Kathy’s hearts.
These gifts we added to our luggage. They are not heavy. No, not heavy at all. We received other gifts from the Xlendi Tribe, too many to list, but all are treasured. Lightest of all are memories – of our last evening together and farewell tears shed by friends, the song dedicated to us by Mike and Julie, Dave’s warm handshake, the embraces given us by the entire tribe as we said our goodbyes, the last circle we formed as the shaman sang his sweet sad song, of sunny days and warm nights filled with music and laughter, of rough hills and a cobalt harbor. And we take with us one more new and precious thing, the love freely given by our friends here on Calypso’s Isle. This we bear lightly on our road to Byzantium and beyond.