Twenty-five years ago I took a trip with my mother and my sister Sally, to the Netherlands. My niece, Jennifer; was living there at the time and we wanted to visit her and stay like locals. She spoke fluent Dutch and definitely knew her way around. This was before internet flight searches and we found the best tickets in and out of the airport in Brussels, Belgium. Once arrived we had many adventures and made memories during that brief time; including my unpleasant-but-successful attempt to eat a raw haring (herring) smothered in onions, my first exposure to fries with frietsaus (think mayo), Dutch lace, Gouda cheese (pronounced with a guttural “H” like “howda”), Delft pottery, tidy little yards, stroopwafels, windmills, tulips, and licorice.
A famous event in our family lore occurred as we attempted our return trip out of the Brussels airport. This was pre-911, before everyone had to pass through tight security checkpoints and strip their bodies of anything that would set off a metal detector. As Mom, Sally and I waited at the gate to board our plane an announcement came over the public address system. The speaker requested that certain individuals report to the security station. Individuals with names like Abdul Al-Hashimi, Raji Mustafa, Omar Faruki, Fareek Nashapuri; and then, Kelly Green. “Well, isn’t this interesting?” I thought to myself.
I was pointed down a hallway where I was eventually ushered into a dimly lighted room. There was a collection of worried men, smoking cigarettes and looking very anxious as they passed my giant suitcase through an x-ray machine. They began peppering me with questions about the contents. Wanting to be helpful, I offered to open the luggage and show them. That seemed the most straight-forward solution to me. They declined and instead had me come around to where I could see the x-ray view of my traveling necessities. I was delighted to see my pewter frog pin leaping from the screen and my faux brass metal lizard pin in hot pursuit. Very cool!
These were the days of the giant video-recorders and I had packed one, along with a spare battery and charging cord. Then there were the extra metal hangers because you never know when you might need to hang something up. And finally, the pièce de résistance, my bathroom scale. Yep, I did that. I found it all rather entertaining; however, by the time I had rejoined my traveling companions they were beside themselves! The plane had already been loaded and they thought perhaps I was lost forever.
I have come a long way with down-sizing in 25 years, although there have been a few starts and sputters. On my second trip to Ireland my luggage did not arrive at the airport at the same time as did I. I was assured it would be delivered to my B & B in Dingle by the end of the evening. An inconvenience, but not a deal breaker. I should say it would not have been a deal breaker had I not stepped onto a lovely patch of green grass while hiking up a hillside. That which I assumed was solid was not and I quickly sunk up to my knee in muck. Lovely. I managed to extricate my leg with my shoe still attached to my foot, thankfully. The leg; however, was a terrible muddy mess. At the top of the climb was a frigid little lake. It was mid-March after all. I slipped off my pants and washed the errant leg in the water, followed shortly thereafter by my shoe. I was exceptionally chilly for the rest of the day.
Then there was the time I dressed comfortably to fly to the wedding of a dear loved one. I had fed my horses before leaving and somehow ended up with one grass-stained knee. Later, I managed to spill coffee on myself at the airport. My plan was to shower, change clothes, put on makeup and look presentable by the time of the wedding hours after my arrival. Unfortunately, my luggage arrived after the wedding! I sucked it up and went to the wedding with a tear streaked face, looking like a mess. After I was seated in the pew, the couple next to me moved away. That was a little humiliating but I kept telling myself it wasn’t about me, I was there for the girl I loved. (It was still humiliating but at least my clothes arrived in time for the reception!)
Believe it or not, these days I only pack a carry-on bag.
I leave space for spirit-lead moments and a braided, rubberized clothes line. I bring an appetite for local foods and for discovering new friendships. I expect to get lost and anticipate what it is I might need to find in that journey. I pack a sense of curiosity and an open mind. I pack a much smaller camera and a tiny notebook to make up for the lack of memory in that open mind. I pack snacks because once they are gone; I’ll have room for a small treasure or gift to bring home. I pack a map or two. (I really like maps.) I pack a 24-slot photo book with pictures of my family, my team, our home, and one of a United States map. It’s easier pointing to Michigan on a map rather than holding up my right hand and pointing to my palm. People in other countries tend to find that odd. I pack a sense of humor and the benefit of the doubt. I wear layers on the plane and a smile on my face. I learn enough of the local language to embarrass myself and cause native-speakers to have pity on me for trying. My skills are usually at least worth a chuckle. And yes, I bring a lightweight laptop so that I can tell stories and send love back home.
That all fits in the bag with room to spare!