Friday, December 14, 2012

Are You a Minimalist Packer?

Many years ago I traveled with my oldest daughter through Europe as our "mother/daughter" trip before she graduated from High School. The concept of a mother/daughter trip was genius and it brought us closer in so many ways. We made friends and connected with each other and the world in a way that changed both of our lives. We both gained confidence, me in seeing how my daughter would be "out in the world" as a world citizen and her confidence increased in knowing that the world is a wonderful adventure and not something to be afraid of. Ironically, shortly after our return and her subsequent year abroad as a Rotary Youth Exchange student, September 11th occurred, and that new-found confidence helped to bolster her while her country was under attack and she had to rely on people from around the world for protection. 

Our family felt confident in her safety as a Rotary Youth Exchange student and I think her reaction to the attacks was informed by her previous travel experiences. She, as many in our family, understood that the people who were attacking the United States were an isolated group of people and that remaining in France during this difficult time in history was essential because as a Rotary Youth Exchange student, she was also an ambassador of her country and she needed to continue to shine the light on the fact that many of us in the United States were loving caring world citizens. She made the decision to stay and complete the remaining ten months of exchange. It was not an easy year for any of us, but she drew upon the strength gained from her many travel experiences with us as a family and from the confidence she developed while on our European mother/daughter trip.

Rotary Youth Exchange encourages reciprocity and as a result, in our home during this time was a Muslim student from Bulgaria, whose family had originated from Turkey - so the importance of our surrounding the student in our care was increased as we processed so many questions in all of our homes during that time.

So what does any of this have to do with minimalistic packing? The European trip that Alison and I took for our mother/daughter excursion began with a Rick Steves Bus Bed and Breakfast Back Door through seven countries and one of the many things that I love about Rick Steves' tours is that we learned about minimalist packing. Not only did we have to carry our own luggage up and down many flights of stairs, up mountainsides, down Alps' paths ridden with slugs, through the canals of Venice...but we were continually on the go and so taking away the time consuming decision about what to wear everyday was appreciated. When you pack minimalistically, there are just not a lot of choices about what to wear each day since several outfits are hanging up drying and the other outfit is the one you are wearing. It is actually great! And, in the morning when the bus is ready to take off, it only takes a few minutes to throw everything you have into your bag and be off. I love that Rick Steves gave me that freedom when traveling. 

So then, why is it so frightening? Since that trip I have not been a minimalist packer, despite all of my good intentions. Granted, many o the trips I have taken recently involve taking material aid and many suitcases loaded with school supplies, items for newborn babies and medical supplies that the people with whom I was visiting could not purchase locally...but I am talking about my own personal stuff. This is in my mind as I prepare to travel with my youngest daughter on our mother/daughter trip to Thailand and Cambodia. These are countries where it is hot and we just don't need that much stuff. Collectively we will take seven flights and everything about what I know about traveling is screaming at me to be a minimalist packer...why is it so hard? With the Rick Steves tour we were told in no uncertain terms that we were allowed only one carry-on bag - period. We were even given the list of exactly what to pack for twenty-one days. 

So why is this so hard? I am leaving in four days and between Shannon and me we have three carry-on sized bags filled plus my magical backpack and her do others pack? How do you discipline yourself to not only dream about packing light? How do you just do it? I am going to step away from the suitcase pile right now and find the strength and inspiration to the minimalistic manner inspired by Rick Steves. Happy to hear your suggestions.

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