Don't let the title fool you. This is not a how-to on packing lightly. A tutorial on what to bring on your travels to make sure you are prepared and looking good. I am a a self proclaimed over-packer. Pretty much every time I travel. I am not one of those that brings strategically planned outfits, just the essentials. Whether it is a weekend long trip or a two week long trip, I make sure I have options.
I am talking about the kind of "traveling lightly" that gives way to being present and aware of the tiny moments that happen. The kind that lets you create an agenda but still keeps you open to adventure. For all the "you never know what may happen," and "you only live once," moments that unfold 4,000 miles away from your comfort zone. Traveling as if time is your greatest luxury and your greatest teacher.
Here are 4 things I learned about traveling lightly on my recent trip to Iceland:
1. Let Go & Lean In.
After hours spent on the internet, my friend Danica and I had completed our dream itinerary for our trip to Iceland. I printed extra copies in case we misplaced them and we were ready to conquer our 10 day adventure through the country, via the "Ring Road." That is until we were warned half way through, in the tiny town of Husavik, to turn around due to dangerous weather. It's not exactly what you want to be told when you are in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service, and roads that are so desolate you think you might never see civilization again. But we took the advice of the locals and turned our car around back to Reykjavik. We had no reservations or plans, this was not in our itinerary. We didn't factor in "possible bad weather" options.
Not knowing what the next moment holds and opening yourself up to the possibilities, this is where stories are made. We had no other option than to let go, to turn around. To open our hands to God and trust that His agenda was better than ours -- and will always be better than ours. That when we let go of what we think we want, what we think we need, it gives us space to lean in to what He wants for us. Instead of resisting the change in plans, we embraced it, and asked God to show us His plans. I can say I didn't have one thought of FOMO (fear of missing out) because I knew that this was exactly what He planned for us all along. And it took us having to let go -- to create space for God to show up in bigger ways than we ever could have imagined.
“The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” Ann Voskamp
2. Ask For Grace.
We all have odd habits. The kinds that make us unique. The kinds that come out when you spend 14 days straight with the same person and you have all the time in the world to notice their peculiar tendencies.
I have learned to start off my travels with asking for grace, knowing I will need a lot of it. Because just as I notice the odd and corky behaviors in the person I am traveling with, I know I have them as well. Like how I rise early but I don't like to talk until later in the morning. I wash my hands too much and I am a picky eater. Danica will walk restaurant to restaurant with me until we find a place I can finally find something to eat. She knows I get anxious in overly crowded spaces and takes the wheel, literally, when I have a anxiety attack in the middle of a tunnel.
When you are traveling with friends, you are cultivating a bond through an experience only you both will understand. It's a camaraderie. All the glamorous moments you share with your friends via social media don't encompass the countless ones you spend throughout the day that are not so glamorous. And it's in those sacred, shared moments of grace that you deepen your understanding of one another.
3. Eat Your Dessert.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love cookies. And Iceland had no shortage of freshly baked, heavenly cookies. In fact my favorite little cafe we frequented in Reykjavik was called "C is for Cookie." Ironic? I think not.
I have learned that traveling isn't the time to say no to cookies, or cake, or scones. It is a time to embrace the culture and with that means experiencing the cuisine. When I am at home in Nashville, I have so many rules for myself. Lists of what I think I should be doing or eating and when. But every time I travel I am reminded of the simplicity of food. Maybe it is because sometimes I walk 45 minutes to find a place to eat or maybe it connects me to the people that prepared it. All I know is that my time in Iceland was different. I have travelled to quite a few places and along the way tasted so many delicious things but secretly I never actually got to enjoy them. My head was still consumed by what I thought I should and should not be eating.
This time, I didn't want to waste my energy, my hard earned vacation hours on anything but simply being in gratitude. Gratitude for a body that is healthy and able. The fact that I get a choice in what I eat and when is a gift in itself. So I chose to enjoy myself. I chose to nourish my body and indulge in dessert. Life is too short to say no to cookies. Always eat dessert.
4. Choose the Best Seat.
I walked on to a bus full of people. We were headed to the south of Iceland on a tour along the coast to Vik. I stepped on the bus and saw only a couple empty seats. The only two that were next to each other were in the last row and as if I didn't sound appealing enough earlier, I also get car sick, so that was not an option. Just as I was about to turn around, to Danica, to motion what to do next I spotted an empty seat. With a not so bad looking guy sitting alone. Before I could even think about it I walked straight towards him, said hello and politely asked if I could join. He looked at me with his blue eyes and said in his adorable French accent, "of course." Cue cheesy chick flick music because I just about melted.
I spent the day exploring beautiful black sand beaches, waterfalls with rainbows, glaciers,museums and all with the boy and his broken english. I learned a little French that day too. Okay, really I just learned how to say "I'm hungry" and "goodnight," but it felt like a good start. It was magical in every sense. But what stuck with me most was our ability to cross cultures, connect, and a cultivate a friendship so quickly. I believe travel quickly breaks down walls and barriers that might otherwise exist. There is a commonality that is found in seeking something new, with someone new.
I could have written fifty other stories that day with who I chose to sit next to. It just so happens I chose the best seat on the bus that day. And from it a really fun and magical story was written with someone I still keep in touch with. I've learned that if you want to live out great adventures you have to put yourself in situations to experience them. So next time you step onto a bus -- find an empty seat -- next to a cute boy -- and say hello.
(side note: if you're wondering, yes, my friend does win best wing-woman of the year.)
So, what kind of stories will you write on your next adventure? My hope for you is that they are a beautiful, light, uninhibited reflection of a gracious and free spirit.