69: A Heart Full of Memories

69: A Heart Full of Memories

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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A Heart Full of Memories

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.

~Mary Anne Radmacher

“There is no way I can live out of a suitcase!” I thought as we packed up our home in Venice, Italy. At fourteen years old, I couldn’t imagine leaving my friends, school, and all my “stuff” behind to travel the world full-time with my family.

At the time, we were all going in different directions — my sister and I were stressed and focused on school and were rarely home and my parents were focused on work. I was focused on my friends, the latest gadget, and the current fashions — always wanting to buy new clothes that “fit in.” Between doing my homework, texting, seeing my friends, and going to my activities, I rarely had time to spend with my family. It felt like we never saw each other even though we lived under the same roof.

That was when my mom had the idea of dropping everything to travel the world and reconnect as a family. One day she sat us down at the kitchen table and proposed the idea, which at the time seemed so crazy. Although I absolutely loved the idea of traveling the world freely, I couldn’t imagine leaving my life behind. After several months of planning, packing, and saying goodbye to our old lives, off we went to explore the world with no end date in sight!

That was over two years, thirty-eight countries, and four continents ago! During that time, we have realized how little we really need to be happy. We have learned how the most important moments in life aren’t when we get new gifts or things, but when we live happy moments with our family and friends. We know now that experiences are the best treasures.

As we travel, we barely carry anything with us except the essential things like clothes, a laptop, notebooks, and toiletries. We each carry a backpack and all five of us share two suitcases for clothes. After buying new trinkets or new clothes, we give some of our old outfits away to people in need and it makes us so happy to be able to give back wherever we can.

The small amount of baggage we have makes it easy to travel from country to country on planes, trains, buses, ferries, tuk tuks, etc. By traveling so light, we get to do more with less. We are free to explore countries easily and move around as much as we like. Many times we even make spontaneous travel plans and it is so easy to pack up our stuff and go!

At the beginning, it was difficult for us to get used to never having a closet, constantly changing hotel rooms, and never fully unpacking before we were back on the road. But over time we have learned to appreciate the value of having less — the freedom to live for experiences and the joy of traveling “light” in mind, body, and spirit.

Meeting new people and getting to know their cultures has been the best part of traveling for me. Instead of focusing on things, we love to focus on the people and connect with them. Wherever we go, we try to make as many friends as we can and feel like we have “family” in countries all over the world!

Many of the wonderful new friends we have made on our journey have opened our eyes to how lucky we are. We have met families in many parts of the world who live in small homes with no running water or on the streets escaping war and violence, yet they always have huge smiles and are willing to share with us.

Without all the distractions that we used to have, we have become connected as a family! I can honestly say that travel is the best way for a family to become close again, since it takes away all the distractions and reminds us of what is really important. We now know that experiences and memories are the most valuable things in life and that they can only be acquired when we let go of our need for possessions and focus on what really matters in life — enjoying our lives each day with the people we love.

So I would now say to my fourteen-year-old self, “I will gladly give up a home full of stuff to live out of a suitcase with a heart full of memories!”

~Kaitlin Murray, age 17

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