Traveling Lighter

Monday night, during a break from packing and paying bills and working on my list, I read Leo Babauta’s brief e-book, Ultralight. Cyndi and I are leaving Friday, joining two other couples from Midland on a musical tour with Global Missions Project’s Celebration Orchestra, led by Camp Kirkland, and I want to do a better job packing my suitcase than I’ve done for past international trips.

So I read Babauta’s book looking for advice to pare down my packing list for the trip. I’m trying to approach this particular trip like I would backpacking – how little can I take and have a good time.

I use a gear list to prepare for each backpacking trip, and my list has gotten shorter and more refined through the years. When I get home from a trip one of the first things I do, even as I am unpacking and putting my stuff away, is go over the list and mark what I used, what I didn’t use, and make notes for next time.

However, I’ve never gone to that extreme for a vacation-type trip. This will be my first. In fact, last night I used my most recent backpacking gear list and modified it for this trip. I’m planning to use a similar list for all future trips (at least, those longer than a simple weekend visit) so that I can refine what I take and continue to reduce my load.

For this particular trip I’m taking my trombone and hardshell case, trombone stand, music stand, music in a 3-ring binder, music clips, and clothes for performing. All those are mandatory. Everything else is optional.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I have a few other mandatory items: My Kindle (loaded with books (I don’t want to run out (one of my greatest fears))), journal, Daily Bible, pens, and reading glasses. Without those I have no way to digest what I learn on the trip.

The point of learning to pack lighter is not to brag about my minimalism (a common motivation among ultralight backpackers). No one cares who wins the lightest bag contest.

I also don’t want to travel so light I’m a burden to my fellow travelers.

No, my goal is to lighten my load in all of life. Packing for a trip is only a practical application of how I want to live going forward. As I get older I want to focus my energy and activities into those lifelong passions that drive me, and leave behind the baggage I’ve been carrying for so long because I thought I was supposed to carry it, or because I was afraid everyone else thought I was supposed to carry it and I was afraid to not live up to their expectations.

The Bible tells about people who walked away from Jesus because they were carrying too much baggage. For some the load was possessions, for others responsibilities or expectations. If we want to follow Jesus, we should be prepared to travel light. Jesus says, simply, “Follow me.: He calls us to be nimble and responsive, ready to drop what we’re doing and follow Him, right now, to wherever.

Now that I’m 60 years old, I have a firm grip on what I’m good at, and where I want to invest my time and energy. Those are what I want in my luggage going forward with life.

But packing lighter, and living lighter, can be scary. The reason we pile so much into our suitcase and onto our life is because we’re afraid of the unknown. Babauta wrote, “I learned from ultralight backpacking that people pack their fears ... We bring along more than we need because of our fears. We are worried about unexpected conditions.”

Mike Foster wrote, in his book People of the Second Chance, “Rather than responding only to real threats, we are reacting to imagined risks ... We have lots of false positives when it comes to fear”

So my prayer is: Lord, take my fears. Teach me how to keep a loose grip on all this stuff of my life, all these responsibilities, awards, attention, so I’m ready to follow you anywhere. Give me a faith that’s ready to move.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32