They say travel changes you. And in many ways it can, opening your mind to new cultures and new perspectives, pulling you out of your comfort zone, feeding you new ideas and cuisines. Oftentimes, I don’t see how much its changed me until I get home and settle in for a bit.
One of the stranger parts of traveling is that it has made me a more of a minimalist. (Yes, my mother would laugh at this based on the amount of stuff I have sitting in my childhood bedroom and the amount of stuff she is helping me haul home from London.) But honestly, when you’re planning to move away in six months time or a year, your mindset changes.
You start to ask yourself a lot of new questions like, If it can’t fit in my carry-on, is it really worth it? or Will I ever really use this? or Can this be squished and smushed and still look alright on the other side?
As the last few weeks have been filled with people moving in for college or around the world, I found myself thinking about how five years ago when I packed for college, everything was in boxes and hard containers. The only limitations to my storage was what could be fit in the car on the drive to orientation. My mother, the queen of car Tetris, could make anything fit. The same was true for my second year of college: boxes rained supreme.
It wasn’t until I hopped a plane to Australia that I realized that boxes do not travel well on twenty-something hour-long flight routes. So I began to favor bags and softer containment units. All of those beauty bags that had been collected over the years suddenly had a use. One was for electronics, the other for medicine, another for makeup, one more for haircare, yet another for jewelry, another for miscellaneous things that you always need but that don’t really fit any sort of categorization system. All these tiny bags could be smushed down to fit into the corner of my suitcase or the front pocket of my carry-on in ways that a box just couldn’t. And with that restriction, less things were brought along.
I kept the preference for bags on my semester in Sweden, as I had similar limitations. My travels around Europe continued this, as the question was always Will this fit Ryannair carry-on restrictions? Instead of a specialized outfit for each day, I had to think about which pieces matched multiple items and wouldn’t look wrinkled upon arrival. Some things just didn’t make the cut.
My senior year of undergrad, I was so used to constantly being on the move that it just stuck. It seemed strange to use a box when a bag would work just perfectly. By the time I moved to London, it was second nature to favor bags over boxes.
As I pack up my bags once more for the move home, it would be hard to ignore the other ways that travel has changed me: I’m more independent, I reflect more, I don’t waste time on things that make me unhappy, I make lists and cross things off only to write a new list, I enjoy sitting back and watching people interact, and at the end of the day, my life could fit into a couple of bags within the weight limit of Icelandair’s checked baggage restrictions (I hope).