We Are Suitcase People (and Experts)

The suitcase that lives in my closet is well-loved and worn. One of the zippers is broken, the handle is fraying, and the wheel is a little bent. It’s seen many airport conveyer belts, countries, cities, and hostels. It’s been prayed over, squashed, beat up, and had funny blue liquid leaked all over it.

Despite all of it, it still is dependable.

It’s been to Russia, China, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, and El Salvador. Dragged across railroad tracks in Sibiu, Romania. Put in the backs of pickup trucks to Guatemala City. Lugged from one terminal of Shanghai Pudong to the other. Filled to the brim in Beijing after 50 pounds of winter clothes arrived with two beloved professors from my college who were there as guest speakers for an education conference. It’s carried more clothes, hopes and dreams than I could possibly think of.

It’s been my constant in a world of transition.

But… every time it comes out, my heart hurts just a little bit more. My suitcase means hellos and goodbyes. It signals a beginning and an end of something bright and beautiful. It carries hopes, dreams, shattered expectations, and passion. It means endless days of packing and unpacking and repacking (after weighing it and realizing it’s 5 pounds over the weight limit). So many emotions with one simple suitcase.

I have a love-hate relationship with my suitcase. The restless wanderer in me gets excited. New adventures, new cultures, new food, and new passport stamps. How many more countries can I visit and explore before I no longer live on this side of the globe? However, the part of me that longs for a life of stability groans inwardly as the packing begins. Change, transition, culture shock, and new everything. 50 pounds… and not an ounce over for fear of paying $100 extra (thanks nameless airline).

What can and can’t I bring on the plane? What’ll get my bag searched or an extra glance in the security line? (Note: Don’t try and carry-on brownie or cake mix. The powder sets off every alarm and warrants a search… every time. Oh, and so will those candles that you desperately wanted to bring – apparently, they look like something rather explosive and suspicious). The stability freak in me hates my suitcase and everything it means.

My suitcase is that best friend I can depend on when everything else gets a little hairy. It’ll always be in my closet, waiting for my next great adventure. It’ll always be there when I need to get away, for a week, a month, or even a couple of years. These two years in China have taught me that I was born for this life, a life lived out of a suitcase as much as I love-hate it. While I never know how long I’ll be in one place (it might be two years or it might be ten), I always know that my suitcase will be there reminding me of where I’ve been and where I’m going and where I ultimately call my home.

My suitcase reminds me that I am a sojourner on this earth. I was not created for this temporal earth in this temporal body. My bags are packed, and I’m trekking through this life, headed for an Eternity spent with my Savior.

My suitcase is loved and worn. My suitcase is a constant and a representation of a life in transition. No matter how much I love or hate it, it’ll always be there, beckoning me outward, onward, and upward, feeding the wanderlust within.

When you consider your suitcase, what memories, thoughts, or emotions well up? As an expat (or a repat), what does your suitcase symbolize?

Photo Credit: pamhule via Compfight cc


  1. Annalisa June 9, 2015

    I recently carried on 2 pounds of Guatemalan coffee with no problem.  I guess that wasn’t as risky as brownie mix…

    When I see suitcases, I just feel tired.  I don’t like to pack.  My mother–yes, I’ll be 30 next week–always packs my bags when I’m in the States.  On one hand, it’s a labor of love as she packs lots of little pairs of shoes for me to take back to the kids in the program, and on the other, I jokingly remind myself that her constant question “When are you going to move out?” played an important and timely role in where I am today…which is why after a couple weeks of my presence, she is preparing to ship me out again.

  2. Sue Eenigenburg June 10, 2015

    I was just blogging about this as we are in the midst of another transition.  Here is where I wrote about my longing to put my suitcase away for awhile as well as the blessing of being reminded to focus on my eternal home:  https://screamsinthedesert.wordpress.com/

  3. Elizabeth June 10, 2015

    I laughed at your story of cake mix and candles!! The same thing happened to me! On our survey trip, I was bringing cornmeal and canned Parmesan cheese to a friend. Luggage limits were tight, and I ended up putting those food gifts in my carryon. Big mistake! They look like explosives powders, and I was stopped at EVERY turn. Padded down personally at each stop, luggage opened and swabbed at each checkpoint. Lesson learned! Never carry that on again!

  4. Shelly June 13, 2015

    Elizabeth, your story reminds me of a 2-week journey back to the US for a professional conference  (and some visits with friends along the way in different cities). Every leg of the journey in the US I had a TSA note in my checked bag. I shopped for groceries at the beginning of the trip. The saddest thing was to find my long-time suitcase wide open on the baggage claim conveyor belt and my prize groceries and clothes falling out of it. Yikes! Reflecting on that, I think my biggest grief was the loss of the suitcase. It had been on at least 12 trans-Pacific flights (and more within Asia) with no problem. The replacement lasted 4 trips before its first injury. Duct tape held it together for a few more. Finally I bought a new piece of luggage.

    Packing is like writing – a lot of revisions are needed to follow the guidelines (weight limits) and yet express myself in what makes the cut to stay in the suitcase. What was cut can sometimes be saved for another day of packing (or writing, as the case may be).

    I’m already beginning to prepare myself for that task and I have 8 weeks yet.

    1. MaDonna June 14, 2015

      Packing is like writing – a lot of revisions are needed to follow the guidelines (weight limits) and yet express myself in what makes the cut to stay in the suitcase. What was cut can sometimes be saved for another day of packing (or writing, as the case may be).

      Love this analogy! YES, exactly!

      I took a couple of bags of baking powder…of course, that bag got checked.  Another time, I was in China traveling back to the US with my 9 month old. The security began looking for a DVD. The lady told me it was on the camera and demanded that I give it to her. It was the strangest thing, I’m holding my 9 month old and trying to figure out what in my suitcase looked like a DVD – I hadn’t pack any. Finally, they let me go. It was not a good start to a long trip….

  5. Julie June 24, 2015

    This post finds me wishing that I had one suitcase that carried so many memories. I’ve switched too many times 🙂

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