Travel is something that frees us, well at least that is one goal. We hope to be free of responsibility or things that hold us back. Even so we carry a lot of things with us on a trip. Some of them are in our backpacks, others in our head. This emotional baggage can be as weighty as the physical stuff. What happens when you bring more baggage than just your smartly packed carry-on?
End of Vacation Mentality
For a lot of us, travel is something we have to limit to vacations. This being the few weeks a year that we escape from the rest of “normal” life. I have 5 weeks of vacation here and still have a bit of that mentality. When I travel like that, there are always things in my head that I can’t escape from. I always remember in the back of my head the stuff I am leaving behind and must return to. Work or family or other stress.
If you pack as if it is a vacation and have in mind that you will be “returning” then sometimes in fits of frustration you lose sight of the joy of the trip, even short ones. This is the idea of knowing I only brought enough underwear for the trip without doing laundry and as I get down to only one or two pairs left I feel the end of the trip very acutely. Then I suddenly think of all of the emails that are piling up back at my desk.
The routines of life, such as laundry, seem linked to my non-vacation self. As I run out of clean clothes and the time to “go back” nears, I tend to let my mind wander from enjoying the time away and too soon back into the grind.
Overpacking the Mental Suitcase
There are often stresses or mental habits that we just can’t let go of. Travel is a time when you can step out of a routine and recreate yourself. Bringing your old ideas with you will make it harder to recreate and easier to just follow the same pattern. Eat the same kind of things, fall asleep at the same time or look for the same kind of pictures.
Having fewer preconceptions of what the trip should be like is like having fewer tickets booked and a smaller backpack. Carrying around a large amount of stuff in your head makes the small places of travel harder to deal with. The mental equivalent of managing a large suitcase through very narrow cobble seats or cramming it into the overhead bin.
When you are on a trip in a sunny warm place, does it really make sense to worry about the taxes that aren’t due for 6 weeks or what someone 1000 miles away might think about you. Leave those heavy things at home. Do we really need to carry our entire wardrobe around with us? Probably not. The mental one isn’t really needed either.
Repack Along the Way
This entire metaphor can be a little warped and needs some imagination so bear with me. We always carry our mind around with us. It is not easy to “unpack” certain things there. A lot of memories are attached to situations that occur during travel and are brought up often whether we want them or not. This is what makes travel actually a good thing for cleaning the mental closet.
Travel gives us new situations and new aspects of old ones. People you will never meet again, so it doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself. Just the kind of thing to allow you to throw out the old stuff that you are carrying around. That old shirt finally get a big enough hole in it that I can’t wear it in public, toss it. My fear of flight getting in the way of seeing cool places, get over it. I am a picky eater at home, but I make conscious choices to try things abroad that I wouldn’t normally. This kind of thought pattern lets me refine my “mental packing list” and throw out the bits I don’t want, and replace them with cool things I acquire while traveling. Think of it as replacing a worn out t-shirt with a new one bought in Bali. It may just be a t-shirt, but it’s the “one from Bali”.
I love this effect of being able to adjust one’s mind while traveling just due to being somewhere else. Like it is easier to dump a pair of worn our shoes on the road so you don’t have to carry it, instead of at home keeping them because you have space. Man, I’m itching to travel again. Only 4 more weeks now.
Have you ever found yourself with too much “mental baggage”?
PS: Oh and if you feel somehow cheated by this post not being about actual luggage, check out Ali’s look at changing luggage over time.