About packing6 mn de lecture

Where does the joy of packing come from before each departure? Let’s talk about it.

As I spent my evening yesterday preparing my two pieces of luggage – the one destined for the hold of the plane, heavy with diving equipment, the other, a little more reasonable, for the cabin – I wondered about this very particular pleasure that I feel each time I pile up my things on the threshold of a new escape.

A real, intense and deep happiness, which questions me today because I don’t have much else to think about: it’s raining.

First question

Why is stuffing a bag – waterproof, backpack, wheeled, high-tech or bohemian – so exciting?

Well, probably because before any journey, the pleasure of the journey itself is taken in the dreaming of it. And yes.

Here you go: I took this photo more than ten years ago. Proof that I was already working on this luggage thing…

Everything is there, even if the photo is mediocre: one could consider that the old map symbolises reverie – it’s incredible how a map makes the imagination travel, especially this one, which would deserve an article in itself – and that the bag represents the imminence of departure. So I think I have tried here, unconsciously, to capture a kind of intermediary, a suspended time. Between the dream of the journey and its confronted reality. Pure desire, in short. It’s very erotic, basically. But I digress…

In the random photos available on Pixabay, when you search for « suitcase », here is what you can find:

Boiled leather, mufflers and old bindings: a pretty decorative delirium. The image is beautiful, though: synonymous with falsely romantic escape, with old-fashioned freedom. So much for the advertising dream. But if you really imagine yourself out in the fields wearing such gear, in a tweed jacket at the point of dew after a night of no sleep, huddled up shivering at the foot of a tree, it’s already something else…

Another example, let’s type « bag » as a keyword », on Pixabay again, and see the result, sponsored by Elle Decor.

Where we find the map and its compass – that is to say the foldable world within reach of our pocket – the Indiana Jones hat – a whole programme – all in the daisies: enough. Oh yes, the shoes worn out from running the trails. The fantasy works in full force: one imagines the stroller, or the strolleress, with his or her feet refreshed in the limpid waters of a fresh Evian stream… Yeah.

For me, after ten days of stony mountain pastures with a bad choice of shoes, my feet look like this:

Already less glamorous… Where was I? Oh yes. Preparing your luggage is already dreaming about your trip, independently of the confrontation with reality. Have we covered everything? Not quite.

Second question

What is the origin of this need – and obvious joy – of piling up travel items in a bundle? What mysterious depths does this strange pleasure spring from? Let’s think about it.

Well. To children’s reading, probably. Tintin, of course, for a start.

© Hergé - Moulinsart 2020

Tintin, of course. But not only that.

A mishmash of exotic influences that marked the construction of my imagination: the colonial engravings of the magazine l’Illustration, the old catalogues of expedition articles, such as the Manufrance, full of wonderful objects that smell of adventure in the hostile jungle…

Powerful engines of the imagination, too, are the stories from the 1950s borrowed from the Municipal Library: the Kon Tiki expedition, for example, which I read when I was ten years old, made a lasting impression on me, and the visit to the museum in Oslo in the summer of 1990 made such a strong impression on me that I wanted to take my daughters there almost thirty years later.

From there, piled up on my walls over the years, between literature in all its forms and essays to better understand the world, a beautiful collection of varied itineraries.

Common to most travelogues: preparation. The equipment lists. The trunks, the bags, I forget. You see, we come back to that.

I remember that for my first trip, with my best friend, still in high school, we meticulously ordered the contents of our backpacks on the carpet of my room before contemplating this improbable junk while giggling: backpackers in our turn! Unless we were influenced by the inside cover of the Pink Floyd’s double LP, Ummagumma, which we were listening to over and over again at this hairy time…

Listing your gear endlessly, spending hours looking for the ultimate ultra-light tent, browsing the specialised website « Mon réchaud de randonnée.com » under the hilarious and dismayed eye of your entourage, all this to try to look more or less like the adventurers I dreamt of at the age of ten. After all, to each his own.

Except that this is still not enough to explain everything.

Because one could stop at the simple pleasure of packing without leaving. After all: just dreaming of the possible escape, without ever leaving. This situation is more common than you might think. Like the old friend who, at the age of twenty, bought himself a beautiful polished aluminium suitcase to travel around the world and who finally left Europe at the age of 50, forced by his job. Or the colleague overwhelmed by her three children, stuck in the abstruse trap of a moribund marriage, and who lived amidst an impressive collection of overstuffed Samsonites that she piled up in the corridors of her house….

From there, then:

Third question

Behind the art of packing, the art of running away? 

Because if for some people the possibility of taking action is enough in itself – but is it really enough, that’s another story – for others, including myself, filling the bag is only a kind of foreword. Once the luggage is packed, the start of the journey is inevitable, obligatory, necessary.

But why leave? A good question.

To leave everyday life for a while, certainly – and to find it again later. But also, and probably because I believe that since childhood there has been an irrepressible need in me to see what lies beyond the horizon, to accumulate experiences, to experience the world with my body, an inability to be satisfied with books – and therefore with dreams. It’s a way of multiplying my life. To live several in one.

Packing my bag means experiencing all of this: reconnecting with the desire to explore as a child, piling up toys of sorts in the promise of departure, breaking away from everyday life for a while, experiencing the pleasure of moving through space, whatever the mode of transport used, and then taking full advantage of the deep satisfaction of arriving in a parallel universe.

To arrive, as here – among dozens of other memories – on a small lost island in the Gulf of Mexico, at the end of a long journey undertaken on a whim. To take a plane, a bus and a boat to reach this strange terminus. And to revel in it, endlessly.

Living multiple lives because you can’t be satisfied with just one: a simple matter of appetite, really.

After all, the stomach is also a bag, isn’t it?

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