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3 questions with Allison Vesterfelt

Thursday, September 5, 2013



(I had an opportunity earlier this week to talk with Allison Vesterfelt, author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage, about her new book.  Don't forget to leave your own "packing light" stories on Facebook or Twitter to enter to win her book.  Only two days left to enter!) 

1.  The idea behind Packing Light is to let go of what is holding you back from a more inspired and purposeful life. You did this in a literal way when you sold your belongings and hit the road. But how does the idea apply to people who are not compelled to sell everything and  move, but are still hungry for a more inspired life?

This is a great question, and maybe one of the most important concepts for this whole project. When I sold all of my things to go on this trip, I knew I was going to write a book, but I thought the book would be mostly about the road trip itself — and what it was like to get rid of all my clothes and furniture. I was curious to see what would hap
pen if we tried to live with less stuff, and assumed we would have some funny and entertaining stories to share from the road.

I was right, but what I couldn’t have understood before I left was how letting go of physical stuff acted as a metaphor for the more important lessons I learned — what it’s like to put down emotional and spiritual baggage I was carrying around. I had no idea how heavy that baggage was, and didn’t even realize I was carrying it until I did something out of the ordinary, until I went on a trip.


Going on a “trip” looks different for everybody. I was single and unattached, and my journey was really specific to my circumstances and personality. But depending on the stage of life you’re in, your journey will likely be different. I have friends who have downsized their home, or gone on a mission trip, or ended a relationship, or simply cleared out their garage or closet and they’ve found the same emotional and spiritual freedom I found. The important thing is that your “trip” takes you outside of your normal routine, outside of your comfort zone. This is the only way to gain new perspective.

And there is no way to go on a trip without shedding some baggage. We only have so much room in our suitcase. We can’t take everything with us. We have to choose what to keep and what to leave behind. Everybody has to let go of some things in order to go where they want to go, or where God has called them.

The question I would ask is this: What do you need to give up?

2.  As I read your book, I’m intrigued by the role of Facebook and a blog in your journey. Certainly this is a cultural shift in the past decade, and sets your story a part from others of its genre, such as “Prayer and the Art of Volkswagon Maintenence” or “A Walk Across America.” Could you talk a little more about how technology influenced your trip? Did it help you perform? Would you do anything differently?

Facebook played such a huge role in our trip, I can’t even fathom what it would have looked like if we had done it without Facebook. I think the biggest difference is that, even though we connected with (and stayed with and ate with) “strangers” along the way, none of them really felt like strangers because most of them were friends of friends, or friends of family members. So although there were many times when we introduced ourselves to a person for the first time when we were standing on their doorstep, suitcases in hand, we felt remarkably connected to those people.

What’s interesting about that to me is that Facebook itself didn’t invent that connection. The idea of “mutual friends” and being only a few people removed from everybody on the planet, and the sense that the world is “small” exists without Facebook, but technology just allows for us to experience and notice this reality in a way we might not notice it otherwise.

I know some people focus on the dangers of meeting people online, and I don’t deny those exist, but connecting with people online is also my entire life. It’s become really normal for me. (It’s how I met my husband).

Facebook made it easy to contact people at the last minute, to change plans, to stay connected with people back home, and to share our journey with others. It made it easy for others to engage with what we were doing, and so it was fun to see how our story what was impacting other people. Again, this is all happening whether Facebook exists or not, but it’s fun that technology allows us to see it if our eyes are open for it.

Obviously, there were downfalls to having Facebook too. It acted a little bit like a security blanket for us, which makes me wonder: What if we packed light with social media? Could we have done this trip without Facebook? My answer is yes, but it would have been a very different trip.

www.packinglightbook.com

3. 
When I began reading, I knew just enough of your story to know the boyfriend in the book did not have the same name as your current husband :) I wonder if you would talk a little more about that. You are open about your former relationship, both in the book and in your online magazine. What is it like to look back on that time now that you are married? How has your husband supported your writing about that part of your life?

Someone asked my husband recently if it was awkward for him to read about my ex-boyfriend and his response was, “No way. I won.” So those are his feelings about it. :) And he is the most supportive person I have ever known, so he is just 100% on my team in every way, and wants to see me succeed more than just about anything else in the world.

Writing about my past relationship while I was already married was really healing for me, actually, and I’m so thankful my husband gave me space to do it without acting jealous. Not only would it be really hard to tell the story of Packing Light without including my relationship with Ben, but I think writing about it the relationship helped me to see myself and my circumstances more objectively, and that insight has freed me up to love my husband even more than I already did.

It’s hard to explain, but I think anytime there’s an awkward situation or circumstance, or just something painful, our instinct is to cover it up. We don’t want to talk about it or write about it. We’d rather just pretend its not there. But pretending like we don’t have the baggage we have is the worst way to deal with it. That is exactly how we end up collecting more and more of it over time. The only way to shed our heavy baggage is to wake up to the fact we have it, and consciously decide to set it down.


1 comment:

  1. Very cool!

    I am intrigued about this book. I'm slowly plodding through "One Thousand Gifts", and once (if ever) that's complete, I think this one is next on the list.

    ReplyDelete

 

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