A Globe-Trotting Yoga Teacher On How To Surrender & Get Rid Of Excess
It doesn't matter how Zen you are. Get to an airport, get through security, and wait for your baggage. Then wait some more.
See how long you can hold your shit together.
The excitement I felt when arriving at a new location was always slightly dampened by the inevitable wait for my bloated suitcase to make its way around the carousel. (Is that mine? No. Oh, I think I see it coming! Wrong again.)
See, I come from a long line of people who don't like traveling. I wanted to be different. I wanted to enjoy the whole process. Yet with every new trip, my dance with the stupid baggage carousel made me question my commitment to traveling the globe.
Finally, after being separated from my baggage for weeks and living in a pair of wrinkly khakis on one trip (love those photos), I began to reconsider my strategy. Why did I need so much stuff anyway? So, on the eve of my next trip, I bought travel sizes of all the products I wanted to take with me and decided to give the carry-on lifestyle a try.
However many years later, I've never looked back. I've traveled for four weeks at a time with just a carry-on (the secret is travel-size laundry detergent).
Recently, I realized that my decision to travel light went hand in hand with the yogic principles I follow in the rest of my life. Here's how:
Yogis call this "aparigraha." We can be greedy with people, greedy with time, and greedy with what we own. A good way to keep your possessiveness in check is to put some distance between you and your stuff. Traveling light is an easy way to practice this. Bring a couple of your favorite outfits and nothing more. Rotate between those outfits on your trip. Whenever I do this, I return home surprised by how little I missed the rest of the things in my closet. Once you put distance between yourself and your stuff, it gets much easier to declutter. If you know you can live without two-thirds of your wardrobe, you won't be afraid to sell or donate the things you really don't need.
Even on vacation, we can take our discontentment with us. We can carry overstuffed suitcases and then whine about the fact that we don't have enough room for all our new purchases. We can bring four pairs of shoes and only wear one pair. Choosing to limit yourself to a carry-on suitcase is a way of saying, "What I have is enough. I am enough." Without having to change your outfit three times or spend half an hour rifling through your suitcase, you have time to actually enjoy your vacation.
Brahmacharya is often interpreted as "celibacy" when unmarried and "fidelity" when married, but it can also be a commitment to simplicity. When I moved from Switzerland to Toronto, I had to decide what stuff I cared enough about to pay the exorbitant shipping fees. And then when I moved from Toronto to Philadelphia, I had to comb through all my boxes again. Did I really need so many yoga books? Every time you travel, it's an opportunity to do something different. Try a different lifestyle. Can you have less, and maybe even be happier for it?
This one powerful word is spoken often in yoga circles, but let's be honest — it's easy to surrender when all that means is lying on the floor at the end of a class. Surrendering while out in the world is another thing entirely. When you bring a small suitcase on a trip, you don't leave room for nonessentials. You may realize you need something and have to find it in a city you're unfamiliar with. You may have to ask for help. You may — and I'm sorry to say this because I am aware it is such a "yoga teacher" thing to say — have to trust the universe.
Courtney Sunday is a wellness writer, health coach, and author of several books about mindfulness. Her first book was titled Mindfulness for PMS, Hangovers, and Other Real-World Situations. Sunday teaches many different styles of yoga and leads 200-hour yoga teacher trainings and retreats around the world. Sign up for her free monthly meditations here, or visit her at her website.