After a glorious semester in Italy spent basking in ancient architecture, engorging myself on countless afternoon gelatos, and, most importantly, living with just a suitcase of clothes and random belongings, I came home and did something a bit unexpected.
Instead of being excited with the reunion between myself and my closet full of clothes, I felt the exact opposite. I rebelled. I opened up my big swinging closet doors and instantly felt the weight of dozens of shirts, sweaters, pants and shoes upon my shoulders- shirts, sweaters, pants and shoes that were… not needed, not wanted, not used, and not conducive to the idea that I might head off on European adventures again in the future.
Because that was definitely my plan.
It was part of my reverse culture shock after study abroad. I refused to turn on my old cell phone for several days, avoiding both normal life and my friends from back home. I listened to all my Italian music CDs 24/7 trying to recreate the vibe of the previous months. I emailed with all my new study abroad friends, reminiscing the good times. And I cleared out my room, feverishly dumping anything and everything I felt like wasn’t useful or worthwhile. Bags, boxes and bins of things all got the cut.
Now it’s not like I was a fashion queen or girly girl of any sorts, but I also wasn’t someone who was concerned with my over-accumulation of clothes and things in general. But at this point in time, I purged like I had never purged before. And it felt freeing.
I’m sure part of this had to do with my want to feel control over my life and situation when all I really wanted was to be thousands of miles away from home still. Another part was definitely the fact that, and I remember saying it out loud:
“I lived for the past few months with nothing but this one suitcase of clothes. And I was fine. I don’t need all of this stuff.”
So that was what I told my family, while inside, it went a little more like this:
“I lived for the past few months with nothing but this one suitcase of clothes. And I was fine. I don’t need all of this stuff. And I definitely don’t need it because I plan to get my butt back to Europe as soon as possible!”
So two things were happening at this time in my life:
I planned to travel more, and I realized that I could live with far fewer things in my life (which would in turn open myself up to being able to travel more and not feel weighed down).
And that’s how this all began, really. My future travels around the world, my obsession with living life with only what I need, the seed that would eventually grow into Her Packing List– it all began when I returned home from my semester in Italy nearly 11 years ago. That’s how travel completely changed my relationship with clothes and belongings, for the better.