Coming home after nearly two months in Europe, we confront the clutter. Did we really take all that stuff? Did we need any of it? Do we need it now? Here’s my husband Jeff’s middle-of-the-night journal entry the day after we landed.
Tales of travelers homeward bound never dwell on the mundane, the details of re-entry, that odd rush of olfactory confusion when the front door swings open and the familiar smell of home mixes with the aroma exuding from the suit of armor, the travel costume, the hand-rinsed tatters fit for burning. The texture of air-dried shirts, the pants, the jacket, the shoes, all of it to be dumped. Good-bye, Columbus, and welcome to the old world, my shower, my pillow, my bed.
Re-setting my circadian clock requires a week of restless napping, the longing for cereal and toast for supper, back issues of the New Yorker at three in the morning. This condition is mandatory when the difference between hither and yon is more than three hours. In my mind, yon is the more benign; I’ve spent hours looking out the window of a rented apartment as dawn reveals a new cityscape or walking through a street market just as the stalls begin to fill.
Easing in, I tackle the mail. Jury summons overdue; magazines and newsletters overflowing the basket; and junk mail, two grocery bags stuffed with credit card offers and supermarket mailers to recycle by dawn’s early light. I can measure what I carried against the stuff I left behind. The energy of insomnia inspires me to cull the redundant t-shirts, shoes, socks, books. As travel adds to the immediate experience of life, it also provides perspective: All this stuff can go.
Follow your best instincts and learn from experience: dump it; make room for more.
What’s it like for you to return from a long trip? Do you find it hard to face the jet lag clutter? Any suggestions for dealing with the re-entry?