Whether functional or sentimental, the things we hold onto say a lot about our beliefs, our lifestyle, and our sense of self. In exploring why we keep certain items, we become more aware of how our choices influence our experiences.
In isolating the why behind our items, we highlight that which is most meaningful to us. It doesn't matter if it's a beat-up teddy bear or a beautifully crafted notebook. Understanding the importance we place on objects in our lives illuminates unique aspects of our inner workings.
TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOK (TN):
It’s not the simplicity, versatility, or quality construction that makes my Traveler’s Notebook a staple anywhere I roam. Sure, those qualities make this notebook system delicious in any scenario. But my Traveler’s Notebook is much more than that. It’s a reminder of my father’s unwavering love and support.
Given to me before his passing, it’s one part security blanket and two parts best friend. Every thought, task, and memory are welcomed and encouraged.
My father was the epitome of encouragement. He was, by nature, a welcoming and comforting presence to anyone who crossed his path. Like a Zen cheerleader, he had an unwavering faith in the goodness of people.
I remember spending mornings at the kitchen table with him, sketchbook in hand. He was my first art teacher. Our creative spirits became intertwined from an early age and these moments, which continued until the day he died, remain my fondest memories of him. My Traveler’s Notebook, along with a handful of his old pencils and paintbrushes, are physical reminders of our unbreakable bond.
It’s been a few years since he passed, and my Traveler’s Notebook and I have been through a lot. We’ve explored the world, mourned losses, and endured a global pandemic. The scratches and tear stains only add to its value, and the memories I’ve tucked into its pages are constant reminders of how I’ve grown, and what I most value in life.
As an expat, these artifacts have become all the more symbolic of my attachment to family. Moving from place to place, often separated from loved ones by oceans and continents, these small comforts act like tethers to those I’ve left behind, or lost along the way.
SUPERIOR LABOR LEATHER PEN CASE:
Ask me to choose one characteristic of my Superior Labor Leather Pen Case that I love best, and I might hyperventilate right in front of you. How could I possibly choose?! While it may not carry the same sentimental value as my Traveler’s Notebook, this pen case has become indispensable for equally worthy reasons: beauty, functionality, and sound. Yes, sound.
I may be a vegetarian, who shops for cruelty-free skincare products and household cleaners, but when it comes to the sound, smell, and texture of quality leather, I swoon easily. When the pandemic put a halt to all our travel plans, I took it upon myself to create excuses for packing and carting around this pen case, even if it meant taking a trip from the bedroom to the dining room.
And it’s not just the pebbled texture or the distinctive squeaks that I adore. It’s the fact that something so compact can hold so much. Sort of like me. Standing only 5’3”, I’ve always been unassuming in stature. But sit down with me for a short conversation, and you’ll discover my contents are also overflowing.
Living a nomadic lifestyle, in which it’s easy to get swept up in the culture and personality of the places I work and travel, it’s vital to remember who I am beneath the influences of place and community. Carting around this pen case isn’t just convenient for my propensity to write with assorted colors of ink, it’s also a reminder to stay true to who I am, wherever I find myself in this wonderful world.
My first trip to Nepal was paradigm-shifting. Riding in taxis through Kathmandu, I watched people bathe, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, and poop, all in the same three-square-foot plot of land. All without blinking. It was like life unleashed.
In comparison, my young life was overly scheduled and compulsively organized. My propensity to maintain control was inhibiting my ability to experience life fully. This is not to say I took to eating, pooping, and brushing my teeth in the same room. But some major changes took place when I returned to the states.
Instead of allowing fear to justify my need for control, I consciously questioned my motives. And when it appeared I was controlling things out of fear, I took a deep breath and accepted the chaos.
Look, there’s a time and a place for organization and control. Traveling and living abroad is one part organization and two parts spontaneity. The key to enjoying the ride is knowing when to hold on and when to let go.
It’s in this vein that the Engineer’s Pouches, in all their glorious sizes, have been a staple to my expat life. Their versatility reminds me of the flexibility required in life.
Whether we're carrying stationery, or first aid supplies, a heavy heart, or a worried mind, life (much like the contents of my pouches) is forever in flux. We can desire stability as much as we want. But in building our self-awareness, we can meet whatever comes our way with grace.
…and it's never a bad idea to keep a few pouches on hand, just in case.
No one’s self-worth or happiness should be reliant on an inanimate object (or three). But I think it's safe to say that the material possessions we own are a reflection of deeper things. It’s only in inspecting the implications of our objects that we can better understand what it is we truly value. More often than not, it’s not the thing we love. It’s the memory or the meaning behind what it represents.
When we can discover that underlying value - connection, freedom, joy - we can replicate those experiences beyond artifacts, beyond location, beyond the communities we already know. And when we’re ready to embark on our next adventure, those meaning-infused items we’ve come to cherish can act as evidence that we can find a sense of belonging and aliveness anywhere we roam.
Text and photos by: Anon Gray
Where to find Anon Gray: anongray.com
Bk Artifacts featured: