I brought a journal when I first went off to college. It had red binding, a sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a quote on the cover that read, “They should tell you when you are born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.”
I carried that little guy everywhere - jotting down all the new things I was learning, the people I was meeting, and the hopes that were taking root in my freshly seasoned colligate heart - but I never stopped to think about the words on the cover, and what it might mean to have a suitcase heart.
I have packed and unpacked and repacked my suitcase countless times since starting at Vanderbilt. Whether it’s been for winter break, a weekend retreat in Kentucky, spontaneous road trips to the beach with my friends, or a flight across the world to study international politics in Switzerland, these past few years have been a dreamy whirlwind of throwing my life in a bag and hitting the road. Although I have a strange affinity for travel prep (more on that later) The adventures that I’ve had between the packing and unpacking of my bags have taught me how to live a life of adventure; with or without a set travel plan. With my bags packed to leave home once again and the number of days on countdown to Copenhagen hitting single digits, I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote on that journal from freshman year, and reflecting on what it would look like to have a suitcase heart this semester.
1. Be ok with being lost
Suitcases get lost. I am sure we all have a cringe-worthy tale of a time our bags have failed to magically appear on that claim belt after stepping off the plane in an unfamiliar place. Maybe you had to wear your mom’s swimsuit for your entire tropical vacation, maybe your bag ended up on the other end of the continent, perhaps you had to wait around the airport all night because your suitcase was en route… on a flight that left hours after yours. There is no denying it, luggage gets jumbled in airports every single day. If having a suitcase heart means being ready to get a little lost, a little disoriented, a little confused, then sign me up. New places and new cultures can be confusing, and that’s ok. I want to give myself permission to be uncomfortable with the newness of Danish culture. It’s ok to confuse the train schedule sometimes. It’s ok to confuse foods in the grocery store. It’s ok to encounter language barriers. When we go into experiences expecting to be a little lost, it’s a lot less disorienting when it happens.
2. Its best to travel light
You know the drill: extra baggage = extra fees. Heck, American Airlines, I know you’re not trying to be existential here but what a freakin’ metaphor for life. Having a suitcase heart means that you must unpack whatever isn't serving you, before you can fill it up with good. Believing lies about who you are? Carrying around your failures like a stamp of disapproval? Still have those jeans from high school that are waayyy too small but you keep around for motivation? Listen closely, my friends because you deserve much more than that: Leave. It. Behind. You are the one who gets to claim your identity, your worth, and what you are going to believe about who you are. Here’s a secret, you are WORTHY. Worthy of adventures, of friendships, of opportunity, of a life full of joy, and anything or anyone who tries to rob you of that does not deserve to occupy any of the precious real estate in your suitcase heart. Save that room for things that bring life and help build the beautiful creation you are becoming. We are all in for a much more enjoyable trip when we lean into the truth of who we are.
3. Guard your heart, but don’t live in fear
Everything in moderation my dudes, especially caution. Getting a suitcase with one of those little padlock zippers to keep all your goodies safe while you’re on the go? Probably a good plan. Paying extra to get your bag wrapped in that sticky plastic wrap in the airport terminal and spending an hour trying to unwrap your bag once you get where you’re going? That’s a no from me. The same is true with a suitcase heart: protect your heart! Be careful of people and things that might put you in danger – physically, emotionally, mentally – but don’t live your life in fear. There is a difference between a healthy level of caution, and an inability to try new things. We grow when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, so be ok with the moments that are going to challenge you. This semester, I want to use my best judgement when it comes to how and where I want to spend my time, but I am committing to say yes to new adventures. I want to take spontaneous trips, do things that scare me, and meet as many new people as I can.
4. Leave room for discoveries along the way
Like I said earlier, huuuuuge travel prep gal. I just love packing: Packing lists, packing cubes, picking your outfits and imagining where you’ll wear them? Yes, yes, and YES. Before beginning my beloved process of packing for Copenhagen I did some *read A LOT* of research. Every travel blogger that I read advised that you leave room in your suitcase for new clothes and souvenirs that you collect along the way. Big fan of that idea: when prepping for a new experience, it’s important to leave room in your heart too. There will be people that change your life, moments of wonder and awe, and places that you’ll never want to leave all competing for a place in your heart and memory when you go abroad. I want to be ready for it. I'll leave a little space in my heart and in my journal to fill with new favorite places, friends, and all the lessons I will learn along the way.
5. Embrace the fact that You’ll never be prepared
If I have learned anything about traveling, it’s that you are never fully prepared. No matter how many times you check and double check your packing list, no matter how many pairs of socks or back-up phone chargers you stash in your bag - there will always be moments you can’t anticipate. Some of them will be incredible spontaneous moments of adventure, and some will be unexpected bumps in the road. As the homies in France say, c'est la vie. Embrace the unexpected! Every experience has the potential to be our teacher, so when life throws me a curveball, I'll be ready to take notes.
In a few days, when it’s time to say goodbye to my sweet Chicago and kiss my fam goodbye, I’ll make sure to pack my bags with all the essentials, but more importantly, I will do my best to have a suitcase heart.
See ya in Copenhagen!