I used to think this was a funny, silly saying – even obvious. But now I know it to be profound. A universal truth.
No matter where you go, you neatly pack your beliefs, ideas about the world and expectations alongside your toothbrush and unmentionables. Physically they take up very little space and they won’t add weight to your suitcase, but be aware they can add a ton to your experience.
Or take everything away.
It is nearly impossible to be without expectation. We spend our entire lives constructing little boxes and columns in which to put everything. She’s white, mid-forties, married with 2 kids. He’s Hispanic, early 20’s, college student. Then we pepper in some details and judgments based on what we know about white women in their 40s and Hispanic men in their 20s.
We can’t really help it. Judgment of this sort keeps things neat for us. And if we’re flexible we’ll allow for the fact that the white woman is married to another white woman without a whole lot of feather ruffling. Did you think she was married to a man?
Travel, especially to another country remarkably different from home, allows many opportunities for growth. Having our beliefs challenged regularly can be exhausting and we either give up and trust or fight and scowl continuing to insist on the way things should be.
Those who travel often learn to trust the hand of the universe at their back to guide them to experiences of expansion. Edges are pushed, fears are brought up, magic is revealed.
It’s not easy, this giving up of (perceived) control. I know people who will not travel anywhere there is not the guarantee of a cup of coffee in the morning.
So is this:
A. An addiction
B. An excuse
D. A medical condition
Sorry, it’s not D, I’m pretty sure.
We put limitations and conditions on things to protect ourselves, our ego. Coffee is maybe a silly example, but it is true. I know real flesh and blood people who will deny themselves experiences because coffee may be unavailable. [Note to those folks: Starbucks now has tiny little travel-friendly packets, so you’re running out of excuses.]
I also know actual people who will go somewhere even if there is no real medical care available. I know people who climb rock faces just because, and swim in the Ganges to dip their toe in enlightenment, and travel without luggage, just for fun.
The magic happens where courage and desire intersect.
For some that is a weekend an hour away from the kids for the first time. For others it’s backpacking through Vietnam alone. Everyone’s edge is in a different place and it’s up to them to nudge it.
Travel can reveal the work that still needs to be done. It can crack open and fill up. It can break down and leave ruins to rebuild. But it always changes the traveler. Sometimes those changes are apparent right away, sometimes they reveal themselves in conversations months later. Most often, those changes take the form of compassion and empathy.
And those are two lovely items to pack. Always.