On my first trip to England (30 years ago) I was seated next to a woman who held on to her hold-all, as if her life depended on it. Which it actually did. I could of course not help myself and had to ask, what on earth do you carry in that bag? She was more than willing to show and tell, as this was the kit her father had told her would take her anywhere and through every situation. Band Aid, sweater, books – I could have guessed those. Then came a big serious looking knife. I edged away but had to see the rest, out came an enormous coil of heavy-duty rope. Your hotel could catch fire you know, she said. I sort of left her alone after that.
She comes back to me every time I pack for traveling though, as a reminder of the words of Confucius. You can not escape from yourself. Not that I want to. It is just that it easy to forget our part in what we are going away from. Everything will not turn out OK somewhere else, the lessons I still have to learn in life will pop up again and again. The wonderful thing with going away is that even if we are given the same lessons, it is as if they are reframed. Life is a wise teacher, when the student does not understand the task or the lesson, she does not repeat the lesson just as she framed it the first time. She gives another example, another way of putting it, another hint of what it is all about.
And then, like in school, even if I do understand the task, even if I know I have to do it, I just need a break, to look at it all from a distance. I am still there though. Even if I carry less and less physical stuff as the years go by, I now and then stop and ask myself what emotional luggage I carry. I know some are essential and allows me to engage with the people I meet. I also know some of my hangups that keeps me back from relying to much of others. If I do not trust at home, I will be even more distrustful abroad, if I am not able to make friends at home, there is no reason why I should do it anywhere else.
There could be added extracurricular lessons abroad, the challenges and hardships I never meet at home, it will still be me who have to face it though. It is like a scientific experiment, trying to isolate the different factors to know what really reacts on what. As to travel, I am the constant, the essence of life’s challenges are the same, the environment the big X. Come to think of it, that’s what I love about traveling, no matter where I go, I am still there.