On the Utility of Compulsions


My weapon of choice.

My weapon of choice.

I used to travel a lotand not with the throw-caution-to-the-wind or let-the-winds-blow-me-where-they-will approach that’s wildly romanticized these days as the only, genuinely authentic way to see the world and be in the world.

No, when I traveled, I had agendas, and lists, and plans, and timetables (and yes, insurance).

(Which doesn’t mean that I traveled luxuriously. Far from it. I’d travel for weeks at a time with a JanSport backpackthe kind that college students use—and saved money by enduring day-long layovers in obscure and dingy airports and living off granola bars and coffee sachets. The heaviest and most valuable things I carried were a digital SLR with three different lenses and an ultra-portable laptop for writing and archiving all my photos. And I walked. A LOT.)

Anyway, my point is: I hyper-plan when I travel, and this has translated into Excel files of various sorts, my favorite of which is a checklist of things to pack. The checklist has two major categories: one for travels to temperate countries and the other one for trips to tropical climes. Each category is further divided into two lists: things to put in checked in baggage and things to pack in carry-on luggage.

Each category also has a wardrobe table that plots out what to wear for an entire week in order to optimize color combinations with a limited set of clothes. The last table is a daily meal plan that includes calorie counters for the most common food groups.

As pathologically obsessive as the above sounds, it’s made life on the road enormously simple and provides a welcome anchor in the turbulent and often disorienting waters of extended travel. Freed of the humdrum logistical questions of what to wear and what to eat, I’m then able to focus all my energies on the things that lure me away from home time and again, which are:

Seeing the world. Losing myself in it. Finding myself in it.

And making it my home.

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