Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage by Allison Vesterfelt
Publisher: Moody Publishing
Number of pages: 256
My copy: Kindle edition
What do you need to leave behind?
When I was in college, I figured my life would come together around graduation. I’d meet a guy; we’d plan a beautiful wedding and buy a nice house-not necessarily with a picket fence, but with whatever kind of fence we wanted. I might work, or I might not, but whatever we decided, I would be happy.
When I got out of college and my life didn’t look like that, I floundered around, trying to figure out how to get the life I had always dreamed of. I went down so many different paths for it. Career. Travel. Friends. Relationships. But none of them were as satisfying as I hoped they would be.
Like many twenty-somethings, I tried desperately to discover the life of my dreams after college, but instead of finding it, I just kept accumulating baggage . I had school loans, car payments, electronics I couldn’t afford, a house full of mismatched furniture I didn’t love but that had become my own, hurt from broken relationships, and unmet expectations for what life was “supposed to be” like.
Just when I had given up all hope of finding the “life I’d always dreamed about,” I decided to take a trip to all fifty states…because when you go on a trip, you can’t take your baggage. What I found was that “packing light” wasn’t as easy as I thought it was.
This is the story of that trip and learning to live life with less baggage.
* * *
I found Ally’s blog through Twitter one time and her blog quickly became one of my favorites. I must admit that I really liked reading the stuff she wrote about dating, because I thought they spoke the truth, and not in a flowery way but in a real, age-appropriate, I-can-apply-this-to-my-life way. I was also very, very amazed at how she and her friend quit their jobs, sell everything and then went on a road trip to pursue their dreams. It’s such an exciting thing, things that my friends and I can only think about. I mean, quit our jobs, sell everything and travel? It seemed hardly rational.
When I heard that Ally was releasing a book about her adventures in this trip — and one of the reasons she went on a road trip, I think — I knew I wanted to read it. I find it funny that this book, like the previous non-fiction book I bought and read — came to my life at exactly the right time, and it seemed like the words I read were the exact words I needed in my life.
I make it sound so dramatic, I know, but it was the only thing that fits with my reading experience. Packing Light is a memoir of sorts, of Ally’s trip with her friend Sharaya, and what she learned about baggage, be it physical or not. Ally talked about the preparations for the trip, her doubts, their adventures and misadventures. She talked about the relationships that she formed and lost and strengthened in the course of six months, how she dealt with heartbreak and how she found herself again. In each of the chapters, Ally would share the lessons she learned, and how she learned that in a trip — and in life — you can’t take all the baggage that you have accumulated, but packing light isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
The best thing about books like this, I think, is its honesty. It helps that I knew Ally from her blog before, and her posts are just so real and honest that I knew her book would be nothing less. Packing Light has that same feel, the same kind of intimacy of a good friend who is telling you her story, and her adventures and you learn a thing or two from what she’s saying. I liked reading about how she and Sharaya prepared for the trip, and then she puts it in such a way that anyone could be going through the trip, and the preparations. Ally makes it seem like anyone can do what she and her friend did…and maybe anyone really can. Perhaps not the same kind of trip, but still a trip that has a potential to change your life. Then again, every trip has a potential to do that, right?
Needless to say, I loved Packing Light. I learned a lot while I was reading it, and I bet that if I reread it again, I will learn new things too. This is exactly the kind of book that I’d recommend to read if you’re at a crossroad in your life, if you’re having a life crisis, if you’re feeling a little lost and broken and you don’t want to be alone. But even if you’re not in any of those states, I still think Packing Light is a must-read book. Ally’s experiences teach us about what baggage can do in our life, and how important it is to let go.
If you want read more about Ally’s thoughts on living a life with less, you can visit her blog here. :)
Number of dog-eared pages: 98
Favorite dog-eared quote(s):
Baggage is like that. You pick it up one piece at a time, and it grows heavy over time, so you hardly even realize you’re carrying it. And the only way we know we’re holding it is if we go somewhere. As long as we stay stationary, we’ll never realize how full our arms, and our suitcases, really are. but when we decide to go somewhere, we discover that we can’t take it with us. (p.18)
That’s the thing with ideas. They start small, somewhere inside of you, and nothing will happen with them until you finally speak them out loud. (p. 30)
It isn’t until we’re honest about who we really are, and what we’re really feeling, that we give others a chance to show us how brave they think we are. It isn’t until we believe in ourselves to do something radical that we invite others to believe with us. And it isn’t until those we trust tell us we’re trustworthy and brave that we actually realize how trustworthy and brave we really are. (p. 40)
Unless I let go of what I was holding, I would never get the answers to my deepest questions: is God good? Can I trust Him? Will He provide for me? Should I jump into the waterfall? (p. 48)
I wonder if what we need, more than anything, is for someone to tell us that we’re going to “make it.” No matter where we are in our journey, or what has gone wrong, I wonder if what we really need are people who are waiting for us, without judgment, willing to say, “Do what you need to do. I’ll be here when you make it.” (p. 84)
I want to be the kind of write who is awake to the realities of heaven, but engaged in the realities of this world. (p. 95)
When you are living in your passion, people around you who were once sleeping will be woken up. That’s how you know. When we become who we were made to be, we come alive, but the people around us come alive, too. Listen carefully. Watch. Are people responding? Are they changing? When we become who God meant us to be all along, we leave a wake of His presence behind us. (p.130)
Open hands to receive gifts that come, enjoy them while they last, and give freely when it’s required. Open hands that live gracefully, with gratitude, with or without a toothbrush. (p. 190)
He’s waiting for us to do something beautiful, something courageous, something totally out of the ordinary.
Your whole life is an invitation. God isn’t going to tell you the “right” answer to force you to the right direction, because if He did, He would only be stealing the joy that comes when you pick yourself. You’ll face obstacles along the way, like we did. There will be breakdowns and sickness, and losses you can’t imagine before you start. But God isn’t punishing you. He’s on your side. He’s never left you. He’ll be with you the whole way. (p. 247)