The Joy of Packing Lightly

I remember when I was in my early teens and went away to the first overnight Jesus camp. It was a whole new world. My friends and I thought we were there to get closer to God and also to meet other people. We had no idea that we were really supposed to be there for the daily fashion show.

The guys were not as bad as the girls, but the girls blew my mind with all of the changes of clothes. They changed clothes in the morning, after lunch and then again for the night service. Some young people even changed clothes for hanging out after the night service. I had never seen anything like it. My friends and I felt like country bumpkins because we only brought one change of clothes per day. I internalized the feeling of being different and I wanted to fit in.

The next few years of camp, I made sure to have as many changes of name brand, beautiful clothing as the next person. One year, I brought with me thirteen pairs of shoes. Thirteen pairs of shoes for one week! At the end of that week, I felt it was all just too much. Slowly, but surely, I began to change my ways even though I still went to camp for a few more years.

Watching other girls struggle to fit all of their clothes into their humongous suitcases and then into the car, experiencing the stress of trying to keep up with everyone else, realizing there was more to life, I changed. Through out the years, I have taken with me smaller and smaller bags as I travel. It has made being on the road a joy, a delight.

Coming back from Costa Rica, more than ever, I looked around at all of the people burdened down with so much stuff. They were struggling to keep up with each other, struggling to get the bag to turn this way and that way. People unloaded bags because there was too much stuff and stuffed other bags with more stuff.

Coming and going from Costa Rica, Bean had a backpack and I had a shoulder tote. If something wouldn’t fit, I didn’t buy it. Stopping to people watch and needing to go through customs made me so thankful that I don’t pack the way I did when I was younger. If anything can give me stress coming back into the U.S. after a trip, it is going into customs.

The thing is every city is different. Flying into Chicago is vastly different than flying into Dallas. It is like arriving in heaven or hell. I can’t stand waiting in line in one city when I know that in another city you can just scan your passport and answer questions online. This time, we flew into Miami. I didn’t have any idea what to expect.

We got lines, lines and more lines. I am thankful that even though we had to wait in line, they did move fast. Having two small bags made that a breeze. Bean carried hers, I carried mine and we waited and walked the line. We answered the questions and we were done.

Once we were finished with customs, we were able to find our connecting flight and relax for a little while. I then overheard something that gave me pause. The airline no longer transferred bags from one plane to the next plane. All of the poor people who needed to catch a connecting flight after clearing customs then needed to go to the baggage claim and pick up their bags. They would then need to re-check their bags before catching the next plane. Many people missed their connecting flight because of this.

What a hassle! If I ever had a doubt as to whether I was really making the right choice by traveling light, it surely evaporated in that instance. If I had more bags, traveling would have been a drudge. My joy in my vacation would have evaporated as I lugged 50 pound bags around the Americas…managing my child and all my stuff.

I am so glad that I discovered the joy of traveling lightly and I encourage you to leave your stuff at home when you travel. You also will be able to experience the freedom and joy that comes of packing lightly.

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