Many of us could do with a little less baggage. We’ve all got things we can’t help but bring with us, however, so how do we find that balance? This month, we’ve discussed ego in its many forms, but one thing that is clear is that in relationships, we bring everything we’ve got. Sometimes, what we bring is good, clean, and useful. But other things we bring can be harmful. Just as in relationships, our life and world travels, we need to be aware of how our baggage is healing or harming us.
In my own life, I’ve broken a lot, mended a lot, lived a lot…and as a result, I’ve accumulated a lot.
My own all-consuming drive for adventure has brought me many places, but I’ve learned to carry only what needs to be carried as I follow my path. In my travels, and my life, though, I have learned two important facts about baggage. The first being, you can’t go empty-handed into the fray of adventure. It’s not possible; in fact, it’d be kind of boring. No matter how much baggage you avoid, you’re still going to pick up some things and have to carry them. And not all of that carrying is going to be light.
But here’s the other important piece about baggage: whether in life, or to see the blissful escape of Tibetan Monks, you need to find a way to simplify, to travel light, and to remember that life and adventure aren’t about the physical necessities you bring with you.
So let’s get to being choosy about our luggage while we lighten our load a bit.
Less Baggage, Fuller Life
- You will lose baggage. Plan for this. No, really. I remember my first time in Greece. I got off the plane, so excited for my journey, and found out (are you kidding?) my luggage had been lost. “Noooooooooo!” I screamed dramatically in my head. Everything from my birth control to my underwear to a clean shirt and shampoo were in there. Want to get a girl frustrated? Tell her that her luggage is lost for two days. Then, tell her this after she hasn’t showered or eaten a real meal for twelve hours. So, how do you plan for lost luggage? Pro tip number one: pack your necessities in your carry-on, or, even better, learn to pack so well you only have a carry-on.
- Strangers in the night do not carry your baggage for free. So, you brought a big suitcase and you’re lugging it around when some cute Italian guy or American mountain man or a manly sheikh offers to carry your bags. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nothing in this world is free. You choose to carry that load, that big huge bundle of crap—half of which you do not need—and there will be a price to pay. A ways back, I was in Italy. The sun was shining. And there was this one Italian man I just could not shake. He gave me a rose and asked if he could carry my luggage. I said no, and in fact kept saying no as he continued following me, but ladies (and gents!), we all know that carrying a large burden sucks, and sometimes—just sometimes—we want that load to not just be ours, so we might accept these roses and this man’s help. Just say no to spontaneous offers of help. You do not know that Italian guy. Move along. Bear that burden. When your friend next to you offers to help, let them. But do not, I repeat, do not let a strange Italian man give you roses and help you carry your luggage. Word to the wise: You will not only lose the shirt off your back, you’ll lose your bra. And your money. And no matter how cute he is, you need money when you’re in Italy.
- You do not need twelve dresses to travel Europe. You just don’t. I’m not a twelve-dresses kind of girl anymore, but I was on my first solo venture throughout a good chunk of Europe. You know what happened to ten of those dresses? They were dropped off in five different hostels—because at that point, I was like, “Screw it.” Just as in life, less is more. Keyword: LBD (little black dress). You only need one, maybe two if one is above the indecency line and the other is right above the knee. The point is, you do not need twelve dresses on vacation. You just don’t.
- If you can’t carry it, don’t expect others to. This piggybacks off of the above “Italian guy” story, but it’s also a good lesson in general. You might have had that moment of weakness with Italian Guy A and given him your luggage, but you live and learn, and so hopefully your friend was able to pitch in so you didn’t lose your pants in addition to your shirt and bra. Friends are the best, and just as you’d help them carry their load, it’s awesome they’ve helped you. But really? Learn the next time. Don’t bring so much with you. If you’re always in danger of some hot guy stealing your money and your shirt and then your friend has to constantly pick up the scraps because you can’t get it together, well then, that’s no way to live. Drop that baggage when you’re able and save the moments where friends help you out a bit for the important stuff.
- You do not need to bring your camera everywhere. I say this with a slight wince because yes, you do need to bring your camera every-freaking-where. But, you also don’t. Sometimes, that camera/camera phone should be left behind. At some point, you gotta realize life is not all about posting to social media. Sometimes, it’s about taking in a day without that particular form of baggage, saying “yes” over and over again and letting the good times roll. Later on, journal the shit out of your adventure. Life isn’t always about holding the visual in your hands. Sometimes it’s about remembering that visual and holding it in your heart.
- A pair of hiking boots is all you need. Okay, you might need a pair of heels to go with that fabulous LBD or a pair of flats or sandals to round out another outfit, but in general, you’re either barefoot on a beach or trekking somewhere on vacation. Whether that trek is through the actual South American rainforest or to a museum or even across a Paris bridge, a good pair of hiking boots is good for the tough stuff and the everyday. They’re simple, comfortable, long-lasting, and they go with the cutest pair of shorts or tight-fitting jeans. Also, they tie on real nice to the back of your carry-on since sandals are so the way to go through security.
- Leave an item wherever you go. Since my first whirlwind Europe trip, where due to overpacking I left quite a few things behind out of necessity, I’ve traveled a great many places. Now, I leave things for fun. Everywhere I go, even though I’m a carry-on-luggage-only kinda girl, I leave something. One place I left a copy of Les Miserables. Another place I left a dress. Another a necklace. This tactic works best at hostels and bed and breakfasts. When you leave something, it doesn’t just get thrown out, it gets left in its place or put in a bin somewhere and other people use these things. Someone who forgot a dress or has never read Les Miserables, or who needed a necklace is now able to use that item. Despite what is mentioned in Tip #4, sometimes in life, by giving our baggage to others, by letting them hold onto some of that burden, we’re giving them a gift. We may see it as a burden, but most won’t. True travelers in life, true adventurers, will recognize the baggage you’ve shared for what it is: an opportunity to better ourselves through the sharing of burdens with others.
- There really are carry-on must-haves. There are a million and one crazy things that can happen in your travels. You can’t avoid them all; however, you can prepare for the things you know might happen. In the way of a carry-on, make sure that any medication you take, face wash, mini-shampoo, and toothbrush stay close. The things we keep closest are the things that mean the most. That means, ladies and gents, that you have a choice in the travels and adventures of your life. Are you keeping your necessities close?
- Don’t bring sharp objects. I may or may not have been stopped by security one time because I forgot the wine opener that was in my bag. Forgetting that sharp object will cause worry, fear, anger, and frustration and being near late to your travels. So, put away the sharp objects—words included—and stop running with scissors. Because in the end, you’re the one who’s going to be almost late for your flight or hurt.
- Don’t go empty-handed. Baggage is not all bad. When you have less baggage, but also when you realize that there is some baggage that is necessary, you can truly experience life to the fullest. Because life and adventure are about the steady thrum of your heart, the only thing you can hear when on a date with an Italian boy and he buys you gelato but doesn’t expect anything in return but maybe a kiss on the cheek. Life and adventure are also about the simple breaths you release when seeing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Life and adventure are about those things we carry inside of us, the pictures we hang on our walls afterward to solidify that feeling we will never lose…because we had it. Baggage. Life. A full life. A simple life. A life of adventure. A life we chose. Sometimes that means letting go of the baggage. And sometimes, that means embracing and not judging that you’ve accumulated some things along the way. You are who you are because you’ve been there, done that, lived in that way—whatever that way is for you.
Bring less baggage and live your adventure
You want a life of adventure, but here’s the thing: when you have adventures, you will accumulate baggage. That’s inevitable. What you need to remember is that you choose what baggage you bring and what you let go of. That’s what a balanced ego is all about, finding out where your boundaries are and sticking to what works for you.
When it comes down to it, you are who you are. Never lose you. Never let the world drag you down with its politics and baggage and ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. In all likelihood, the rules the world has given you aren’t hard and fast. They become a different kind of baggage if you let them. They drag you down and then it is no longer you sucking that marrow out of life and seeking the next adventure—whether foreign or even in your own backyard. If you let the world tell you how to live and how to be, you forget you. And life will suck the marrow out of you instead all while you fill up your suitcase with more self-loathing, anger, and negativity.
Choose rather, to travel light, to bring less baggage, yes. But also to bring the right baggage. Travel simple. Enjoy the good things. And smile as you dive into the sea of infinite possibility.