Packing for a trip, anything from a long weekend to several months, is an interesting lesson in priorities. Think about it. Your bag contains underwear, your toothbrush and a big pile of other things you have decided is the Stuff You Cannot Live Without For X Number Of Days.
I am starting off 2017 in the USA back to my home college and my normal life. Moving back to school meant packing suitcases for the fourth time in a week. Yes, fourth. I had the opportunity to stay abroad through the new year, which was fantastic but came with a lot of packing, unpacking, and re-packing again. So, at some point, I started to really pay attention to what I put in my suitcase.
Your suitcase speaks about what is important to you. Listing all of the items you actually cart around would be exhausting, so let's go more big picture here. Venturing off anywhere new requires time and planning, it can be exhausting, and it will probably be expensive. So, why do we make those sacrifices? What items are important to help us deal with them?
In everything from graduating high school to starting a new job to running away to Bali, we take on new situations to learn valuable skills we can't get anywhere else. They are why we put up with running for connecting flights, sitting stuck in traffic, and having blisters on our feet. After learning a particular lesson, we can keep it with us to improve everything from then on.
Little did I know that in addition to all of these lessons, I would become an expert at packing a suitcase. Here are some of the things that I have learned are important to me which I will be taking to start my next semester of college.
Travel journal. Now it has been demoted to just “journal,” but it is the same one that I used while I was in England. Just because I am in a familiar country doesn’t mean the adventures have to stop and my everyday life isn't worth recording. All of life is an adventure. I think the good stuff has only just started and I am genuinely excited for 2017.
Pink salt lamp. The only way to be busy without burning out is to find your calm within the chaos. I hope that the constant changes and traveling of the last few months have taught me something about remaining peaceful even in crazy surroundings.
As many clothes as I want. Let’s pause the meaningful reflections for one second and take a minute to appreciate the fun, superficial stuff. I can change up my look every day because I am not living out of one suitcase!! I love expressing myself through my physical appearance, and I have missed the chance to do that for a while.
My iPod. A good song can solve anything. Or at least give you the confidence and determination to get from one hour to the next until you figure out the solution yourself. Which you will do, because you are more capable than you think you are.
Tennis Shoes. We know exercise is beneficial to health, but I didn’t realize what a difference a few Pilates classes and a treadmill made to my mental state. Especially in the colder months. Being active to some degree is so important. I didn't have easy access to a gym while I was abroad, and the drop in my energy level and mood was ridiculous. Don't let yourself forget to build that time in when schedules get hectic.
Paint. I don't paint much anymore. I was never exceptional at it but in high school I used to love it. I am still not exceptional but I am bringing the paint anyway. For anyone who wants to be in a creative field, every time you have the opportunity to make something, do so. If you have supplies in front of you, use them. Over the last few months I have realized I will never be content unless I am always creating new things. Whether that ends up being my full-time job or something I do on the side, I will never miss an opportunity to make something and share it with people.
Mementos for friends. Admittedly I didn't do very much shopping while in the U.K. My space was limited, so for a lot of people my gift will just be a hello hug after months apart! The sentiment behind this is the part that I want to address though. The connections we build with other people are fascinating to me because if both sides put forth the effort, they are so strong. Video chats and exchanging e-mails with friends was enough to make me feel like they were sitting in the room with me while we talked, even though we were thousands of miles apart. That distance made me appreciate the fact that nothing in our friendships changed even though we couldn't see each other every day.
I was nervous looking out the airplane window a few days ago watching England grow smaller below me until I lost sight of it entirely. I figured I wouldn’t be very good at “normal life” after four months spent somewhere completely different. However, only a couple of days back home has shown me I do have a different, better outlook. Positive changes are happening. My life is not perfectly together, nowhere close, but I do feel like I came away from all of this having gained a few things.
The comparison of the past with the present shows us how much we've learned. You have to return to the place you stared from carrying your new understandings, mistakes, and perspectives with you.
There you have it. My top seven travel tips to pack for a semester
abroad heading home.