When I left for the Peace Corps, I sold all of my furniture, my car and most of my belongings. I wanted to simplify my life in order to go on this journey.
As the story goes, the journey ended shortly after it began and here I am back at the beginning. It was unsettling to know that I didn’t have any clothes (other than the ones I carried across four countries) or a lot of money to buy new ones.
When traveling throughout Niger, I tended to be over protective of my belongings. I wouldn’t let anyone carry them and I watched the driver’s assistant closely as he tied my backpack to the roof. Inside the car, I held my other bags tightly as if it was my child.
Packing for Niger took half a day as I carefully chose the items that would be connection to home, or rather, my home for the next two years in 80 pounds. I carried them to Philadelphia then Niger, in Hamedylle then Dantchiao. They were ornaments of my new life and brought comfort. My house was in two blue backpacks and a black suitcase.
During our evacuation meeting the day the news was delivered they told us we could only check-in two suitcases, 23 kilograms each (44 pounds). So I had to shed my precious belongings and hack my home into a smaller one. Each stop on my way out of the country I left a piece of myself as I decided what would go on with me.
All my furniture, dishes and other household items stayed in my hut in Dantchiao as gifts to my villagers along with various clothes, pictures, toiletries and jewelry. At the Zinder hostel, I left more clothes and food from kitchen cubby for the guard’s family. In Niamey, I shredded my blanket, books and yet more clothes to reach that 23 kilos.
When we decided to travel, it was easier to cut out things like sheets and duct tape that would’ve been useful at another post but are easily replaceable in America. My bags, and my little home, shrunk.
More deductions were necessary at the Morocco Airport when the worker told us we could only carry 30 kilos between two bags, 16 below the amount Peace Corps arranged for us. We were no longer under the perks of the Peace Corps so we began eliminating more things and rearranging. My carryon bag became heavier and I donated batteries and movies to those staying or going to other posts.
In Cairo and Dahab, more cuts had to be made and nothing could be added. Slowly, I was letting go of my security system of belongings knowing there wasn’t much for me at home.
When I did finally get home, I realized that I kept a lot of my favorite clothes as well as keepsakes and everyday items, like a coffee bean grinder.
Maybe this whole process of letting go, adding and finding new things is a symbol of life. Some things will go and new things will come, but you’ll always have what you need. It’s not perfect, but it’s what I need.