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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

On the move: packing up for the summer

Even those who live sparsely can accumulate mountains of stuff over the years. The National's travel editor has a pre-trip clear-out

Rosemary Behan is packing it all in this summer. Rosemary Behan
Rosemary Behan is packing it all in this summer. Rosemary Behan

Summer is coming. As I write this, two truckloads of my stuff - the contents of a one bedroom apartment amounting to 22 cubic metres in 92 boxes, have disappeared into a hot, dusty sunset. And this was after I’d had a clear-out.

Over the past 10 years in Abu Dhabi, seven of which have been spent in the same apartment building, I thought I’d escaped much of the largesse that has afflicted my friends. I haven’t had kids, or much of an interest in interior design. My walls have been left mostly undecorated, and I’ve almost prided myself on living like a student.

Except that of course, over the years, stuff accumulates. I had so much food stored in the flat that had the city survived a nuclear disaster, I could probably have survived for a year. The same went for toiletries, and for books, and of course paperwork and clothes. My handbag collection would have surprised many, even though I thought I’d had a clothing purge fairly recently.

And the thing with living in the Gulf is that since removals and storage are relatively cheap, there’s less running around yourself than you’d have to do at home, so one is less brutal than is perhaps ideal.

At around Dh2,000 a month to store this amount of stuff, it hardly mattered that I forgot to tell the removals team that there were certain medium-sized items that I didn’t really need. Before I’d got my head around everything, they’d been swathed in bubble wrap or cardboard and spirited away. My removals team was headed by a Keralan and five accomplices, and they didn’t once baulk at the weight of some of the boxes. (Note for those interested: they can’t store liquids, so you’ll either have to dump or give away most of your toiletries, drinks, medicines and cleaning products).

This time next week I’ll be on a flight to Seattle, to get on a small ship adventure cruise to Juneau, Alaska. I’ll be hiking in national parks and nature-watching like never before, and the boat won’t have Wi-Fi. After that, I’ll be flying to Anchorage for a 13-day camping trip and after that, I’m flying to Vancouver, Canada, to see a city I’ve only sped through in the past. Then I’ll disappear into the wilds of British Columbia for another week before heading back down the west coast to Portland, Oregon, where I’ll be spending the summer.

I can’t wait, but of course there’s one thing which hasn’t changed. After believing that the Etisalat horror stories were long gone, and specifically visiting a branch to confirm their shut-down procedure, I was upset to learn that having paid the company over Dh50,000 just in home Wi-Fi and nominal TV channel charges over the past 10 years, that because of its “billing cycle”, having had the service disconnected on the 8th, I must pay right until the end of the month.

But I’m guessing that in Alaska, although I'll still be paying for internet in Abu Dhabi, I'm not going to care very much.

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