Everything You Need for 5 Months in the Back of a Dodge Durango

There’s something about packing that really brings home the big truths about life: I do not need that many shoes. I have bottles of cardamom, turmeric, and coriander that I have used maybe once but that have been occupying space in my little cabinet for a whole lotta years. And I really do not plan to ever rewatch the entire Lost series on DVD; I already gave 5 years of my life to that crazy train!

What do you need when you’re leaving for 5 months on a cross-country trip? What’s really, really essential? Because whatever you pack you have to lug, in and out of cabins and cottages, in and out in snow, rain, 100-degree days. Whatever you pack you have to sit on, under, crammed between — you’d better like it if it’s going to be poking you in the ribs for days on end. And what, when you’ve not needed it or missed it for 5 months, do you really need at all?

We threw things out on the way, outgrown clothes (and yes, in 5 months, the kids outgrow a lot), holey jeans. We lost a one-eyed stuffed tiger that turned out to be super-important after all — the whole family cried along with Little Guy — and watched together the miracle when it turned up in a Pennsylvania hotel and got Fed-Exed back to us. We learned that you can spend hours with the same crate of Legos and make something new every day, that long walks are better than Yahoo, and that the same 30 recipes over and over seems like more variety than what I produce when I don’t have a plan.

We stayed in places beautiful, places dumpy, lived in others’ houses and saw what they treasured. We learned what we didn’t miss, to great astonishment. We didn’t miss tv. We didn’t miss the internet. We did miss some books, our laundry room!, the grill.

We came home, looked with new eyes. We are sorting, separating, paring down. If it can’t fit in the back of the Dodge Durango, maybe it’s not so necessary after all.

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