Travelling Light

30 Oct

Those two words have been running through my head like a mantra. ‘Travelling light’ became an itch I needed to scratch. If I were Paul Kelly I’d pen a song. Instead I bow to the inevitable and sit myself down to exorcise the phrase through prose.

Why does it have meaning for me at this time? Let me tick off my mental list. Sure travelling light became our instant reality when the luggage was stolen. Apart from motorcycle gear temporarily stored in London we managed absolutely fine with one small case each for the final five months. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of reducing luggage to the minimum for work trips so it was no hardship. In fact I hold the Griffith University International Office record for a six-week business trip through South America with only a carry on bag. Happy days!

Now we’re back in Brisbane for a few months I was hankering to lighten our material load even more. The contents of our home are in a storage unit and I half expected it to explode when we opened the shutter door, so much had been crammed in. Happily it didn’t. I took the opportunity of a bare room in Stuart’s factory and his spartan staff kitchen to move some furniture there to create a comfy studio and kitchen-dining area everyone can enjoy. Then a week later we moved the remaining home contents to a self storage facility close to the factory. In the process we weeded out more possessions and severely culled our clothes again. How good that feels! My new clothing rule is to replace essential items as they wear out. No more impulse purchases.

That purge still left me with the challenge of decades of analogue home movies and thousands of printed photos yet to be scanned. Digital natives don’t realise how lucky they are. I took my Dad’s advice and delivered the boxes of films to a digitisation service. In a month’s time we’ll have them back on DVD and I look forward to marathon viewing sessions. Photos are trickier but I’ve set aside time in the New Year to tackle them. I feel the weight of responsibility as keeper of the family image bank lifting already.

Now that the physical baggage has been dealt with I’ve turned to the financial. When I was working 50 hours a week I relied on Stuart to manage bills and joint accounts. He did a brilliant job. I seldom examined my personal financial affairs closely and rarely took a helicopter view. Tax returns, superannuation, bank accounts, share holdings, credit cards, I dealt with them summarily as they arose. Coming home to a small mountain of mail made me realise I had far too many transactions going on for one individual. I looked for ways to streamline and made some decisions. First to go were the two smaller superannuation accounts I held. They’ve been rolled over into my main superannuation account and I’ve spent time interrogating the company’s performance and rebalancing my investment. Next were the shares. I don’t know about you but my blood pressure goes up whenever I receive mail about rights issues on the few stocks I hold. In one particular case I’d been so upset by the share price dive I’d been binning AGM and other correspondence as soon as it came in. I’ve now applied for an e-trading account (it’s easy when linked to a bank account of a big 4 bank) and will be selling those shares as soon as I can and looking for the right time to offload the others. I’ve cut up my loyalty cards too. Since I now avoid shopping at Woolworths and Coles Myer they’re redundant. Boy does it feel good! I highly recommend it.

That left the emotional weight. Paradoxically this is where I need to do more mental heavy lifting. My natural tendency is to be direct and call it as I see it. I’ve never played politics at work or at home so I don’t torture myself thinking about how I should act, I go with my gut instinct and speak up. Perhaps this directness puts some people off but I’m fortunate in my eclectic circle of friends around the globe, they’re an awesome bunch of people who accept me as I am.

Unfortunately my family cop this directness too. Some are sensitive souls, especially newer members, so I’ve decided to consciously moderate my language. That’s a work in progress. They are wonderful people and even if they weren’t related to me I would still choose every one of them to be in my life.

Travelling light through life is alluring and yes, it is liberating to lighten material and financial burdens but I could never relinquish family ties. They ground me. With apologies to the two Bobs who authored the ballad, ‘They ain’t heavy they’re my family’.

PS: I’ve been listening to Paul Kelly’s new album,’Spring and Fall’, with its instant classics like, ‘Gonna be good’ and Mumford and Sons ‘Babel’. ‘Ghosts that we knew’ is just one of many tracks that speak straight to my heart. Clever, clever men.

Photo Notes:

A weary Stuart pauses for a coffee during the storage unit move.

Laying clothes on the floor allowed me to see just how much I had and made it easier to recycle. Repeat after me, ‘Someone else needs this more than me’. And four pairs of Birkenstocks are a sign of a troubled mind…

Ikea has seen the last of us. Time is money….

Our sons and their partners, left to right Jenny, Tristan, Cameron and Eliza.

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