My wife Alexis and I recently spent an amazing month in southern India. We discovered along the way that it was not really a vacation but more of a journey, the distinction being subtle but quite profound. Here is the first of many things we learned while traveling there:


We had packed one suitcase for the both of us that had contained what we thought were vital necessities for a month in India. It had included clothes, shoes, mosquito repellant, electronic cords, toiletries, and a whole lot of other items that we thought for sure we couldn’t possibly live without.

Unfortunately, British Airways lost our baggage and couldn’t find it for several days. By the time it was finally tracked down at the Delhi Airport, we were 1200 miles away in southern India. It had been impounded by Customs there and the only way we could retrieve it was to fly back to Delhi to claim it, and that just wasn’t an option. Instead we decided to let it go and get over it, and we would pick it up on our way back home to the US a month later.

Initially we were shocked that we would be without all the things that we thought we needed for our travels. Also mixed in with this emotion was a small measure of panic, a dash of annoyance and a pinch of anger. This was a trip of a lifetime and how on earth were we going to survive without all our stuff???

This could have put a serious dent in our experience of India until we realized that all the things that were in the suitcase were just that, simply “things.”

We shopped for some clothing and a few toiletries, which ended up being less than half of what was in the suitcase that we had thought was so essential for our trip. Instead of trying to replace our stash of western stuff we instead bought Indian styles, including shalwar kameez and dhotis. By doing so, we ended up creating a lovely and friendly way to meet people because we were showing respect for their culture. We would never have experienced that had we not lost our suitcase.

Metaphorically speaking, it was an illuminating experience to have traveled all around India without any “baggage”.

It got me thinking about how often we human beings feel that we “need” things in our personal and professional lives. We say things like, “I need this promotion”, “I need this car”, “I need to make more money.”

Although achieving any of these goals would indeed enhance our lives, need is not the operative word here. To me, “needing” things suggests a secret kind of fear that who I am isn’t worthy unless I have the stuff I don’t have.

In reality, replacing “need” with “want” releases us from the fear of lack – of being without. It’s hard to create a feeling of abundance or plenty if we constantly live in fear that we don’t have enough.

As our trip unfolded, we quickly realized that being without our bag in India wasn’t an issue at all. It didn’t get in the way of our loving and enjoying all our experiences. In fact, it became one of the comic highlights of our trip, the story of the miscreant suitcase. We just had to give up being needy.