Wednesday 29 May 2019

This snail moves on

I like to call myself to a nomad – a Bedouin. But there is something that distinguishes me from a genuine nomad: they tend to travel light through life. And I carry a lot – a lot - of stuff.

When people ask me where home is, I simply point around me. Any place can be my home, as long as my husband and children are there and - my stuff. That is why I sometimes call myself a snail, not because I am slow (admittedly I’m not the fastest runner, that’s a different story) but because I carry my home with me wherever I go. And it’s a full home.

My children take after me. Since they were very young, every time we travel and arrive in a new hotel, sometimes for just one night, they start nesting. They divvy up the beds, arrange their stuffed animals, notebooks, pyjamas and other items on it and voila; they feel at home. They often refer to hotels or guesthouses we stay in as home too.

The thing is, I can get ridiculously, sentimentally, attached to objects. I still remember some items I lost years ago, and genuinely miss them at times. The little blue vase with flowers that was a wedding present and that the cat smashed. The yellow glass lamp my parents bought for us in France, one that careless builders broke. The necklace my late grandmother left me and got stolen in the US when I was a teenager.

One of the reasons that could cause my attachment is that I rarely simply buy something. Years ago I needed a new teapot, and spent hours online, browsing vintage websites to find the perfect one. At some point my husband looked over my shoulder and dryly commented: ‘Normal people just go to a shop and buy a teapot….’

So when we move house or country, which is on average every few years, I pack up all this stuff and ship it to the next location; even if it is across the world. But our upcoming move to Bali proved a painful one. It soon became clear why most houses there are rented out furnished: Indonesia is a country where nothing is easy. At the same time, storing furniture in Singapore proved more expensive than renting a house in Bali.

When I asked for advise on an online group, the first comment came in quick: “sell everything, you will feel so happy and light after.” A big ‘no’ groaned up from my stomach. Never would I sell my collection of vintage enamel trays! The antiques we collected over the years! My Omani silver! Or our gazillions of books!

Thankfully, where there is a will there is a way; eventually. We will ship as much small items as we can manage to Bali, and store the bulk of the furniture in Europe (yes, you hear correctly, on the other side of the world. In fact, have a container with our furniture sitting on a boat, going round and round, would still be cheaper than storing in Singapore. But that seemed too insane, even for me.)

Our plan leaves me with one big thing to do in the coming month before we leave: get rid of as much as I can. Sell, give away, dump. Some items, like hideous IKEA wardrobes, or the sagging sofa, I’m happy to see the back of. Others, like our colourful outdoor dining table, I’m sorry to lose, but I can comfort myself with the thought that similar – better – ones can be bought cheaply in Bali.

Now I just hope one thing: that shipping the stuff I’m sure to amass there will be much easier to ship out. To wherever, whenever we will go after.