Traveling Lightly

Much has been written about how to pack for a long trip. What to bring and what not to bring; how best to manage bag space and weight. The less you carry, the less discomfort awaiting you on that inevitable day you are forced to haul your stuff longer than you wanted.

But what about traveling lightly in a different sense? What about traveling lightly as it relates to how you interpret your experiences and how you see yourself?

Ostensibly, travel is about the place — what there is to see and do. We want travel to be life-changing, so we research and we plan, developing expectations simply by deciding where to go. Yet, despite what is portrayed in the guidebooks or promised by the tour companies, there is no right experience. Comparing our own experiences to these authorities and even to fellow travelers is a recipe for dissatisfaction. The truth is, no matter how good the story, another person’s experience is not a commentary against your own. And, just because nearly everyone does a thing in a place doesn’t mean you must.

For most, travel is not a permanent way of life. In fact, nothing about it is. We snap endless photos trying to hold on, yet nothing can stop an experience from ending and a place from evolving. We tell ourselves we’ll come back, but chances are we won’t. And even if we did, it wouldn’t be the same. On the road, each moment is unique and fleeting. And so are the people. To share a conversation with a local, to open up to another traveler you just met and will never see again tomorrow, requires a certain letting go.

Early on in my travels I was frustrated by these realities. Lately though, I find myself more accepting, focusing instead on simply appreciating the opportunity to travel and the beauty of the exotic world around me. And as I consider the eventual end of my journey abroad, I suspect traveling and living are not that much different.