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Monk in the World Guest Post: Jean Wise

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jean Wise’s reflection “Travel Light.”

“Travel light,” was our tour guide’s instruction. We were soon heading to Germany with a group of fellow pilgrims to visit historic sites and cathedrals and would complete our journey by seeing the Passion Play in Oberammergau.  Excited, I was ready to pack.

I chuckled thinking about her advice about packing. I have tended to overpack on most of our vacations and dreaded facing this challenge once again. I stuffed my suitcases with “just in case I might need this” and “how can I get by without…” covering all the possible scenarios. What if I forgot something important?

My hubby and I have a contest each time we pack: whose bag will weigh the lightest?  I always lose.

But once home I began to pack with a new determination to travel lighter this time. Over the years I have learned a few tricks, but knew I still carried too much. I began to consider: What do I need to leave behind before my journey? What is essential to bring as we travel?  

We are all pilgrims on life’s journey too. And like in regular travels, many of us tend to overpack in life. Our burdens weigh us down, ruin the trip, and add to exhaustion and stress.

Especially these last two years. This trip to Germany was originally scheduled for May 2020 and we all know what happened that spring, cancelling many events including the Passion Plan in Oberammergau. 

Covid upended our lives. We began taking on the extra luggage we may not have gathered into our hearts in an earlier year. We packed our souls with heavy loads of insecurity, fear, anger, and anxiety. Disappointment and discouragement filled my emotional suitcase.

In these times of uncertainty and political upheaval, all sorts of emotions surround us. I gathered them up like a starving child seeking some type of comfort in whatever I conveniently find. I don’t want to be left without and vulnerable by not having what I needed. I overpacked.

Our culture doesn’t make this practice of traveling light easier either. The world tells us that life would be better and even perfect if we had more, did more, were more. Home improvement shows highlight perfect homes styled in 60 minutes while stirring up desires within us for new gadgets and just the right appearance for others to see. Advertisements to buy, buy, buy because we don’t have or are not enough scream at us on every device. 

How do we learn to travel light? I have started this year as a monk in the world to ask two basic questions: What is overloading my heart? What is essential to carry with me? 

I begin with silence and stillness, listening to what is present, presently within me. I pay attention to all the emotions, especially those that like to control and be bossy, like fear. I have learned that “not being good enough” likes to hide in the dark crevices out of the light of love. Worries and disappointment sneak in, hindering my walk. Becoming aware and attentive to what I have picked up and packed is the first step in setting those heavy burdens aside.

I name the emotions. Welcome them. Then bid them goodbye. I intentionally choose not to carry them in my life’s luggage. I find writing them out in my journal and spending time in prayer strengthens my resolve to set them aside.

The next key questions become: what are my essentials? What are most important items to carry my soul’s suitcase?

Rest. Peace. Love. Gratitude. Kindness.

I assure I have the sense of my mission/calling in life tucked in. I add my deep desire to learn and continue to grow. Don’t forget the spiritual rhythms that draw us closer to God.

I save space to hear God’s voice and my own, too. I have the choice and have chosen to trust God and live without the things that I don’t really need. This is not always easy and I find I need the reminder every day to travel light.

If we pack our hearts with our essentials, we really won’t have room for other less important things, especially the burdens we aren’t supposed to carry.

What is overloading your heart right now? Take the time to assess how heavy your heart is, what your essentials are and remember to travel light.

Jean Wise is a writer and speaker at retreats, gatherings, and seminars. She is a spiritual director and Deacon for her local church. Find out more at her blog: and connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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