5 Midlife Lessons From Packing 1 Bag for 70 Days

This is a re-post from last year, when I first started blogging privately (The Hot Goddess site was created for a class I was taking and was not launched as a public site initially) as a midlife woman in her 60s. I was reminded of this post this week as I packed my bags for my move to Portugal. There’s a 2022 update at the end.


We all know the challenge of packing for a trip when you’re trying to get everything into just one carry-on. When that one bag has to hold everything you’ll need for a 70-day trip around the world, in temperatures ranging from 30-100 degrees Fahrenheit, packing has to be strategic AF. Funny thing is, I realized that my five key packing pointers also are lessons for living.

1. Make a plan. First, think about what you want to do and see it in your head. Actually visualize yourself doing it. Then list on paper everything you’ll need to make it happen. Lay out everything on your list. Does it all look right? Is it all manageable? Do you need to make any adjustments? In life, it’s the people in your life that take up valuable space. Friends, family, lovers, partners. Do they fit with what you see yourself doing? Do they support your journey and make it easier? Do they add to or subtract from the picture you visualize in your head? If they’re not adding value to your vision, is it time to take them off your list?

2. Compartmentalize. Packing cubes allow you to organize and maximize what you pack in your bag by compartmentalizing everything. In life, compartmentalizing helps keep emotions, goals, and tasks organized and manageable. My father died at home. I found him and had to wake my mother and tell her. The very next work day I went to school and conducted parent-teacher conferences until 8pm. Heartbreak must be compartmentalized for me to continue to do what I need to do. It may look as if I’m cold and aloof, but I’m in survival mode, zipping away in little cubes the emotions that get in the way of what needs to get done. Of course, never opening them — or taking too long to — is not at all healthy and that’s not what I’m talking about. But separating them, closing them off until later so they don’t get sloppily mixed in with my other stuff until the time is right, keeps me focused. (2022 update: Compartmentalizing emotions may sometimes be necessary to get through certain situations, but this practice can be harmful to mental health.)

3. Keep your valuables on you, where you know where they are but no one else can see them. Jewels, credit cards, and passport stay on my body, tucked safely away from prying eyes and hands, in zippered pockets that I can keep an eye on. Similarly, I keep my soul’s valuable pieces secure with me as well. My love, trust, and respect are precious and irreplaceable. They are my inner riches, my wealth of spirit, and I make damn sure no fool or fraud is going to snatch up my goddess gold and misuse it.

4. Leave the small sh*t for last. When packing a bag, put in the larger, heavier items first, and then pack the small, light things around them. Just like in life, deal with the big stuff and save the little crap for later. Like they say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

5. Don’t make your bag too heavy. I crammed as much as I could into my one little carry-on bag. Everything on my list fit inside. It was quite the packing feat, actually. Then I tried to lift it. When you’re traveling solo you can’t count on anyone but yourself to carry your bag. You are solely responsible for lugging your own stuff throughout your solo journey, and there will be lots of bumpy, slippery, steep, long, winding roads to follow, cross, climb, and get lost on. You will struggle. You will be tired. You will hurt. And you will wonder, “WTF was I thinking when I thought I could do this?” In life, don’t make your load too heavy. Aim high, but set realistic, achievable goals. Don’t put so much on your plate that you can’t hold it to eat. Use your strength, but know your limits. Are you carrying dead weight? Carting around regret, anger, hurt feelings? Dump that sh*t and lighten your load.


Packing Up in 2022

So much for dumping stuff and lightening my load.

I said I was only taking two suitcases with me to my new home overseas. Technically, I am traveling with just two checked suitcases and a carryon bag. However, I’m also shipping four bags, including these huge duffel bags. I’m genuinely shocked at the quantity of stuff I packed after getting rid of so much. An antique and art auction house picked up some furnishings, and I’ve given away or donated to charity 11 truckloads of belongings. I was ruthless as I jettisoned and disposed of a lifetime of possessions.

There are things I will miss.


My house with a backyard garden and pond provided welcome respite.
My favorite “room” was the screened-in deck.
I took this photo through the screen.
My neighbor’s alpaca farm was a delight on my walks.
I bought this piano with my father before my son was born.
The skyline view from my balcony at the lakefront condo was one I never tired of.
I had front-row seats on the balcony for July 4th fireworks.
Full moon rising
Spectacular sunrises started my days.
Winter’s pastel palette over the frozen lake
The setting sun’s reflection set clouds and water ablaze.
Wednesday regattas were fun to watch.
Storm-watching was always entertaining.
This one from earlier this week was a little scary. Severe storms blow in fast and furious over Lake Erie.
One of the walking routes I loved so much
I delighted in the many vibrant and perfectly formed rainbows I saw from the balcony.
I recently saw my first sunset rainbow.

Goodbye City

In the Great Lake city 
There was a country house

And a baby grand piano in ebony
And a front porch for all to see

And a big backyard, deep and long
And a screened-in deck, a pond, and birdsong

And an alpaca farm down the road
And a city condo on the lake where time slowed

And a balcony offering a view sublime
And a sparkling, majestic urban skyline

And places and people who made a life
And endless memories of love…and some strife

Goodbye city
Goodbye country home
Goodbye baby grand
And front porch of stone
Goodbye yard and screened-in deck
Goodbye pond and alpacas I'd check
Goodbye condo that gave me a break
Goodbye my spectacular lake
Goodbye balcony with a view
And goodbye beautiful skyline too.

Goodbye people
And goodbye places
Goodbye Nobody, with your many faces.

Goodbye my love
And goodbye strife...

And HELLO to my wonderful new life.

~ The Hot Goddess


With apologies to the late writer Margaret Wise Brown, and to poets everywhere, for this complete butchering of Goodnight Moon.

The Hot Goddess will publish tomorrow’s Silent Saturday Solo Sojourn post, followed by Sunday Snarky Pie and Monday’s Midlife Made-Up Word posts, and then I will sign off for the remainder of September. I would love it if you checked back here in October when I’ll begin publishing from Portugal.


All images are my own.

The Hot Goddess

Instagram: retired_rewired_inspired


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32 comments

  1. How can you leave this beautiful place?!! For the backyard and skyline views alone I’d stay!!!! Lol 😂 wishing you good luck in your move to Portugal. I’m sure you’ll make home there just as beautiful as here. The photos are spectacular!!! See you in October.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Natalie, for some reason I’m getting so emotional for you! I can’t imagine how hard it is to say goodbye to so many things, places and people – while at the same time being so ecstatic about starting new in Portugal. I will be patiently waiting for your first post from your new home 😊 Viagens Seguras!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Muito obrigada, Sharon! I’ve been pretty emotional over here. You’re so right. It’s a bittersweet time now that goodbyes are imminent. I am excited, though. Thank you so much for your encouragement! ❤️

      Like

  3. Wow, wow, wow – love all of this. The life lessons hidden in the packing tips. The amazing pictures. The poem. I’m blown away by all you do – including giving away 11 truckloads of stuff. You truly are a goddess – beautiful in every way. Can’t wait to see where you land! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your house and especially that screened in porch. I am sure you will create something equally if not more beautiful at your new place!

    I also love the pics of Cleveland. I visited once, for a work trip and I thought the city was pretty cool. We went on a boat cruise one evening as a social activity, and when I saw your skyline pics I knew it was Cleveland even before I scrolled down to the Cleveland sign. Also, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a favourite memory (not part of the work trip, but I had brought my son and his gf along and we stayed an extra day to see the Rock Hall.) Thanks for sharing,

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  5. WOW!!!! tears are welling up, this was a gorgeous place and I know it must have been hard to say good by, but, the universe is holding out new amazing things for you, wishing you lots of love and blessings on your new journey. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an incredible post, Natalie! Inspiring, beautiful, poetic, reflective, informative… I cannot believe that the time has come for you to pack! I can only imagine how hard it was to fit your belongings into a few suitcases. I have been purging this year too, I know how hard it is. I commend you for letting go and wish you safe travels and many splendid adventures! That you will, of course, share with us. 🥳😊💖

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent key packing pointers. They could be printed and framed, especially when it comes to living.

    Thank you for sharing images of your beautiful home and city. I can already sense a feeling of nostalgia in your post and poem. Moving continents is no small feat. You’re going to miss the familiar: people, places & everything!! But it’s also one of the most daring and exciting things to do, in life… All the best, Natalie. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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