A Reformed Packaholic

I am frantically packing for Christmas holidays back home in Portland, Oregon, and shocker of shockers, I have actually learned how to pack light! Backpacking around Eastern Europe has reformed this packaholic. Something about lugging everything on your back for six weeks teaches you quickly the powers of traveling light – no waiting for checked luggage to appear at the airport, the freedom to quickly exit the trains and navigate inexpensive public transportation to the hostel, and the ease of carrying one backpack up the ubiquitous flights of stairs found in all European budget accommodations (the only elevator I encountered was in Vienna).

As I throw clothes and toiletries into my carry-on suitcase, I ask myself a simple question: “Will I use this item daily while I am in Portland?” If the answer is no, then I don’t pack it. As simple as that! No more “I might go skiing on Mt. Hood, so I should pack every scarf and pair of gloves I own” or “It’s a vacation, I’ll pack the twenty books I’ve been meaning to read!” If I decide to go skiing, I’ll borrow wraps from my parents and rent the skis. (Besides, there’s always that uncertainty – will my body allow me to go skiing?)  Realistically, I’ll be so busy seeing old friends, playing board games with my family, and visiting nieces and nephews in Seattle that I won’t have time to miss my books or slip up to the mountain. And I’m not flying to Siberia – I can always purchase an item I discover is indispensible.

“But what about all those Christmas gifts?” you ask. Simple. Stuff a small empty duffel bag into your luggage. If I can’t fit all my gifts into my suitcase, I can always fill the duffel bag with my clothes and check it on the flight home. As a last resort, the post office now offers flat rate boxes, as well as the book shipping rate. Much cheaper than checking a second bag.

The holidays shouldn’t be about stuff anyways. It is about seeing my family, nieces and nephews, long-lost high school friends and rediscovering why I love my hometown so much. Portland has enough microbreweries, museums, holiday festivities, and outdoor activities that I will never long for that never-ending reading pile.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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