Traveling Light


Photo by Gideon under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

We’ve been traveling the last few weeks – spending time with family, exploring lakes and trails, barbecuing fish and corn, playing tag at sunset, roasting marshmallows.  Enjoying the beauty of summer and the embrace of family. It’s been absolutely lovely.

All except for all the packing and unpacking of our STUFF.

And yes. I realize this is one of many ridiculous first-world problems that I’m incredibly lucky to have.

I never used to mind this process when it was just me – in fact, the planner in me kind of enjoyed it. But traveling with two small kids, things have changed.  Even though we try to keep it simple, the schlepping of clothes, diapers, toiletries, books, toys, camping gear and endless sundry items (i.e. a musical training potty) feels like a chore these days.   Moving houses with kids in the past year has no doubt compounded my allergy to stuff.

But I’m trying to remake my relationship with packing and to take more joy in the stuff of our lives.

A few weeks before my sister and brother-in-law were married years ago, my sister broke her arm in a bike accident.  Although she was cast/sling-free by her wedding day, the backpacking honeymoon in the Sierra Mountains they had planned didn’t seem possible.  Undeterred, my resourceful brother-in-law researched the ins and outs of ultralight backpacking. After much reading and several trips to outdoor equipment places, he outfitted them with ultralight packs and equipment.  They took only the bare essentials. No tent. Super light, nutritious food.  Everything had an essential purpose or provided multiple uses.

The end result: what could have been a cancelled trip turned into a memorable adventure. In fact, learnings from that trip carried into other parts of their live. I think they even continued to voluntarily eat those super-nutritious lightweight breakfast grains for quite awhile after their sojourn.

There’s often discovery in the process of paring down and editing.

I’m trying to instill that sense of resourcefulness and discovery not only in our family travels, but in life.  I had an epiphany with a recent work-related situation along these lines.  I realized I was unconsciously carrying around some anxiety and judgement about a situation that wasn’t really serving me (or, the work project/relationship, for that matter).  Once I “took inventory” of what I was carrying around, I did my best to unload those feelings.  And it felt really good to lighten my load.

So, here are my new, guiding questions for life and travel:

What do I REALLY need?

What do I love? What brings happiness and joy?

What can I chuck off my wagon to lighten my load?

The other day, my son told me if he had Puppy (his raggedy, loved-to-pieces, on-the-verge-of-rotting lovey), he was set to travel the whole world.  That’s all he needed.  My grandma used to say it was her toothbrush.

For me, it’s my family.  Plus running shoes and an ipod.  And a really good book or two. (This vacation I devoured Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Happy travels.


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2 Comments on “Traveling Light”

  1. Candy Puterbaugh
    September 4, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Heather: You are wise beyond your years! It’s taken me much longer to think more about packing lightly and shedding life’s baggage. I have so many friends who are finally whittling down their world in their 60s, resulting in a lighter step. I’m glad you shared this because it renews that goal for me! -Aunt Candy

    • hlspain
      September 5, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      Thanks, AC! Although not sure how much it is due to wisdom or just the pain of moving houses with little kids. Good luck with your cleaning out!

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