Schiphol to Nijmegen

Living out of a suitcase isn’t so bad. With some practiced and regimented packing, one learns to bring the essentials plus a few luxuries that make life away from home comfortable and familiar. We’re in Charleston for an extra long weekend. Three days, four nights to be exact. Packing for an eight month old, no matter the length of time, almost always justifies bringing his own container of stuff. Packing for his clothes horse mother has always necessitated a bigger than seems warranted suitcase. Add in Father’s Day gifts, a breast pump, and a few extras for the husband, it feels like I needed to commission a caravan of camels to trek us south for the weekend.

But no! We made it here with 1 (very reasonably sized!) suitcase. 1 diaper bag/purse. 1 stroller. 1 car seat. My hands were full, but I managed. Honestly, sometimes changing a diaper is harder than finessing all that stuff through the airport.

That I could fit the required amount of stuff into 1 package (for 3 people, for 4 nights) astounds me. It would have bewildered the me of 6 years ago. When I packed up to study abroad in Holland for 5 months (it later turned into a year) I brought 2 MASSIVE duffle bags, a train case, a carry on back pack, and a computer case. Then I had a box of winter clothes and a box of books shipped to me. What’s laughable is not that I insisted on bringing a tome of poetry to study at a school with a world class library, no. Its that it didn’t even occur to me to think about the logistics of moving all this stuff from Schiphol to Nijmegen. Naw, my thought process back then was just “what if the day calls for moody French poetry and I’m Rimbaud-less?” “I will definitely need three pairs of ballet flats–black, neutral, and colorful.” “This silk scarf will make a great wall hanging.” “I definitely need a portable printer for my room.” And so on.

When I retrieved my baggage and loaded it onto a porters cart, I was intent on starting off on the right Dutch foot, so determined to take the train like the natives. Upon discovering that the platforms were underneath the airport, I stubbornly tried to balance both duffels, the train case, and the back pack down the escalator. The next thing I knew, the first duffel slipped out of my hand and rocketed down the moving steps like a buttered bullet. THANKFULLY no one was in the way. It was well over 60lbs, and had reached a high velocity by the time it shot out of the bottom. In typical Dutch fashion, I got mostly head shakes and neck craning stares, but the dangerous situation forced one of the quiet natives to speak up and give me a brief but stern lecture: someone could have been hurt. At the time I was too flustered to think about anyone’s safety, (I had an Hermes in there!) and moved on.

Karma definitely had it in for me that day. Little did I know getting to Nijmegen from Schiphol required a train change. If only I had focused my energies when I was preparing to depart for Holland on the landscape, the cities, the way of life. I would have known that ballet flats were not even in the Dutch vocabulary (way too much rain), and all I really needed to be stylish was a good raincoat, some GAP (Dutch are infatuated with American brands), and a mind open to the differences of living in a foreign country. If I had focused less on my stuff and more on my impending adventure, I might have realized what a colossal waste it was to haul all that crap between continents.

Packing is an art form I feel I have perfected well. I have gone from needing it all when I leave home to wanting as little as possible. Today without my usual pool coverup and flip flops, without my deep conditioner post chlorine swim, without my full sized laptop keyboard, without my bedside trove of chocolate, I feel liberated. Going away for a weekend and staying in a hotel is kind of like camping, (but here you get a chocolate on your pillow before bed). It’s fun living with just the essential stuffand learning what’s dead weight (didn’t need to bring the baby shampoo) and realizing that you don’t need to schlep all your usual stuff to be happy.

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