On traveling light: a crash of rhinos, a pod of whales, and an embarassment of luggage.


Consider the voyager’s plight

Arriving will be a delight

    My wife has a knack

   She really can pack

This time we are traveling light.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Just back from a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the country, we’re on our way to the Southern Hemisphere.

At the Siouxland Community Health Center (SCHC) this morning I signed my contract.

The essence of a good economic transaction boils down to both parties getting something positive.  I’m looking forward to a reasonable salary for three days of clinic and my fair share of call, and not being an owner.  I might supervise two mid-level practitioners (PA’s or NP’s) but I’ll have no share in the practice management.  I hope.  I’ll have more holidays than I’d planned for, and a smaller budget for Continuing Medical Education.  Considering the whole compensation package, it looks like I’m losing 20% of my pay and 80% of my stress.

I put my signature down twenty-three times, while a fine graupel snow fell outside.  Pedestrians in layers of denim and hooded sweatshirts walked uphill on wet sidewalks.  I calmly relinquished the unbridled freedom I’ve enjoyed since last May.  And I didn’t think twice.

I drove across town to my Care Initiatives Hospice meeting.  Another patient did so well that Hospice rules could no longer apply, and we celebrated the graduation.

Bethany and I met in a motel parking lot, she transferred to my car and drove me to Sioux Falls.  Along the way I made six business calls; one lasted an hour and brought a fistful of dollars.  The VA hospital lab tech drew my blood in record time.  While they ran the tests, we dropped my orthotics for repair, and had Mexican for lunch. 

My appointment ran long, as did the orthotics repair, and we left Sioux Falls in the late afternoon.  While the sky cleared to blue, we watched south-bound geese landing in idle corn fields while relic snowdrifts at the margins melted.

We finished our last-minute packing at home, while our house-sitter looked on. 

I’ve been a fan of traveling light since I hauled a trunk on my first hitchhiking odyssey.  My baggage came to less and less through college, by the time I hit junior year I could pack everything I needed for a summer into my alto saxophone case.  When I graduated, I mailed my winter clothes, bedding, and books to my parents’ home, threw away a lot, and put everything else, thirty-six pounds, on the back of my bicycle.  I arrived in Denver with twenty-two pounds.

On our last trip to an Arctic outpost, we hauled nine pieces weighing two hundred pounds.

For our current trip, we vowed to make do with a carry-on suitcase and a backpack each.  We’ll be able to buy anything we need once we arrive.  Still, we stuffed each piece full, and I had to call on Bethany’s magical ability to pack things into a valise that would properly fill a cargo container.

If we speak of a pod of whales or a crash of rhinos, we should speak of an embarrassment of luggage.

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