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Essays by Karen Anderson: Traveling Light

Illustration by Kacie Brown

When I was 23 years old, I went to Europe for the first time with some women friends. None of us had much money but one of us had a book promising we could live on “Five Dollars a Day.” We also chose Icelandic Airlines because it was the cheapest.

What we didn’t skimp on was clothes. Each of us had a huge suitcase with enough outfits to last all summer. We started out in London — where we looked very stylish — but by the time we left for Paris, lugging our enormous suitcases onto the ferry, then onto the train, then across cobbled streets to a hotel, we knew what we didn’t need.

So, without speaking any French, we somehow arranged to have our suitcases shipped to the Luxembourg Airport — where our Icelandic flight would depart in August. Watching my bag bump up a wobbly old escalator, I was sure I’d never see it again.

But I set that worry aside and grabbed my new backpack and a Eurail pass. It was a grand adventure and whatever I wore, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter when I got home either and has hardly mattered since.

I even got my huge suitcase back in Luxembourg, but I already knew I didn’t need it. I had learned the lesson of traveling light, even when I wasn’t traveling.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.