Today’s guest is a talented writer, a savvy entrepreneur, and a dear friend. I’ve had the privilege of traveling a couple of times with Tsh Oxenreider, first to the Philippines and most recently to Italy. I can tell you first-hand how light this woman packs. It’s impressive is what I’m saying. In many ways she has lived an unconventional life which is why she has a perspective I deeply respect on what it truly means to travel light.
I get a weird enjoyment out of packing. I like rolling my shirts just-so, deciding the three shoes I’ll need for a trip, fitting my toothpaste and deodorant like a puzzle in to its tiny zipped pouch. It’s like I get to decide the miniature version of my life: If I only lived for a week, and it was in such-and-such place, what are the only things I’d need?
There’s the fun of searching for the ideal carry-on bag and the thrill of your passport fitting perfectly into your everyday wallet (or maybe that stuff is just me), but I think there’s something a bit deeper at play here.
There’s a beauty to curating our life’s needs to the basic essentials. There’s a step of faith involved when you decide to leave behind those socks in order to make room for that swimsuit.
It never fails: Every time I travel, I’m surprised at how little I need.
My family and I lived out of backpacks for almost a year, traveling to four continents and doing life and work and school with whatever we could carry on our backs. No one was more surprised than me how much I grew to love choosing from only three t-shirts and two pairs of earrings for months at a time.
I had one trusty pair of jeans for our first seven months on the road until they ripped a giant hole in the upper thigh. (I bought new jeans in the old town of Split, Croatia and left my old pair on the lid of a trash can nearby, hoping someone would repurpose them into something useful.)
We’ve been back for over a year now, and over and over again, I hear God asking me the same question I was asked in the savannah of Kenya and the rainforest of Sri Lanka: Can you live with only what you need?
It’s harder to do this in regular life, when my days are more about stirring soup than standing in visa lines. Invitations to volunteer, a bajillion extracurricular options for my kids, an onslaught of stuff to read via Facebook, constant sales at every store on the corner (40% off! This weekend only!) taunt me like they do you, I presume. Maybe I could use another pair of flip-flops. It wouldn’t be that big a commitment to sign the kid up for another season of volleyball.
The structure of our culture’s surroundings asks us to the do the very opposite of traveling light. It teases us with an idea that life would be better if we just had more, did more, were more.
It’s an art form, this traveling light. It’s an act of discipline, a trust that God will provide for my needs exactly when they arise, and that I can live without the things I don’t really need. And it shows up in big and small ways.
It’s skipping the sale because I simply don’t need another skirt.
It’s going meatless one night a week.
It’s taking the Facebook app off my phone in the name of sanity.
It’s going to bed on time and pausing that next episode on Netflix for another night.
It’s savoring date night with my husband at our local favorite hole in the wall.
It’s watching the kids catch fireflies after dinner.
Traveling light means a trust in God that life will be richer when the things that really matter have more wiggle room. It’s being okay with going without. It’s assuming that if I really need another t-shirt where I’m going, I can always buy another one.
But chances are, I won’t even need another one. I usually have more than I could ever ask for or imagine.
Her next book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, will release spring 2017.