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Insight on Packing.

To pack.

A necessary verb, though one that many of us loathe.  There you are…excited by the imminent adventure ahead.  The journey awaits, as do the people you will meet and the unsolvable mysteries that will greet you upon arrival.  But first…What will you bring?

People always say to me, “You must have this packing thing down by now.”  That is an absolute fallacy.  I wish I did.  I wish I could say that over the almost 20 years I’ve travelled internationally and over a lifespan of traveling domestically via plane, train, car and by foot, that I have a “system,” that preparing for each destination is a cinch because I do it so frequently.  But alas, without question, I find myself awake in the wee hours the night before every departure packing according to a very non-efficient method of “process of elimination”.  Everything that might come with me starts in a pile on the floor.  From there, I tediously determine the value of said item: Definitely.  Definitely not.  Maybe. 

The most difficult? 

The shoes.  The bags.  The jackets.  And the hardest of all:  When traveling to vastly different climates.

Allow me to impart some gentle wisdom around items I now never leave home without:

  • Green powder – Roughage for those destinations that don’t deviate from starch-heavy fare.
  • Hand-held mirror – For contacts and the occasional lipgloss.
  • Lavender oil –  For planes, trains and headaches.
  • Two tennis balls in a sock – For sore muscles, tight shoulders and a ball game at-the-ready.
  • Yoga mat – For creating a space for stretching and inverting anywhere.
  • Extra bags – They’re always handy.
  • Toms/vans/slip-ons – Perfect for taking on and off before entering your tent, someones home, a temple or mosque. (Laces are a hassle.)

As far as the other stuff?  Well, usually you can find what you need wherever you go.  I mean it.  I used a tree branch in Kenya for a toothbrush, bought organic face products from a street vendor in Mumbai, and even managed to find a great pair of super fly high tops in Peru.  Wherever your destination and wherever your origin, do your best to remove stress.  Roll stuff up.  Pack light.  Shift your definition of “clean,” and go for it! The journey is about the people anyway.  Not your stuff.

Travel alone. It’s a party!

Traveling alone to a new destination is like arriving to a party stag…

The crux:

You knock on the door.  This act takes the most effort and commitment and energy.  To your chagrin, the door opens.

You purchase your plane ticket, click the button and feel that rush of excitement, apprehension and pride for choosing to go for it.  You show up.

The decision:

You are certain they are all staring at you.  You want to leave. To call mom.  But for some reason you stay.  You realize you’ll never meet these people for the first time ever again. 

You will never see this place for the first time ever again. You know there is potential and opportunity awaiting you.  You know there is more to learn and discover and apprehend.  You start walking.

The action:

You pour a drink.  You meet others pouring drinks.  You find the snacks.  You meet others masticating empathetically. 

You walk to the nearest cafe, wishing that giant appendage on your back wasn’t bright yellow with the words “North Face” splayed across it zippers.  You sit and try your hand at the few coin phrases you learned on the plane.  

They laugh at you.  With you.

The transition:

You pretend with all of your might that you’re “in”, despite your own expertise in knowing you’re all playing the same game.  You start to acclimate.  The portal you entered through seems to change slowly, like a polaroid appearing more clearly.  You begin to see anew and remember first impressions only happen once and that is all and everything they are.  The initial angst you felt already seems like a foreign land.

When you finally kiss the host adieu, when you click that button again, you realize you’d rather not leave.  You’d rather stay.  To learn. To engage. To change and shift and see it all for the first time.  But you can’t.  Your time has arrived.  

You take a picture.  You press the shutter.  You hold on to what you can, and know, intrinsically, that all of it will not last forever.  But you can be sure your life has changed.  You are a better version of you.

So do it.  Go for it.  You will grow and learn and make mistakes.   And if you want support and suggestions and encouragement, we’re here for you.  Heck, we can even plan your adventure for you and connect you with some of the most wonderful people and places in the world.

You have our permission.  Now go!

From a far to Afar

This is a letter written in Mumbai this summer to Afar Magazine, another company who seems to have the tools and the vision to make meaningful travel possible for those who desire it.  (Response pending.)

Dear Afar magazine,

This is the current scene: A rooftop restaurant post-sunset.  The yellow, red and blue boat hulls in the harbor have that perfect, saturated glow as if to kiss this day adieu.  Incessant horns seem far away now, resonating stories below and hoping to ease their tired voices soon.  Birds squawk.  Heads nod.  This is Mumbai.

I am writing you simply to say, thank you. You embrace all that is this world in a few matte pages filled with colors and words and stories authentically portraying the beauty and the veracity of the variety that abounds on this planet.  You show us the elaborate and engage with the socially conscious.  You encourage travel, not through a window, but through fresh eyes, new perspective and meaningful interactions.

The first thing friends ask me when I return to the US is, “When are you leaving?”  The sincere inquiry enables me to reflect on a life I have stumbled into; one of wonderment and “wanderment” and one whose great fortune cannot be denied. 

In seventeen years of international travel, I have been welcomed into Maasai bomas in Kenya and ventured on Hedzabe bush hunts in Tanzania.  I was embraced by Rwandans, shared tea with the Turkish, ate roti and masala on the floor of Indian homes and stared back at the cui on my plate as I celebrated the earth in Peru.  Nicaragua has become a home for me and Spain will always have a piece of my heart.  My travels have been vast and intimate, adventurous and soulful, alone and surrounded by others, chaotic and tranquil, spontaneous and purposeful.  And one certainty prevails: benevolence exists no matter where I wander.  Around the world, requited smiles shatter walls built with the mortar of language and fear.

I founded a small business, Away2Be.  We facilitate innovative education, and interpersonal and intercultural connection through local and global relationships.  First and foremost, we encourage the connection with self through yoga and reflection.  Secondly, we engage in meaningful conversations with educators, students, local leaders and corporate clients alike about global issues, leadership, interpersonal relationships and effective communication.  We travel abroad and walk with and learn from the people of the world. We believe sustainable, global change depends on the power of these relationships and personal stories are the pathway to peace.

Because our values align and because I so appreciate all you do, I write you this message.  I would love to collaborate and communicate with you further.  I am based in Denver, though probably spent about 8 months away last year!

Let’s continue this work of traveling deeper together! 

Namaste!

Susan Lambert

Owner, Away 2 Be

www.away2be.com

Birds fly as a young traveler walks home in Mumbai, India. Meaningful travel abroad brings us closer to home.

Gateway of India