Packing Light: What My Travels Have Taught Me About Emotional Baggage
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Being a control my control freak means that there are certain things in my life that I am a bit OCD about that to others would seem a bit…well…odd. For example, I always have an urge to re-stock an item in our house (such as cleaning products or pantry staples) that is only half-way empty. I know it isn’t totally empty yet, but I want to prevent saying to myself, ‘Oh crap, I don’t have any more of XXX and I need it right now to do XXX.’ This means I tend to over-stock on things and it drives my hubby a bit crazy…ha! I am not a full-fledged hoarder, but my grandmother was so maybe I inherited some of her hoarder genes ☺
Okay, I digress. Over the past year, I started to re-think my packing regiment, which always involved pulling out my suitcase a week in advance, building a check off list with quantities, and planning out two times the number of outfits that I actually needed on the trip. This process made me feel safe. The thought of packing the night before gave my hives and if after all of that, I arrived at my destination without something I needed, my whole world started to crumble around me. What I didn’t realize was that my anxiety about packing and preparing for a trip (whether it be for business or pleasure), was the result of something much bigger than just the fear of forgetting something.
In general, travel has always been my escape, and over the years, it has revealed my hidden inner strength, inspired my writing and taught me important life skills.
In general, travel has always been my escape, and over the years, it has revealed my hidden inner strength, inspired my writing and taught me important life skills. After I graduated from college, I ran away and moved to Taipei, Taiwan. It was 2004 and I left the country after graduating from Barnard College with one suitcase and a backpack. I felt free. I didn’t know the language (Mandarin), I didn’t have a job (I figured it was better to apply for a teaching job upon my arrival) and I didn’t have a place to live other than renting a room at a sketchy hostel. My parents thought I had totally lost my mind as they kept asking me, “Why are you moving to Thailand!” and I repeatedly corrected them with, “It’s TAIWAN--and I am going to learn Mandarin and explore Asia.” They weren’t sold on it.
After two years, I had become a happy expat who had created a new life for herself with almost nothing. Looking back now, I don’t think I really understood the significance, but now I do. I had taught myself a lesson about packing light and EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE.
My anxiety and packing paranoia was coming from my emotional baggage that I wasn’t dealing with. The act of “leaving my life” behind in the U.S. to live in Taiwan was liberating, but when I got home, the baggage and unresolved issues were still there. Blocking my emotions (which I am such an expert at!) manifested in various ways that created chaos in multiple parts of my life. It took me 10 years after returning home from Taiwan to realize that my anxiety was a result of being a survivor of child sexual abuse. Once the suppressed memories started to reveal themselves to me while I raised my daughter, my recurring dreams of packing and unpacking my suitcase started. My control freak nature began to make sense. I needed to release my emotions (unpack them) and feel safe to do so.
Here's a list of what has helped me unpack my emotions:
Releasing my self-judgment and being more patient with myself, so that if I feel anxious about packing or any other activity, I allow the feeling to come and then I try to let it go.
Therapy sessions because analyzing my habits and anxiety has really supported the healing process for me.
Journaling (almost) every night. There are times when I don’t want to reflect or I am too exhausted to write (and I am old school, I like to put pen to paper and not use my computer), but writing down my dreams and thoughts helps me keep a visual record of my emotional journey.
Taking Artful Body founder Meg Berry’s MomCore class, which helps me reconnect with my mind, body and spirit.
And if you are wondering, I have been practicing packing only three days before instead of seven. Baby steps!