44 – 9 = 35.
That equation indicates the number of pounds — 35 — of stuff (other than my laptop and ipad) I brought with me to England for a 3-month stay. The airline allows one checked bag of no more than 50 pounds; to play it safe, and because I don’t like to cut things too close, I set a personal limit of 45 pounds. My suitcase weighs 8 lbs 13 oz, so I allowed myself 35 pounds of clothing and personal items.
I relished the idea of travelling as light as possible; I travelled with one checked bag and one carry-on tote with my laptop, ipad, and paperwork necessary for our travel and arrival. Even my purse was stowed — stuffed with socks and a pair of pajamas — in my suitcase. As I watched some of my students struggle to navigate check-in and, later, the route from luggage pick-up to our awaiting taxis, with 2 large pieces of luggage, a large carry-on, and an almost-as-large “purse”, I felt even better about my decision to take only the bare necessities on this 3-month trip.
I had to bring an electrical converter kit that I swear weighs 10 lbs (I’m going to weigh it when I get home), another adaptor, and some materials for classes, leaving me with probably 25 pounds allotted for personal items.
So what did I bring? Here’s the breakdown:
3 pair of walking shoes — a pair of Merrill waterproof & insulated walking boots (for rainy days and snow), a pair of Merrill waterproof hiking shoes that resemble athletic shoes (for forts/castles and walking trails), and a pair of Naot walking shoes that look fairly dressy (for class, walking around towns, etc). I wore the Naots and packed the other 2 pair.
3 pair of black pants — 1 pair is somewhat heavy (I wore those), the other 2 are mid-weight; I had also ordered 2 pair of light-weight black pants but they arrived after I left, so my daughter is bringing them when she comes to visit for Spring Break (I’ll send the heavy pants back with her)
1 black, mid-weight skirt
10 tops — 4 are either pull-over or turtleneck sweaters (wore 1 of the 4); 2 are mid-weight tops with long sleeves; and another 4 mid-weight have 3/4 length sleeves
1 pair of sweats for lounging around the flat and 1 pair of pajamas
Not counting undergarments (including 6 pair of wool-blend socks of varying weights) and a coat, I am counting on those 19 items being enough for 3 months of living. I brought the bare minimum of make-up and no electrical appliances, so I purchased a cheap, but very functional hair dryer and basic toiletries at the Pound Store (think Dollar Store) upon my arrival.
Similarly, my accommodations here are somewhat spartan by American standards. While I’m staying in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath student flat (designed for 3 students), I only use 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and a 15′ x 17′ (not counting the L-shaped cabinetry) living/dining room/kitchen. I have 4 plates, saucers, cups, bowls, and glasses and 1 skillet and 2 pots. The bedroom holds one double bed, a built-in desk/shelving unit, and one plastic chair. The living/dining area is equipped with one faux-leather covered love seat, a small end table, a dining room table, and 2 plastic chairs. All of the furniture looks like it came from Ikea — modern and sleek. There is no separate laundry room; the washer/dryer combination is located under the kitchen counter.
There are no decorations, other than a lace valance purchased by the previous mentor from my college; because the large window over the kitchen street looks directly out on the somewhat-busy street my flat is located on, it’s nice to be able to open the blinds and still have some sense of privacy (thank you, Rich).
My life here is very simple. Every morning I fix a breakfast of fruit and a cup of tea. I go about my business of attending classes or a meeting, preparing for my own lectures, etc., with a late-morning tea break — oh, how I love that cup of green tea! My tea break also provides time to reflect and write in my journal and to check email and facebook. Lunch consists of either a salad or a tuna salad sandwich, with a piece of fruit for dessert. If I need a break from working and have no classes or meetings after lunch, I venture out for an afternoon walk. I typically find an opportunity to have another cup of tea and perhaps a muffin or scone late in the afternoon. Wandering through Canterbury, people-watching, and leisurely going in and out of shops at will is something I will sorely miss when I leave in 3 months.
(Now that the students and I are settled, I plan to dedicate one day a week to walks (hikes) and day trips to various cities/towns/villages in Kent and East Suffix. Of course, I also hope to take a few longer trips — overnight perhaps — to London and beyond.)
In the evening, I fix dinner; so far, I’ve been fixing a quick, light meal of fresh fish and veggies which I lightly saute’ in a touch of garlic-infused extra-virgin olive oil, and I enjoy a piece or 2 of fruit for dessert. I spend my evenings knitting, reading, chatting on fb with family and friends back home, preparing for class, and watching television (I’ve fallen in love with British television, by the way!). Before I know it, the clock reads 23:30 or 00:00, and I turn in for the night.
Truth be told, other than my family, friends, and my pets, I have absolutely everything I need and want.
For more than a few months before I left for England, I’d been decluttering — donating and selling and tossing items I felt I no longer needed — and thinking I had done a fairly good job of paring down to the essential items I need and love. In the past 10 days, I’ve discovered that what I thought I need & want and what I actually need & want are poles apart.
I know I will learn many things during my stay in England; so far, I think I’m off to a very good start!