It’s time to let go of your baggage
My backpack was a head taller than me as I got ready to board the rickety ferry to the Cambodian island of Koh Rong Sanloem. The boatman was hurrying us along, he needed to free space in the port for the next ferry, and so he gave me a little push as I stepped up the tall step onto the boat, a little nudge that was just enough for me to lose my balance entirely, bowled over by the weight of my bag, and land flat on my face in front of a few dozen people.
Red-faced and with blood streaming down my knee, I took off my pack and moved to the side, where a kind Spanish girl took care of washing out my knee, and covering it with the only bandaid she had — one of those bubble like plasters for when high-heels have messed up your feet.
That was when I had to finally admit, I was carrying too much luggage.
Backpacking teaches you something about baggage, both real and metaphorical.
The weight of what you are carrying becomes a major concern, something you always have to bear in mind. Having too much means you do less, and with more discomfort.
Exactly like emotional baggage weighs you down in life.
Yet it is hard letting go of things, even if you haven’t used them for the past three countries. In my huge backpack, I have a kilo of tea, a gift from an ex who I’m not ready to say goodbye to, a snorkel and tube set, boxing gloves, half a swimming board that I occasionally use for Macrame. A dozen t-shirts given free at pub crawls and hostels, cut in the classic way of the South East Asian singlet, meaning that your boobs will inevitably pop out either side at the least practical moment.
You also quickly realize that your actual baggage is linked to your emotional baggage. The bulk of what is really filling up my bag is clothes, pretty clothes, sexy clothes, clothes I need to hide behind because I constantly feel ugly.
You cling to all of these things because you think you might one day need them. Because it reduces worry about the future. Humans are hard-wired to think ahead, to plan for obstacles that might come about. There is something comforting in knowing we are prepared for all manner of outcomes.
The thing is, it’s an illusion. When you actually need the thing you brought you won’t be able to find it and you will buy another one, or borrow one of someone.
It is the same when it comes to emotional baggage. We hold onto memories and the ways in which our experiences have shaped us just in case we encounter the same situation again. On some deep level, we feel like there is an advantage to keeping these heavy loads that torment us.
But what we are actually doing is clinging onto things that are doing us harm, on the off chance that something worse will harm us in the future.
Take your baggage. Look at your worst experiences, and the lessons you have learnt. Accept that they served their purpose at the time you needed them.
Let it go.