Saturday, June 27, 2009

The wisdom of packing light

As I prepare to travel, I struggle with what and how much to take along. I can imagine any number of scenarios in which I can use the things I own. Especially problematic are books - I always take too many books wherever I go, and books of course are especially heavy. 

We pack, I think, in much the same way that we live - anticipating possible eventualities, and feeling that if we are only well prepared, we will be able to deal with whatever we encounter in a way that will not cause us too much discomfort. We project our anxiety about the future onto things - if I have my wool socks my feet will never be cold, if I have enough books I'll never be bored, and so on. Our things become fetishes, magical objects that can ward off the malignant spirits that seek to do us harm and cause us to suffer.

But there is a wisdom to be found in not overpacking for a trip. By traveling light, we show an acceptance of the reality that we are destined to suffer. Despite all our preparations, our planning and packing, we inevitably will find ourselves in difficult and unpleasant situations. We cannot reasonably hope to guard ourselves from all that might befall us. When we realize this, we may come to see our things as burdens rather than guardians, weights that drag on us and limit our mobility. Walled in by mountains of stuff, we are cut off from the thrilling challenges of life. 

Having made the incredibly daring decision to go to Bolivia, push it one step further and truly open yourself to the possibilities.


Elana said...

I'm floored by your totally accurate description of exactly why I am having sooo much trouble packing lol. I am a chronic over-packer and I am trying really hard to pare down the options to the necessities. However, like you have so aptly pointed out, there is a degree of letting go which is required and naturally difficult. I'm trying to push myself towards that packing enlightened state :) but it's a big leap for me.

Steven said...

Well, I think I'm the opposite, in which I seriously bring the bare necessities. It is the experienced traveler who knows what is essential and what is just extra crap that takes up space.
Right now, I'm debating whether to bring a backpack or not. Have to remember: 50 lbs, 50 lbs.

Ayesha said...

I fall into the bringing too many books category. Oh senior honors thesis you make my suitcase so heavy... Is it a matter then of me fearing boredom or deadlines?

I like to think if my books weren't taking up so much room I'd fall into the lighter packer category, but I know this is probably wishful thinking.