One of the most enduring lessons of long-term travel is the importance and value of traveling light. It makes the journey faster, easier and less cumbersome. You find out quickly when you’re on the road how little you really need to survive and be happy.
At times like these, that travel lesson serves us well.
After a series of interesting and head-spinning life changes, Backpack Mister and I are moving from the house we’ve owned for well over a decade, putting it on the market in about a week. We are hopeful we are leaving it better than we found it. We worked hard to be good stewards of our beautiful bungalow, restoring some of her original charm, tearing up cheap laminate flooring and sanding hardwood, filling holes and painting walls. Healing the cuts and bruises left by those who didn’t see the hurt they were causing.
We couldn’t save it all: the 1930s garage, a source of both pain and amusement, had to be torn down two years ago.
And an old black walnut tree had rotted and was hollow six feet up; we dropped that last year. Its canopy, which spread over three yards, will be missed for 100 years to come. The new owners will be left to scratch their heads at the concrete pad…and wonder why the sky is so big.
We made her beautiful outside, too. Nearly every plant, every flower in the yard, I planted with my own hands, every time thinking: gardeners plant for the future. It’s a humbling endeavor, knowing one day, someone else will pluck and prune the cultivated, old-fashioned whispers of my youth: lilacs, lilies, tulips. And pink peonies. Remembering – as my fingers sprinkled warm earth over her roots: gathering the peony blossoms from outside my childhood home, shaking them free of the ants, sprinting to the church with my brother and sisters when a new bride was born. Under a shower of rice, bells singing, handing them to her, watching her smile with wonder. Now these flowers will make someone else’s memories bloom.
Sometimes, especially when I’m walking the quiet neighborhood at night and can see the lives of others through their backlit windows as if watching them on a television, I think about how our entire lives play out in little boxes. We live in a box. We go to work and sit in a box all day. And when we die, they bury us in a box.
How improbable it is to try to think outside of one.
We have dearly loved this house, this box, our home. And we have loved having our lives play out in La Crosse, Wisconsin for most of the past two decades. We have loved traveling from here, and we have loved coming home here. It’s hard to think outside of it. But we must.
Thankfully, we’re more minimalists than packrats, a quality which I attribute, to a large degree, to our travels. We don’t collect knick-knacks, we’re not recreational shoppers, we typically don’t acquire stuff that isn’t useful, beautiful or meaningful.
Though I must admit, to my chagrin, I have a rather enviable shoe and handbag collection. Into a box they will go.
The memories, light as feathers, I’ll carry with me. My “That’s What She Said” hens, with all our herstories. Irreplaceable. And all those who make this a place of incomparable beauty, compassion and love. Know some small part of each of you will go with us, just as some small part of us, like perennial roots, will never leave.
For many travelers, the best part of the trip is coming home. I’m still not certain that’s the case for me, though I have loved having roots here, knowing this place was always here for me to hunker down in during the winters of my soul, to nurture my introverted needs. What appeals to me more about travel is the letting go. Shedding what I no longer need. Realizing again and again what’s really important. Trusting that when I leave things behind, and when I have next to nothing, the world will provide it when the need arises. There’s a freedom in that, an all-encompassing unclutching of the things we are told by so many that we need. The things that in the end, trap us into a box that is perhaps less promising, less fulfilling than what we envisioned for ourselves. It’s a a trap we set for ourselves, which eventually holds us by the ankle, drags behind us and slows our journey. By becoming creatures of need, of want, of acquisition, our stuff owns us.
Backpack Mister and I have worked hard to be mindful of avoiding that trap, investing in experiences, instead. It will no doubt make the next leg of our journey easier.
So with decidedly few traps, and even fewer professional options, the Mister and I are looking for the next leg of our grand adventure, taking the first steps before the path becomes visible. Soon to be between boxes, we are downsizing, letting go of so many things – some which have sentimental value, most which long ago lost it, victims to hard-won experience and the perspective that comes with it. No matter – we don’t need much. My dearest friends know that – because of the potential it embodies – an acorn means infinitely more to me than a pearl ever will.
And acorns…well, acorns are all around us. You just have to look for them.
I am letting go of more than stuff that is no longer beautiful, useful or meaningful. I leave with the intention of healing the cuts and bruises left by those who didn’t know the hurt they were causing, and in the process, letting them go too. We must travel light, in every possible way.
And as we move forward, Backpack Mister and I are trusting that the world will provide when the need arises. Because sometimes in this great and terrifying and thrilling free-fall we call life, when you are jumping into the abyss, that’s the best you can do.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.