I love Bag Lady by Erykah Badu, especially when she beautifully sings “PACK LIGHT” and I do think that when it comes to life in general, practicing non-hoarding is healthier and more interesting. However, after many years of travel, yoga and being an advocate for leaving it all behind and starting over, I have refreshed my position. Here are 3 things that are worth packing heavy:
Black girl hair products
Until the world evolves and recognizes that not everyone is white, white-adjacent or striving to align to whiteness, Black girls are advised to bring their mobile hair salons. I like to spoil myself with a deep conditioning, regular shampoos, a clay mask, some Senegalese twists, the works. It helps me appreciate my curls and is a routine that maintains my connection to my culture while living abroad. It’s a shame that the global world literally doesn’t even acknowledge the beauty and complexity of the Black/Afro curl pattern insomuch that for the most part we cannot just walk into an average salon to get our hair done like many other women in the world. While we wait for the world to evolve, packing heavy for the sake of protecting the curl pattern is literally the move for me.
Spirit maintenance products
For some people it’s the heavy Bible or Bhagavad Gita with their journal from their favourite bookstore. For others, it’s the 5 kilos worth of sage and frankincense. For me, it’s pictures of my family, Nubian musk, love letters from my mother, birthday cards from my best friends and aunties, incense, and crystals. It’s worth packing because I know my spiritual rituals help me feel grounded and safe. When traveling or living abroad, it’s easy to feel a bit lost or disconnected from that sense of home. There’s no shame in packing those things that give you comfort, especially when you want to take your people with you. These alters, sacred spaces, rituals are grounding and should be carried with us as long as they fortify strength and ancestral re-memory.
I know, I know. Kindles and gizmos exist. I am definitely your analog girl living in the digital world. I am happy to share that I have definitely tapped into the digital book lifestyle. However, my books took up 40% of the weight during packing. If you’re like me, they aren’t just “books”. They are testaments to my stages, my becoming.
“This book got me through that one break-up, this one made me laugh until I shuddered loneliness away, this one radicalized me, that one helped me forgive men.” And they’re real, I can hold them and see my handwriting from 2014. They prompt me to remember different iterations of my identity and I have found that my evolution is definitely worth remembering.
So after all, I have learned that maybe life is not all about ‘packing light’. It’s choosing with discernment what feels good to carry. If you have the privilege of choice, that is. Living abroad means that you’re likely leaving behind a great deal. There’s no need to force yourself to need less of what makes you feel beautiful, spiritual, or connected. Maybe one day, I’ll let it all go but I want to do it without abandoning myself, without an ounce of meanness or regret.
For now, I’ll live with a little healthy weight on me. Like one of my favourite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote:
This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.