Traveling Light

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Daydreaming about my big move (I leave November 14th), I try to imagine what the contents of my forthcoming life will look like in two suitcases. I got a little practice session this week, flying to snowy Colorado for my friend Katie’s gorgeous Vail wedding, then straight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to meet my family for nachos and sunshine on the ocean Pacifica.

Packing for these trips sincerely confused my suitcase, as I dusted off last years boots, leather gloves and knit snow hat (it’s still Indian Summer in Philly), and my more recently worn bikini and flip flops. I packed hastily, hearing my mom in my head during my little Jul days: “Did you remember underwear? Pjs?” Check and check. Added a book, glasses, and toothbrush to the mix – ok and a humongous $40 sun hat that was a serious steal for $2.50 at Urban that week- and I was all set. I fit everything in a carry-on suitcase.

As I prepared for take-off for the third time in three days, I realized that this small suitcase strategy saved me a lot of time; I got to skip baggage claim and decisions over travel outfits (I’ve been rocking the same pair of black leggings for three days). Could I fit all I need for a year in this same suitcase…?

I hate to make the obvious parallel, but there is a mental ease that comes with physically traveling light. Everything you have is on your back and rolling behind you. There is nowhere to be but where you are, and nothing apart from yourself to keep track of.

Thinking on this, I recognized how free and unattached I must feel to make the decision to move, quit my job, leave my friends and family, my apartment, my dear sweet Philadelphia. This is not to be mistaken with indifference. On the contrary, I love everything about the contents of my life.

For the past three years, I feel like I made a really nice little adult life for myself; the results rest and revolve inside of me. When I walk out the door of my apartment on Green Street for the last time in a few weeks, my love for and connections to the people and places that developed in this nook of my life, in many ways, will come too; I don’t have to check them at the gate when I go:

2009

Work: In addition to the professional and personal satisfaction I felt working at the children’s hospital, I met several of my now dearest friends. Ninety nine percent of the people I worked with have my admiration and respect. I can truly say that I worked in a place of brilliance, integrity, and empathy; characteristics not often seen or felt in a typical American workplace. From my colleagues and friends, I gained the confidence to pursue (rounds 1 and 2 of) grad school and stay in on a Saturday night without shame; learned to appreciate 12 different senses of humor and Ivy League kids; and had more fun at flea markets, happy hours, and Phillies games than I could have ever imagined.

Yoga: I vividly remember my first yoga class in Philadelphia. I had joined the gym across the street from my house, and attended a class in their small studio on a cold Saturday morning in January. The teacher said that, yes, I did turn out my legs like a ballerina, but with practice I would get my hips aligned. Three years, two hips, and one studio later, I was absorbed by the practice of yoga and the community that sat beside me. I met some really awesome, likeminded people on the mat. Yoga (revolved triangle pose and sweltering summer days in particular) taught me that when things are uncomfortable, don’t freak out, breathe, and eventually the pose changes. There are a trillion parallels to what happens on the mat and the situations that present themselves in “the real world”. Yoga gave me many moments when I felt what it felt like beyond the default projection of life, in a place where there are no words, only bliss. I owe my misplaced worries, laid back approach, and non-controlling moments to this practice and my teachers.

Apt A

Philadelphia/Northern Liberties: I moved back to Philadelphia three years ago and in with a college friend who also wanted to rent an apartment in the eclectic, unassuming, and ever elusive “up and coming” neighborhood of Northern Liberties. It was the first time I had rented in the city, and felt spoiled with our unique apartment (hole upon entrance looking down to our basement kitchen, huge patio that was later upgraded to a spiral staircase and deck overlooking the city skyline when we moved up a floor), the El two blocks away, a roommate who was protective and sweet, and endless bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and fanny pack shops. I love my neighborhood and, if I ever move back to Philadelphia, wouldn’t want to live in any other part of the city.

Traveling light means that everything you need is within you: the experiences, the words, the muscle memory, the kisses, the laughs, the advice, the love. No need to fill up heavy luggage, because the lightest contents – the kind that will surely get me through some homesick days – don’t weigh a thing, and you can’t contain them within the four walls of a patterned suitcase.

Traveling light means that you don’t really need ten pairs of shoes to explore new terrain or traverse through a new situation. You can wear the same black leggings and the people you meet traveling from city to city wont know the difference. It only takes one pocket to keep your passport (the most important thing I own right now), and one to keep your money. Any other item you stick in your bag is nice, but not necessary.

There is a freedom that comes with knowing that you built a support system so strong that you feel confident in leaving it, understanding that it will remain even if you go. While waiting for my flight out of Mexico in the book store, I glossed over an article in a magazine interviewing “older” women in their 50s and 60s. One woman said that she wished she wouldn’t have played the choices of her life so safe. That she shouldn’t have concentrated so much on maintaing the stable job she never really loved, or settling down with house and husband so soon. She encouraged putting yourself in situations where you could drown when you’re young and/or strong enough to swim back up.

Even if you aren’t physically traveling, you are on a journey, and you can travel heavy or light without even leaving the town in which you were born. When you grasp for things you think you should want, pack too heavy with other’s expectations, or let fear take the driver’s seat, a heaviness sets in.

Truthfully, there is a part of me that tugs on my shirt sleeve, and whispers in my ear promises of the ease and happiness I would feel if I continued to build my life in Philadelphia, progress at my stable job, and find a guy to call mine; and maybe I would. But, uncharacteristically, the pull to run, nay, skip, to this adventure is stronger than the one to stop.

“If you run…make sure you run to something…and not away from.” – avett brothers

– Julie (Italy)

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2 responses »

  1. It’s going to be the most amazing journey of your life. Breathe deep and love the outside world of your travels unconditionally. I wish it were me…but that would be kind of selfish…I had my turn, didn’t I? It’s addicting and you will never be able to shake the memories you make…which will eventually be a blessing and a slight curse bc nothin will ever be the same. Much love to you and the best of luck. I hope to see you across the fabulous pond xoxoxo
    Cait

  2. Julie, you were always so adventurous 🙂 I hope you have a blast! I look forward to getting to read about it! I hope all is well with you and your family. You still remain one of my most favorite people to live with ever 🙂

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