What Do You Mean, “Only One Bag?”

Sam Mayhew
January 8, 2017

Hour 1:

I’m staring incredulously at my overflowing closet. The clothes, scarves, and shoes I used to look at with satisfaction are now glaring back at me, daring me to try to fit them all in. It’s a standoff in the worst kind of way. With almost everything else taken care of, this is the last major obstacle standing between Spain and me. Yes, there have been tons of random details to attend to, but those look like bunny hills compared to the Everest of this task. For months, I’ve been casually wondering how I’m going to pack my life into a single suitcase, carry-on bag, and backpack. Now that the moment’s finally here, it’s triggering a minor existential crisis.

What was I thinking last March when I decided to uproot my life for a full semester? I’ve been envisioning boarding that plane to Spain for months, unencumbered by anything… I didn't fully realize just how unencumbered I would be. One suitcase to live out of for four and half months… It seems a tad impossible. And, in a lot of ways, leaving behind everything I know and love in the U.S. does, too; hence, the aforementioned crisis.

Hour 2:

Well, it’s better to be organized and overwhelmed than unorganized and overwhelmed, so I start sifting. I’m not going to lie; packing has never been my strong suit. But, packing for an adventure I couldn’t fully plan out if I tried turns out to be an entirely different task. Item after item, I scrutinize. “What if” after “what if” plagues me until I find myself rationalizing the need to bring a shirt I haven’t worn in two years. I’ve studied for finals with more enthusiasm and efficiency than this.

Hour 3:

Exasperated, I throw two jackets I had been desperately clutching to the side. There’s no way to do this perfectly. And as a slightly manic overachiever, it pains me to admit that. But isn’t that the point of this entire adventure? No pre-made path to take, simply follow a few important guidelines and take it from there. Pack light, pack practical, and pack for the proper seasons. After that, it will be what it will be.

Who knows, I could get into running in the Parque del Oeste (Google mapped to be 15 min’s away) and need more workout clothes. I could meet people equally passionate about skiing and we could venture to the Swiss Alps for the ride of our lives. I could even find myself bemoaning the fact that I don’t have the perfect pair of comfy pants to go camel riding in. Or maybe, I could change my whole style and end up laughing at the ridiculous collared shirt I brought. What’s feasible and unfeasible to happen? Who exactly will I be in a few months? I certainly don’t know. And the best part is, I don't need to just yet.

The beauty of this entire adventure started from taking that initial leap to sign on with IES Abroad and leave my home in Maryland and Penn State for something a little unknown and a lot exciting. So, I’m making a resolution right now to keep taking leaps of faith with new things, people, and places throughout this entire semester. I hope I find myself doing things I can’t even begin to imagine the need to pack for. I’m ecstatic about this opportunity to experience the unforeseen.

Hour 47+:

I’M DONE. Now, if only I could get the zipper to close...

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Sam Mayhew

<p>My name is Samantha Mayhew, and I&rsquo;m in my third year at Penn State studying Advertising, Spanish and Psychology. I love all things blue, have a penchant for unusual vocabulary, and get questionably competitive when playing soccer. I also get excited way too easily. I&rsquo;ll never apologize for the latter, so follow my contemplations, explorations and trials and tribulations across Madrid. I promise to attempt holding back on the exclamation points.</p>

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