My goal when traveling is to travel light. But less than half the time I achieve that goal. Despite or maybe because of a strong planning tendency, I’m frequently faced with piles of “absolutely-needed” or “just-in-case” stuff that even my spatially-challenged mind knows won’t fit into a medium suitcase. Wading through the items to determine what goes and stays yields a better outcome. But rarely does it eliminate taking more than I need.
Packing amnesia sets in as I forget how encumbered I feel in the actual traveling part. That’s what happened recently on our Ireland vacation. My barely-able-to-close medium suitcase became an annoying daily struggle to find things, repack, and maneuver. All the stuff I brought felt physically and emotionally weighty and confining.
I’ve come to realize life is a lot like my packing. Despite good intentions and self-reflection, we bring too much “baggage.” It’s baggage disguised as past experiences, disappointments, slights, or difficulties. It’s alive with mind-games of if we “can” or “should” or “can’t” or “shouldn’t,” or someone else’s words-in-our-head about who we are or aren’t. And it’s carried in our mental backpacks of absolute thinking, biases, and beliefs
Some of us travel our whole lives with suitcases crammed with old patterning, toxic messages about ourselves and others, and self-fulfilling prophesies limiting how we show up and live our life’s potential. Overflowing with the past, there’s no room for a future; no place to put new ideas, experiences, people, thinking, learning, or opportunities.
We’re like the travelers in this story I heard. One day a man stopped his car at the side of the road as he entered the township limits. An older woman paused from her gardening as he approached. “I’m thinking of moving to this town,” he told her, “and I was wondering if you could tell me what the people are like here?” “Well,” she said, “what were the people like where you lived before?” “Self-centered and not very helpful or friendly,” he said. “Well,” she told him, “I think you’ll find people the same way here.”
Awhile later another man stopped and approached the woman. Again she was asked what the townspeople were like and again she asked the traveler what his experience had been where he lived. “Oh, the people were great. Everyone was helpful and supportive — a real community.” “You’ll find people the same way here,” she said.
In the scheme of things, I know my life is more joyful when I’m like that second traveler. But whatever “baggage” I bring affects my ability to do that. Like a seasoned traveler, it’s a better trip when we pack lightly and leave our weighty stuff behind. Clearly, my future life doesn’t need me to lug emotional bags of remorse, disappointment, heartache, mistakes, pessimism, or self-doubt into my future. It needs instead a suitcase with essentials like forgiveness, tolerance, curiosity, enthusiasm, a growth mindset, compassion, hope, and love. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future.” Here’s to lighter futures for us all.