Lessons I Learned From Lost Luggage

“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
― Ron White

I was on the road for eight days when my bag finally arrived to the city of Fethiye, Turkey.  It was supposed to be at the airport when I landed five days earlier and had even spent a couple of those not even showing up in the airline’s tracking system.

As I put my long awaited trip on hold for nearly a week, I had plenty of time to think about my situation.  Instead of getting bummed out about the whole thing, I decided to focus on what could be gained from the experience. Here are the lessons I learned as a result.

1. Even if it means lugging some extra stuff through security, take the essentials with you on the plane.

I’ll start on a practical note. When I was changing planes in London, I decided to lighten up my carry on bag a little as I was tired of pulling out the extra stuff for security.

Normally, I would have used a second bag or something to carry extra clothes, toiletries, and my camera gear.  I broke my usual protocol and spent two or three days without the essentials as a result. You can be sure that this will not happen again.

2. No matter how nice your stuff may be, in the end it’s just stuff.

I spent a lot of time over the last few months prepping my gear to have the right amount of stuff without overloading my bag.  The bag is still more of a load than I prefer, but I decided that the amazing little laptop I am using and the camera gear was worth the extra pounds.

Yet as I was confronted with the idea of going through the four and a half months of this journey without any of the stuff that I had packed, I was reminded that it’s all just stuff and is replaceable.  I had my health, my passport, and a positive outlook…the rest was just stuff.

People would ask me how I could let go of everything I had when I was in Memphis to follow my dream, and I would tell them that as I looked around my house I saw nothing there more valuable to me than my dreams.

We Americans are as conditioned as perhaps any society has ever been that we need lots of stuff to be happy.  Companies sell us on the idea through billboards, commercials, and tons of other advertising every day, and then there are other businesses ready to help us finance our way to happiness.  The worst part of it all is that as we accumulate more and more things, we eventually fill up the space that should be allocated for actually living our lives.

3. You don’t really care about your stuff when you run off the side of a mountain at just over 6000 feet.

I could have easily spent my time lamenting that my bag was missing, but I decided that experiencing the area around me was a significantly better use of my time.  I inquired about paragliding at one of the local mountains and was told that it would cost about $80, so I grabbed money I had set aside for my Bucket List items and booked a slot later that afternoon.

As I rode up the mountainside in the back of large truck with a lady from the Ukraine, a guy from Colombia, and several local Turks, I was continually excited about the prospect of once again soaring through the air in a new manner (at least for me).  I’ve floated in a balloon, flown in big planes and small planes, dove out of a plane, and jumped off a platform with a bungee cord, but this was to be my first time running off the side of a mountain.

From 6000 feet up, the view is amazing.  You can see for miles in almost every direction, and the view from this mountain was especially picturesque.  I got strapped in tandem with the pilot and then we ran a few steps and you could feel the chute fill with air as we took off. I settled into a very comfortable cradle type seat and a thirty minute ride of amazing was under way.

Paragliding is bit like combining hot air ballooning with the last parts of the skydiving experience.  We caught some nice updrafts that propelled us upward and then we would coast along for a while.  There is something remarkable about watching someone who can obviously see what you cannot.  The pilot could read the wind patterns from numerous variables that I was not attune to, and seeing him navigate us through the air was like watching someone put brush to canvas and create beautiful art.

Towards the end of the ride, he asked how I was feeling and if I was up for doing some tricks.  I told him that I would love it. In what seemed like one fluid motion, he told me to hold on and then pulled hard right into a series of spins that inflicted enough G force to simultaneously turn my stomach and nearly buckle my knees.  After more circles than I can accurately piece together, he yanked us out of the spin for a double bobbing maneuver that was then followed by a shorter round of hard spins.  And for the record, I loved every second of it.

The most astounding thing was that it took hours before I gave any real thought to my luggage and the future parts of my trip.  I chose to make the most of the now instead of worrying about the past energy spent planning or the future uncertainty that was to come.

The truth is that we can choose to live this way all the time, even without the experience of a 6000 foot mountain to run off.  There is a world full of opportunities all around us if we are willing to live in the now rather than seeking happiness in our stuff or worrying about the future.

The question is, what is holding you back from pursuing your dreams and living in the now?

*** The images attached to the post are taken with a point and shoot Sony camera I bought in case my stuff never got found.  It served me well until my trusty Canon gear arrived in Fethiye. ***

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