Travel creates clutter. There are suitcases to unpack, clothes and toiletries to be put away, papers associated with travel details, souvenirs accumulated. Getting ready for the trip can be hard enough, making sure you pack all you think you’ll need during your time away. But, unpacking and restoring order post travel is much more difficult. After all, the excitement and anticipation of a trip can motivate packing. But, what provides motivation for unpacking?
Why has my brain landed on this subject? I’m just back from the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to New Mexico for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was a magical, spiritual and fun experience beyond words. Therefore, re-entry has been VERY difficult. I didn’t want to leave the pleasure and freedom I experienced during that week with Bob, my husband, and Pattie Toad, my best friend since age 16. So, as is my habit when I’m struggling emotionally, I’ve been watching myself navigate this uncomfortable re-entry process.
I could have just gone to ground — dropped my suitcase, backpack, purse and hit the sofa, ignoring the need to unpack. If I had followed the direction of my feelings (sadness, anger, irritability), that’s just what I would have done. But, instead I used my swirling feelings to motivate action to resist parking on the sofa indefinitely and kept thinking about how much better I would feel when I was unpacked and really home (based on my memory of past experiences).
When you’re not unpacked, you aren’t home yet. You aren’t grounded in your current life. Your bags and associated papers hold the energy of the trip in place — a past event. Your space and your brain are cluttered with things and thoughts associated with the travel. It’s hard to be present, productive, back on track in your life and moving forward when the things around you keep you stuck in the past.
Over time I’ve developed the habit of unpacking and creating order within the first 24 hours of returning home. It helps me get grounded physically, mentally and emotionally. My work with clients has taught me that many people have a very different habit. They drop their suitcases and immediately launch back into their lives. Spewing suitcases take up residence in bedrooms and mail goes unopened. I’m sure it’s due to the ho hum, boring aspect of unpacking. But, I also wonder if part of the reason for not unpacking and fully landing back in real life is also a function of not planning enough time for re-entry.
The saving grace of my re-entry from my Albuquerque trip is that I scheduled a day off after we arrived back home. That day provided me with time to unpack and re-establish basic order in my home which made it possible to work through my unsettled feelings and prepare myself to step back into the roles and responsibilities I’d set aside while on vacation. When I did return to work the following day, not only was my home in pretty good shape, but so too was my mood and attitude.
So, having just experienced the benefit of my day off post balloon-heaven, I offer you this travel strategy to prevent physical, mental and emotional post-travel clutter.
Strategy: Schedule an extra day off following a trip, especially a major trip, to unpack, clear travel clutter, and get grounded in your life. Make unpacking and grounding yourself a priority on that day.