Yet Untitled Lite 016 - Good Luggage
The Anatomy of an Obsession
Dearest Yet Untitler,
A lot of movement this week, so a short one this time.
If I have a fetish, it’s for good luggage. People watch people at airports, I watch luggage - looking out for good, sturdy and functional cases, backpacks, duffles and carry-ons people lug about.
I’ve often wondered what lies behind this infatuation.
In the usual spaces of time when others check cricket scores and scroll Instagram, I often browse luggage, searching for the elusive optimum. It’s a precarious thing when I see a good piece of luggage that offers a certain type of functionality my current squad of carriers does not have. It threatens to topple the balance I have painstakingly refined over time. Would a new piece feel a bit extra? Would the new functionality be superfluous? Would it take away from the last optimum I hit where carrying capacity, mobility and functionality sang an aria in harmony?
I look squarely at this tendency of mine, and I wonder what to make of it. On reflecting on this trip that has involved a lot of openings and closings of suitcases, I know that my infatuation is not just about my pieces of luggage themselves. It’s also about packing and unpacking. To me, the satisfaction of being able to pack effectively, minimally and sensibly is a thrill.
I’m a boarding school kid - packing used to be trauma. But correct packing was also the key to survival. Perhaps, the need to switch worlds so completely between home and boarding school made packing such a thing of prime importance in my life.
I thought about this as I unpacked and repacked on my current family holiday that spanned three locations - i.e three cycles of unpacking and repacking; i.e. three cycles of opening and closing my world in other worlds. As I packed and repacked, I saw myself finding comfort in the ease I have learned in making these transitions quicker and smoother. Perhaps I find it less disorienting, the sooner it takes me to ‘settle’.
I’ll confess - I was looking forward to some goodies I had ordered from abroad - Peak Design Packing Cubes, which my brother had kindly carried back for me from the US. You can see them pictured above, and what they primarily allow me to do - wherever I may be - is to not live out of a suitcase.
I’m curious about this part of me that does not like to be in transit. Years ago, I had read Pico Iyer’s The Global Soul carefully and with fascination. There, he spoke about how, in transit - especially at airports and in planes - we, in a sense, step out of our lives - out of time - into a bubble where we experience a different, cut l-away kind of existence, albeit temporary. No phone calls, no appointments, no imperative to engage. I savour these little spells when I get them, but interestingly, when I arrive, I want that in-between state to end, decisively.
Good luggage allows me to signal the end of transit via the ritual of unpacking. The sooner I do it, the quicker I re-engage. Smooth unpacking, seems to me, a ritual around re-engaging with whatever no place I’m in.
This trip, I arrived at the house where I grew up. I unpacked in my grandmother’s room, where, just under two years ago, I was right next to her when she died. Her death was the subject of one of our first instalments, that you may read here.
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As I unpacked and eventually repacked, I thought of the need to discard - an item of clothing could be left behind - gifted to someone - and never be seen again. This impulse to jettison was accompanied by a counter-need to accumulate: was there something that I could take back in remembrance of my old self? - an old train set lying at the back of my grandmother’s cupboard, my father’s notebook with some random writings?
All these decisions had to be assessed via the lens of my luggage. How much could I carry? With packing, there’s always the danger of carrying too much; of being weighed down. I have lugged heavy wheeled luggage over cobblestones in Venice. I have hauled heavy suitcases up walkups in Cannes and Berlin and questioned why I am carrying so much.
On one such trip, my friend Marten had expounded on the merits of travelling with only a carry on. I’m not there yet.
Good luggage. It helps me by imposing a boundary, a limit. It helps with difficult decisions - what to carry and what to leave behind. I have appreciated how luggage has shaped this regular conversation I have with myself - about what I need and what I don’t.
I invite you to use this trigger to unpack (!) one of your own obsessions. If anything, I’ll feel less crazy.
Tell me! I want to know.
Thanks for reading!