The girl baggage I have intentionally and psychologically left behind on my travels

The girl baggage I have intentionally left behind on my travels

Ask yourself this: what can you readily leave behind at a moment’s notice? Now think about what does it say about your current state of being.  I will tell you the answer right up front. Leaving items behind will obviously symbolize  your ability to stand your ground as well as to stand up for yourself.  Ok. Now let’s back into this argument.

A tightly-filled backpack and a large purse. Those are my business travel carry-ons. I try to not carry large items so that I can get off of a plane quickly or run frantically through a large airport such as Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport. I like to think ahead to all the possible ways I will need to rush as I travel from business meeting to business meeting. Even so, I still manage to pack an extra set of clothes and shoes. I typically have five pairs of shoes with me and business and city-walking attire. I manage to squeeze it all into a small bag and still have a teeny tiny space to bring home some collectible (i.e. Shotglass) or toy for my son.


Now, while I always manage to squeeze in a new item, this past year I have also left something behind on all my trips. Something deep from within me has urged me to sort through my trip items and find something I no longer need or want. I suppose it is a weird way of leaving a footprint or essence behind. It is also a way of psychologically unloading unnecessary “symbolic” baggage.


This ritual started when my sneakers were stolen at a hotel pool. I looked high and lo for those sneakers. I was distraught as I wondered how I would be able to work out on the treadmill. Business trips are notorious in their weight-gaining nature due to the business dinners and cocktails. The disappearance of my sneakers carried much psychological weight. I eventually found a small store that had plastic clogs that I used to walk on the treadmill. I was in a remote small town that did not seem to put the same emphasis on sneakers that I do. I went home with a large empty space in my bag and it was liberating.


In Italy last year my bag was as small as I usually have for an international trip. While not a backpack, it is still carry-on sized. I bought handbags and artwork. These were fairly foldable small items. As I was re-packing my luggage, I looked around. What could I leave behind? I looked in the mirror. It had been such a pain to keep up with straightening my hair every morning. I nearly set the apartment on fire using the wrong voltage. I knew what to do. I took my flat iron and threw it away in the garbage. That was the beginning of letting my hair grow back to its wild, exotic (as noted by others) self. Not having to add another 20 minutes to my morning routine is quite an intoxicating feeling. All hail to the curly hair!   My curly hair is cool and is at the root of it all me!  I was born with curly hair and I stand out with the curls flowing wildly about my head.  The act of leaving my flat iron behind reminded me of the direction I needed to go and the steps I needed to take to get there.


Speaking of steps. As my shoe collection continues to grow, I have always been particularly loathed to throw any pair of shoes away. I still have shoes from my college days. I suppose I am lucky that I still fit into them. However, I am rapidly running out of space for them. I even have several boxes of shoes under my office desk and on a mantle. Well, the mantle is for the shiny super hot shoes that I wear to gala events. To say I have a deep love of shoes would be an understatement. Yet, on a recent trip to Louisiana that gave me a deeper appreciation of the lived lives of the marginalized, I left my black frilly Kenneth Cole high heels behind. I had plenty of space in my luggage. I just no longer saw a need for those shoes. I had them for over 10 years and it was time to let them go. They did get heavily scuffed on the trip. They were finally put to everyday use, served a purpose and finished its mission (which was to make me look cute and taller). It was time to say goodbye to the shoes that had traveled cross country four times.  Sometimes when we hold on to things too tightly, it is a sign of insecurity and actually feeling a bit unstable. Holding onto these old shoes (which in all fairness are gorgeous) was a sign of unstable footing. I was holding onto to an image of a freer; ten year younger me.  No need to do that. I can stand right on my own feet and present-day self.


Speaking of standing strong on my own feet.  I am going to admit to a weird habit. When I had to be on a business trip that was longer than six days, I used to ask the hotel to provide a bathroom scale. When you are out that long away from home eating badly, it does not hurt to have a scale to keep those eating and drinking habits in check. Occasionally, hotels can not provide a scale and that is when I find the local grocery and buy one. Somewhat odd? Yes. However I did use them productively. Then on one trip, I bought a bathroom scale and at the end of the trip I threw it out and never bought another one again. Its too much of a hassle to search for a bathroom scale. Interestingly, many pharmacies do not carry them anymore or just carry one or two. Do people not weigh themselves at home anymore? Now my weight is just a surprise for me to discover when I return home.  Of course, I still exercise like a mad woman on the treadmill wherever I go.


Speaking of exercise. In Panama, this past April, despite the heat and odd traffic patterns, we walked everywhere. It is a lovely vibrant city that has construction sites everywhere. Skyscrapers rise and rise some more. It is most definitely a vertical city. Thus it was fitting that I left behind a pair of “skinny” jeans. I had worn them out in my hikes and climbs in the canal and neighboring valley areas. It is a good feeling, actually, when I get to leave something behind because I thoroughly used it to its full potential and now it was done.  I now move onward to the climbing adventure and also onto my new pair of  fun, sexy jeans.


Lastly, speaking of adventures. I just got back from Australia -a trip that brought about hundreds of emotions and thoughts about how we address stigma, social justice and health disparities. It was a rather somber conference. As we packed up our belongings to come back home, I couldn’t figure out what from the conference to bring back and what to discard. Then I looked at my hairbrush. As a very curly-haired woman certain brushes run counter to the nature of my hair.  All brushes serve to do is frizz my hair. At times, the best brush for my hair is my hand. Or rather, my fingers. By using my fingers I keep my hair curly and vibrant. I’m back to a head full of curls. I left that hairbrush behind. It all comes full circle. I had left the flatiron a year before. Now I left the brush. And now I use my fingers.    Me. I rely on me and not on those things (or people) that will be toxic, frizzy or dry out my essence.


A trip can lead to self-discovery in many ways; including the method of reflection that is brought on by leaving something behind.


What have you intentionally left behind?




6 replies »

  1. Interesting post. While I don’t travel much these days, I relate to the liberating nature of getting rid of things you no longer love. I’m a big fan of editing my belongings, especially clothing, and sometimes write about the psychological relief that comes from getting rid of closet clutter!


  2. I don’t travel anymore, except to go to Miami for reasons of my daughter’s health. However, when in Romania, many years ago, I happened to leave my favorite jeans on the back of a chair. It was not on purpose, but someone must have made good use of them. At that time, jeans from the US were considered a wondrous find.


  3. I just came upon this post, and had to laugh. The past four months, I have spent every possible energy moment paring down the contents of a 4 BR 2.5 BA house we have lived in for 37 years, and in which we reared three children and homeschooled them Pre-K to 12th, for a move to a 1 BR 1 BA apartment in a retirement community.

    That’s a lot of STUFF.

    I won’t bore you with the details, but we’re cutting to the quick now, and the decisions get tougher and tougher, as I have to deal with things like my parents letters to me in college (they are both gone now), and my writing notebooks. Everything the kids could take is gone (they didn’t want much – slackers!). We have a very nice aluminum long extension ladder and a standing freezer left – and a workbench full of things like jars of screws.

    And in the middle of all this will be living in an extended-stay hotel with the contents of one suitcase each for a couple of weeks.

    It is daunting. And freeing. And a very good thing to do every once in a while.


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