Unpacking Baggage

As recently as my trip to Greece, I was reminded that I carry too much baggage with me.022

As we departed Greece and sat in the airport in Munich, I was the one who was lugging a thirty-pound backpack carry-on.  The other few members of the group also with me in Germany were smarter travelers.  They had small totes and daypack excursion backpacks that I would guess only weighed a maximum of ten or fifteen pounds.  Why couldn’t I be that carefree?

At the end of the evening’s dancing the waiter at the restaurant Archodissa in the island of Thasos picked up my backpack and handed it to me.  You absolutely must visit if you get to travel to the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea!  He asked me, with the usual Greek charm, “Is this full of rocks?”  No, I wasn’t packing my bag full of rocks and pebbles from the marble quarry.  It was mostly full of things that I brought from home.  First, I packed my antiquated laptop that ended up only lasting two hours without battery power, so I was tethered to a power outlet most of the trip if I was ready to type up new works or edit poems.  After the laptop, I carried a notebook for scribbling on the go, two books I was reading for class, and a water bottle.   The rest was filled with who knows what.  It doesn’t sound heavy, but trust me, I felt like I was carrying a military issued backpack.  At the airport it hindered me the most.  I felt my back straining.

Fast forward to moving day into a new apartment the final week of October.  I packed all my books, keepsakes, and papers in boxes.  Putting solely my clothes in the master bedroom allowed me to realize that I have too much stuff.  Yet, the moving process was swift, and I only did a quick sort as I packed.  My boyfriend and I got rid of three large bags of clothes before the move.  Then, as moving day arrived suddenly, he simply packed all the remaining shoes and clothes into plastic totes and I packed my shoes and clothes into suitcases.

Once arriving at our new place, the first place that is ours together, we both realized we each had a lot of baggage.  The pile of suitcases taunted me for weeks.  I realized that I was getting along fine without even opening most of the suitcases.  I was not ready to handle my baggage.  To do so I would have to put some summer clothes into the back of the master bedroom closet that has a large storage area of three-foot tall steps.

Cue the closet’s florescent light to flicker and finally burn out.  A dark closet was a good excuse not to handle my baggage.  Tuesday my apartment’s maintenance man came over and replaced the light.  Excuses gone, I have to make progress.  It still is a process, because who wants to try on tank tops in the winter?  However, I am aware that the accumulation of clothes that I don’t wear taking up space doesn’t contribute to the flow of creativity.

Yesterday, my boyfriend hung the mirror above my dresser.  Baby steps.

My baggage won’t define me.  The action I take in this moment defines me.


Back to the past: Time Traveling

Packing up my life in boxes is bittersweet.  First, it is a chore, the kind that you procrastinate about starting.  It’s not a simple task.

I am only six weeks away from my moving date.  Knowing that I have a moving date on my calendar is beyond comprehension; it feels real and surreal at the same time.

Looking back at the past I have textbooks from college, children’s books from when I was a pre-school teacher, and young adult books I read as a high school teacher to converse with my students about the latest literary releases.  I have books galore.  All of these are coming with me.

Boxes, Boxes, boxes.  You know the cardboard boxes that are never opened, but shuffled from one apartment to the next, filled with memories, notebooks from classes, and your writings.  You couldn’t bear to look through them, but you also couldn’t imagine getting rid of them.  Each of these boxes is part and parcel of who we are.


Symphony at Lakeside, Ohio


Ohio State Buckeyes football fall 2006

Shoeboxes full of relationship mementos.  Your relationship has endured so long that you have filled several boxes and you keep starting new ones.  Each box contains a few years of history.  Each box has mementos, concert tickets, wedding and baby shower invites, movie stubs, and one even contains the corsage from your high school senior prom.  Long distance love letters from college and birthday cards are in their own box.

More recently the box has obituaries, medical bracelets from your visits, and writings that are only partially written.  More recently, work intruded with your time with friends and dates with your boyfriend.  The dark clouds took up residence for too long.  Writing was the moment in the recent past where you triggered happiness back into your life.

Finally you have acquired international mementos from three trips to Europe, including your favorites which you would love to plan a return visit:  Switzerland and Greece.  A new box needs to be established as you move on to new chapters of your life.  God willing, more positivity will fill the next box.

But the childhood and college mementos are who we are.  That is the time in my life I knew who I was the best.  Before jobs and responsibilities divided our lives into scheduled moments I said “yes” to everything I had an interest in.  Freedom allowed that discovery.

Travel Tips: The Four Truths about Travel

1.  Eat the local cuisine.

Greek food will always be best when you are in Greece.  It is the same for any style of food; you are at the origin of the recipes themselves, and you are often closer than ever to the location of the ingredients used in each dish.  Farm to table takes on a new meaning when you get to see where the components of the local food come from:  the farm, the forest, and the sea.  For some, this is the main reason that they travel.

You traveled all this distance; you owe it to yourself to try the local foods.  The local specialties will never be prepared the same if you try to re-create them by eating at an ethnic restaurant or trying your own hand at making them.   Sometimes the cooking process is so unusual that it adds an extra flavor; in Greece meals are traditionally baked in a woodfired oven.  Other regions might use a cooking pit or a spit to slowly roast the food.

2.  Be a respectful visitor.

Any effort to speak the language will go a long way.  Make an effort to learn basic conversational phrases.  It will come in especially helpful to know the words for hello, goodbye, please, and thank you.  Also learn the questions you will need to repeatedly ask, such as “where is the bathroom” and “how do you say…” to learn additional words when you have trouble translating your thoughts.

Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Treat others with kindness.  You know this as the Golden Rule.  Just remember, when you are traveling, what matters the most is that you realize you are a citizen of the globe, and we all deserve to live in harmony.  Express your gratitude to those who assist you.

3.  Don’t pass up an opportunity.

When you are a part of a group, go on all the planned excursions.  You will learn a lot.  If you have free time, go into local museums and into local places of worship.  Ask questions, take pictures, and leave only footprints.  If you are able to, you might get a chance to take a short train ride, or rent a car and go on your own mini-trip to a different area of the town or even visit another county.  The Nike slogan is appropriate:  Just do it.

It might be the only time in your life that you will visit the location.  Make every moment count.  Be open to unplanned travel.  Pack a small bag and go exploring.  Sometimes the best adventures are unexpected.

4.  Travel is difficult.

Prior to your travel, you should start exercising more, especially walking.  You will be doing a great deal of stair-climbing and walking on your trip.  Give yourself a day to adjust to your jet-lag.  Try to plan low-key activities for the first day and allow room to fit in a small nap.  Don’t drink alcohol on your flights; drink water instead.

Traveling is exhausting and time-consuming.   The arrival and departure, especially when you travel to a more remote area, will take even more time than expected.  Allow enough time to make your flight connections.  Stand up and walk around when you get the opportunity.  Walk around the airport.  If you can afford to, upgrade to business class.

Rest when you are tired.  If near a beach, you could take a catnap at the beach.  Listen to your body and choose activities that you have the endurance to enjoy.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Awareness will keep you safe and you will vividly remember what you experienced.

Have an amazing journey!  Make it your own!