Backpack of Bravery


       Well I am packed! And let me just say that was quite the feat.  It only took me a few phone calls to my mom when it all wouldn’t fit, and a pile on my bed of the items that didn’t make the cut. But I made it, with a list of what needs to go in last minute, and my clothes for Wednesday sitting on top, this girl’s backpack is ready to fly.  Three more sleeps and a few more things to check off the list and it’s off we go.  

      As I mentioned in my last post, Embracing the Stress my security this past week has been in lists.  My to-do list has been shrinking each passing day and my stress is flying away with it as well.   Everyone is different, but many times the most hesitant step is the first one.  This is a list of my projects leading up to my adventure.  After many friends asking about how I have prepared for a trip like this, I thought it would be best to simply share it as a rubric for all of you.

      I wanted to supply my packing list as well.  Keeping in mind, this is my recommendation for as a solo female traveler packing for a five week journey, around Europe flying budget airlines.  Packing lists are not one size fits all, but the beauty of following someone else’s journey is learning from their mistakes.  This list is the original choices, with cuts made before even hitting the bag.  Over the next five weeks I will also be sharing things that get cut or picked up along the way.  Travel is all about learning from experience, whether that be personally or not.  I have learned some of my favorite and best tips from the travel community.

     When I began to physically pack yesterday, I was not worried at all.  My list had been written for a few weeks, and edited with many fellow travelers input.  However, after putting everything into piles and beginning to roll, stuff, and attempt to organize it into the one backpack, I quickly found myself laying on my kitchen floor calling my mum.  She is my sounding board in all things, and packing is no different.  This woman could live for five weeks out of a fanny pack.  

I spent the next half hour talking over every single item with her.  She had only two options for a response, “Yes, that is a definite.” or “Leave it!”.  I ended the phone call leaving half of my toiletries, coming to terms with idea of leaving pajamas and sleeping in the days clothes instead, and texting my sister to figure out what hair product I needed to bring because mum said to leave my straightening iron.  It was hard to look at that pile of things I was convinced needed sit on my bed, not making the cut.  But seeing it in this morning’s light, I realized she was right.  They do need to be left behind.  

      It can be so difficult to decide what we need and what we simply aren’t sure how to live without.  It’s a challenge to leave behind the comforts and conveniences of home.  But if I am going to claim that travelers aren’t focused on ensuring convenience, than I have to learn how to let go of them myself.  Much easier said than done.  However, when we look at travel, and life, we must question why are we actually taking it all.  So much of my list I thought I would need on this adventure, when in actuality I wanted it to make a possible situation easier.  

I certainly didn’t reach this enlightenment quickly on my kitchen floor.  To be honest, after saying goodbye to mum, I laid back down on the floor and had myself a good old fashioned meltdown.  Maybe meltdown is too intense of a term, but a break in confidence, nonetheless.  Believe it or not, it wasn’t the straightening iron, or the lack of pajamas.  It had nothing to do with packing actually.  I was scared.  Something about packing, deciding what to leave and what to take, was making it real.  And for the first time, I think I mentally and emotionally let myself acknowledge my fear.

      I’m not afraid about my safety on the trip, or the unknown of new places and experiences.  I am honestly anxious about being solo.  There is no question that I am an extroverted person and tend to be very outgoing as a part of that.  What people don’t realize is that I am this way with people I know, not so much with people that I don’t.  I remember when I studied abroad, culture shock and homesickness hit hard when I realized I had remember how to go out and make friends.  Not to say that I have trouble making friends, but striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know is leaps outside of my comfort zone.  Even with people who know me well, this fear can be difficult to explain.

        Logically I know I am going to be fine and if I wanted to stay in my comfort zone, I should stay home.  As anyone who has experienced a grand adventure knows, growth is scary.  But ‘what would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail’, right?  I think I muttered this to myself ten times there on the kitchen floor, forcing myself to remember it really was going to be fine.  My semester abroad was about learning to travel, maybe this adventure is about learning to be solo.  Maybe this fear was less about being alone and more about the fact of this being the first step into a career many see only as a dream.  Reciting my mantra a few more times, and reminding myself that I would be in Iceland in three days, I got back up and continued to pack.   

     As I said in the beginning, I don’t have all the answers.  Travel is about continual education, both about the world and yourself.  This is the first of many moments of growth and self awareness throughout my adventure, I know.  But I also know, that I am not the only one to experience this.  Part of getting through this fear, is knowing everyone else experiences that intense feeling of terror before stepping out into the unknown.  Others too have known the sleepless nights when you know logically it’s going to be fine, but no one seems to have told your heart to stop racing.  Everyone has moments when their eyes well up, or the lump rises in their throats as they think of the vast unknown.  But allowing yourself to feel it, process it, and evolve from it, builds bravery.  Sometimes all it takes to meet the next quest is a brave face, a racing heart, and of course, an appetite for adventure.

-The Very Hungry Traveler

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