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Packing Light: What Traveling Has Taught Me About Emotional Baggage

3 Min Read
Self

Since I can remember, I have always had anxiety, and travel brought it out in full force when it came to packing for a trip. Until recently, my control freak process always involved pulling out my suitcase a week in advance, building a check off list with quantities, and planning out two times the number of outfits that I actually needed on the trip. This process made me feel safe.

My anxiety and packing paranoia was coming from my emotional baggage that I wasn't dealing with.

The thought of packing the night before gave my hives and if after all of that, I arrived at my destination without something I needed, my whole world would crumble around me. Instead of letting it go and telling myself I can buy it there or that I didn't really need it, I would get angry with myself. What I didn't realize was that my anxiety about packing and preparing for a trip (whether it be for business or pleasure), was the result of something much bigger than just the fear of forgetting something.

Breaking Free Abroad

Before I dive deeper into my packing idiosyncrasy and what it really means, I want to highlight my obsession with travel and what it has taught me. Travel has always been my escape, and over the years, it has revealed my hidden inner strength, inspired my writing and taught me important life skills. After I graduated from college, I ran away and moved to Taipei, Taiwan. It was 2004, Bush was president, I wasn't ready to be a broke writer living in New York City yet and I wanted an adventure. I left the country with one suitcase and a backpack. I felt free. I didn't know the language (Mandarin), I didn't have a job (I figured it was better to apply for a teaching job upon my arrival) and I didn't have a place to live other than renting a room at a sketchy hostel.

You would think this whole situation would have made me insanely anxious, but I was actually quite calm throughout the process and it all ended up working out in the end. I got the job I wanted within about three weeks, rented a pretty cool rooftop apartment and I was quickly making friends, many of whom I still talk to today. After two years, I had become a happy expat who had created a new life for herself with almost nothing. Looking back now, I don't think I really understood the significance, but now I do. I had taught myself a lesson about packing light and EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE.

Packing And Unpacking Emotions

My anxiety and packing paranoia was coming from my emotional baggage that I wasn't dealing with. The act of "leaving my life" behind in the U.S. to live in Taiwan was liberating, but when I got home, the baggage and unresolved issues were still there. Blocking my emotions (which I am such an expert at!) manifested in various ways that created chaos in multiple parts of my life. It took me 10 years after returning home from Taiwan to realize that my anxiety was a result of being a survivor of child sexual abuse. Once the suppressed memories started to reveal themselves to me while I raised my daughter, my recurring dreams of packing and unpacking my suitcase started. My control freak nature began to make sense. I needed to release my emotions (unpack them) and feel safe to do so.

What I didn't realize was that my anxiety about packing and preparing for a trip (whether it be for business or pleasure), was the result of something much bigger than just the fear of forgetting something.

What has helped me do this? Releasing my self-judgment and being more patient with myself. Telling myself it is okay if I make a mistake or forget something. The world won't come to an end if I forget to pack my toothbrush or if I only brought two pairs of shoes for my kids instead of three. I won't lie and say it has been easy and that my anxiety is gone. Sometimes anxiety is a good thing because it helps me problem solve. Because of my therapy sessions, supportive husband, journaling and taking Artful Body founder Meg Berry's MomCore class, I have an ongoing support system. And if you are wondering, I have been practicing packing only three days before instead of seven. Baby steps!

Read more from Nubia DuVall Wilson on her Thrive Blog at nubiaduvall.com and follow her on Instagram and on Facebook @EncounterswithNubia

This article was originally published September 21, 2019.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.