How Will Traveling Lite Open You Up to the World?

Your baggage used to be your armor, but now it weighs you down.


To travel hopefully is better than to arrive. James Hopwood Jeans

Are you a hopeful traveler, savoring the trip the second you leave your home? Or are you the type of traveller who can’t relax until you reach your destination?

I enjoy traveling and the second I am out the door, I am in holiday mode. What helps me to enjoy my trip is to be prepared for whatever I might encounter along the way. Unfortunately, (at least for me), being prepared when I travel translates into carrying too much stuff. I guess that I took my Boy Scout training a little too seriously? Bringing home with me helps me to feel more comfortable.

Have you ever realized that you have no idea what is inside of your travel bag? That is exactly what happened to me.

I took the time to analyze the contents of my backpack. I was shocked by how much stuff that I carry without really thinking about it.

I have a backpack that use for work. The bag is my throw and go: throw things in and then go to work. I noticed the other day that I carry a bag to work, but I can’t remember why. So I looked inside.

What’s inside your backpack?

I took the time to analyze the contents of my backpack. I was shocked by how much stuff that I carry without really thinking about it. When I showed the list to my wife, she laughed. And then she lectured me about how I collect clutter like my TV collects dust. For the record, I’m proud of my most recent purchase at a rummage sale. I got two beer glasses for a buck and a drawer full of office supplies for next to nothing. I figure that I’m ahead of the game.

The details of what is inside of my bag:

  • Gum – 13 packages. I meant to leave these at work…
  • Headphones (2 pairs) – a pair of travel headphones and a pair of earbuds in a protective case.
  • Business cards.
  • Sticky notes.
  • 9 pens, 3 pencils, 3 highlighters, two recently aquired White-Out tape dispensers.
  • 2 books, neither of which I am not currently reading. Both books were meant to be left at work, but I forgot these in the dark caverns of my bag.
  • 3 Notepads – A large notepad, a small leather travel note pad and one more note pad.
  • 1 Journal.
  • A stress ball.
  • 3 Protein Bars – which are replenished weekly.
  • Antiseptic hand gel that I never use.
  • A necklace key chain that I received from work… probably 5 years ago.
  • A small bottle of aspirin for headaches that I never get… just in case.
  • An iPad – which is really the only thing that I use.

In total, that’s 48 items, not counting the bag itself.

How much of this stuff do I regularly use? The iPad, a pen, a pack of gum, a notepad/journal, and a protein bar (5 items). This means I over-carry by 43 items! (That’s roughly a 5000% over-carry)

To be fair, some weeks I have projects that justify the big bag: Like when I teach on Saturdays, or when I am studying heavy subjects for work. But the other 40 weeks of the year, I carry my baggage like it is part of my corporate uniform.

Evaluating what’s inside of my bag made me curious, so I asked my wife for permission to count the items in her bag. Turns out she has 58 items. No matter the gender, we all like to carry our baggage.

Your baggage is your suit of armor?

My over-stuffed bag says something about me: I am comfortable carrying a lot of baggage. On it’s own, a bag weight nothing. Then I add a few things, then a few more, and then a few more. I am used to how the bag feels on my shoulder and I don’t notice how heavy it has become.

When your bag is too full of yesterday, you won’t have any room left for today. That means that you won’t be present for the people in your life, for the lessons that today will hold for you, or the opportunities to grow or stretch a little.

I brought my baggage discovery to my Psychiatrist. No surprise, she loved it. We talked about my baggage for quite a while. Then she asked me a question that hit home. She asked me if I am unconsciously trying to be ready for anything because as a child I was unprepared for what happened to me? In a way, I use my bag like a suit of armor meant to protect me against anything that might come my way.

I will be thinking about this question for a while. One of my commitments this year is to live with less baggage, the emotional kind. It’s not as easy to unpack your emotional baggage as it is to unload your briefcase.

My goal of traveling light helped me to avoid the temptation to buy a couple of self-help books to guide me on how to reduce my baggage. The books would just join my other baggage.

Traveling light is a mindset

Traveling light is a mindset. I don’t have it figured out, but here are a few things I am learning:

  • Trying to fix yourself creates more baggage. You can’t out-think your baggage. Self-acceptance is one way to empty your bag.
  • What gets ignored becomes travel clutter. Being a little more conscious of what you are carrying, emotionally, will help to lighten the load.
  • Instead of carrying a full bag, “just in case,” practice asking for what you need. If you run out of gum, you can always pick up a pack or just borrow some from someone else whose bag is too full.
  • Trust yourself, not your baggage. Your baggage is familiar, and you tend to reach for what you know instead of trying out something else.
  • Your baggage cannot prepare you for what is ahead. Past baggage is made of memories (some good and some bad), along with some important life-lessons. Really, these things won’t get you ready for today or tomorrow. When your bag is too full of yesterday, you won’t have any room left for today. That means you won’t be present for the people in your life, for the lessons that today will hold for you, or the opportunities to grow or stretch a little.
  • You WILL take your baggage with you when you die. It is the one thing that you will take with you into the next life. Ask yourself: Is my baggage really the legacy that I want for my life?

You don’t need me to give you a list of ways to travel light. I think you can figure out what to do. If not, getting a therapist may be just the thing that you need. I don’t make anything from this plug, but Talkspace will help you to create a team to help you to travel a little lighter.

Traveling light is about trusting yourself and being more open to experiencing your life. Carrying less baggage means that you have more in store for you. I find that pretty exciting.

I will leave you with some of the greatest travel wisdom that I could ever find:

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

If you enjoyed this article, you will want to check out some of my other writing:

In Recovery, Your Destination is Not Your Destiny

Has Your Parent’s Addiction Hurt You? Here is What You Can Do About it

For the Men Who Hate Therapy, But Desperately Need it

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.

Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photos by Kenneth Lu and smswaby

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