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7 Tips on Packing for the Journey

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

On my recent trip to Italy, I packed a giant suitcase to sit-on-it-to-close-it capacity, skirting United's 50-pound weight limit by less than three pounds and dimensions by three inches. My whole traveling life--and that's a lot of years--I've fought my fashion packrat nature and often woefully under- packed to my deep dismay. I mean, who wants to don black travel-wear over and over, especially on The Continent? This time, I made a conscious decision to embrace myself, allowing for wardrobe changes, excessive accessorizing, and lots of gifts for my Italian family. As a longtime metaphoraholic, I've mined this trip for some life lessons, including tips on packing for the journey.

1. Accept yourself. There’s no doubt that packing light for a trip to the Continent is sensible. If you’ve ever lugged luggage off or onto a European train during a brief stop en route, chances are you’ve experienced the drama of hurried, harried hoisting of heavy luggage before the train rolls out. It's not as glamorous as it sounds.

Still, if you’re not the pocket-laden Columbia rip-stop travel short type and tire of NYC black, own it and pack accordingly.

Spiritual insight: “To thine own self by true,” is the famous maxim Polonius spoke in Shakespeare's Hamlet. At the end of the day, you have to live with you.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (ESV)

2. Pack the best. I selected my very favorite outfits for the trip and didn’t skimp on accessories, thoughtfully selecting items that “sparked joy,” as Marie Kondo would say. I know myself, my style, and the itinerary, and packed accordingly.

Spiritual insight: Dolly Parton wisdom: "Find out who you are and do it on purpose." Rick Warren's Saddleback Church SHAPE spiritual gifts self-assessment can help you better understand yourself and God's purpose for your life.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

3. Bring gifts. I brought small, thoughtful gifts for 11 aunts, uncles and cousins and spares for unexpected folks. Closely related to number 2, in addition to material gifts, I was prayerfully intentional about bringing my joy for living, encouragement, knowledge of cultural sites, and spirit of service, helping in any way I could, pampering the women of my family with hand rubs and housework.

I'll add that all these gifts came in handy as a shield of peace when I declared myself Switzerland in a family feud, which wasn't at all a popular stance.

Spiritual insight: Look for and deliver what good you can bring to any situation or encounter, free of expectations.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them...Romans 12:6a

Claude Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877

4. Fill the free space with good stuff to bring home. A collateral benefit of bringing lots of gifts is vacant space on the other side. Vacant space in an air-traveling suitcase can cause the contents to shift around, making a mess. It also presents a fine opportunity to fill the void with good things from your journey rather, than the shipping equivalent of foam peanuts or crumpled newspaper.

Half my luggage was gifts left in Italy, leaving a vacancy to fill for the trip home. Come now, you can’t really go to Italy without buying a little something, or even a bunch of little somethings. Italy is brimming with artisanal beauty for any budget. I bought a few gifts for myself and others, sufficient to fill the vacancies with treasures.

Spiritual insight: Be selective about what fills the empty spaces in your mind, body, heart, and home. Consider what you ingest and its impact on your “baggage” and your life journey.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

5. Unload the bad stuff. It’s tempting to toss everything into a suitcase as you go, without stopping to reassess whether it deserves to be there. I’d done some shopping along the way and had just dumped it all in the suitcase. The day before leaving, I reevaluated and repacked, throwing out extraneous packaging and half-empty bottles of water. Once I even threw out damaged shoes that weren’t worth salvaging when traveling.

Spiritual insight: Assess, confess, and humbly ask God to eliminate bad attitudes, behaviors, fruitless activities and yes, maybe even people, who are toxic or taking up precious space in your life. I have found this is less about strenuous self-improvement—which can be a lot of “wack the mole”—and more about a perpetual state of repentance and dependence. I know I repeat this a lot. The Bible does, too. Front to back. It’s that important.

What are you toting around that should be tossed instead?

As always, ask God for direction and deliverance! He wants to help.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

6. Take care with fragile things. Italy is well-known for ceramics, and I picked up a couple of small pieces. The merchant was careful to swaddle them, but I failed to adequately wrap a pretty spoon rest which broke in transit. Disappointing lesson.

Spiritual insight: Although Jesus was sometimes heavy handed in calling out issues, He generally invites us to aspire to be gentle. People are fragile. Life is, too. This has been a real struggle for me and I routinely fail. I’m painfully pragmatic, and partly due to some brutality I’ve suffered, can be harsh with myself and others. Jesus Himself is mostly extraordinarily gentle (Matthew 11:29) and by submitting to His spirit, I am doing much better at being gentle with me and you. Feels better all around.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17 (ESV)

7. Avoid penalties. Traveling post-Covid and 9/11 is different than bygone days and I was very mindful of requirements and restrictions. I made sure to review carry-on and checked baggage costs, testing requirements, specifications, and rules well before traveling, and planned accordingly I didn’t want to risk hefty surcharges or penalties, including once having my tiny Swiss army knife tossed at the gate.

Spiritual insight: As Christians, we don’t suffer condemnation or separation from God when we sin, but we can suffer awful consequences, nonetheless (Galatians 6:7). God’s guidance--clearly articulated in His Word and by His Spirit--is wholly for our benefit, helping to minimize adversity and maximize peace, joy, and harmony. And if we take a dastardly detour, we can always repent and God will help graciously reroute us. Remember that He knew all along about your "sightseeing" stops.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The very Good News.

Running metaphors into the ground, we have the best heavenly bellhop ever, who will whisk away all our messy, heavy, heartbreaking baggage in an instant if we but call on His name. Let's.

Grace, peace, joy & love in Christ,

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