Packing my bags for vacation used to be more than just throwing clothes in a suitcase. It was a ritualistic way of ironing my worries, folding them neatly, and trying to fit as many of them as I could in my suitcase, making sure that I had a worry for every possible occasion, from cocktail to business casual to gym-worthy.
Packing meant spending a day or two debating over the best shoes, the appropriate outfits, and packing extras of absolutely everything, then putting it all in an over-sized bag and still having to sit on top of it to get it zipped. And after it had all been packed, the second-guessing commenced: triple-checking for the extra socks, checking my wallet five times for my ID, making a mental checklist of must-haves and agonizing over whether or not they’d all been packed (they almost always had).
When it finally came time to leave, I’d haul my heavy baggage to the car, train, plane, or bus, often struggling to bear the weight of the worries tucked inside. And even though the baggage stayed in the hotel during the day, the worries came along for the ride. They would settle down inside my purse and join me in my adventures: don’t be late, what if you lose your luggage, you can’t miss your flight, don’t drop your passport, check everything ten times.
But this trip, things were different. I’ve spent the last couple of months working through a lifelong tug-of-war with anxiety, and as I began to pack my bags for vacation, I finally saw the fruits of my labor. Packing my bags became just packing my bags. I surprised myself – the whole process took about an hour. I threw in a couple of outfits, some shoes that were good for walking, and hardly anything extra. I zipped up the bag, double-checked for the absolute must-haves, and called it good. The things I had forgotten to pack that didn’t even make it to the must-haves this time were my worries. They stayed behind.
As I strolled through the airport toward my gate, my bags seemed lighter. I felt lighter. And when I arrived in London and found out that my luggage had been lost, I felt as if my baggage had, too, because I didn’t give it a second thought. The man at the baggage counter asked me for my London address and phone number, neither of which I had. How would they get my luggage back to me? The worries had no hold over me. I’d call them later and work it out. It would all work out. Who was this new me?
I ended up buying some new clothes to tide me over, and laughing at myself as I stood at the bathroom sink, washing my face with men’s body wash and using a pair of my newly-purchased underwear to tie my hair back. The next day, the luggage arrived without fanfare and all was well yet again, but it was never really about the luggage itself. It was about the worries.
I had one of the best weeks of my life during my vacation to London and Paris. We took a river cruise down the Thames and had teatime. We ate dessert for dinner. We shopped until we dropped. I bought too much tea. We visited Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. I made myself look like a dumb American in Paris. I took a selfie with the Mona Lisa. We saw a musical. I instagrammed all food and basically everything else.
We had so many perfect moments. I walked along the River Seine at night with the love of my life and ate nutella crepes and looked at the Eiffel Tower. I wore half the nutella on my face. I almost dropped my phone in the river trying to take a picture. We took more selfies. I received a history lesson from my expert tour guide boyfriend. There was lots of smiling. And everything was beautiful.
The worries had found no place in London or Paris.
I can now proudly say that I’ve learned how to leave the worries behind. I’ve learned how to pack my bags without bringing my baggage along. I am happier, healthier, and now well-traveled. I’m learning what it’s like to live worry-free and it’s clearer and more vivid.
When I pack now for vacation, for my school day, for anything else, I can leave the worries out. And now I’ll finally have room for an extra pair of cute shoes.