Three years ago I quit my job, moved out of my apartment and sold all of my things to go on a year-long road trip with my friend Sharaya. Inspired by the story of the Rich Young Ruler from the Gospels, we decided to see what would happen if we gave up everything to chase what we believed God had called us to do. Would He provide for us? We wondered.
This is the story of the first time we accepted a dinner invitation from strangers.
The dinner with Sean and Eva started off as any event with perfect strangers might: awkwardly. But once Eva had offered us drinks and we were all planted comfortably on the living room couches, the conversation started flowing. It wasn’t long before we felt like old friends.
“So let me get this straight,” Sean said. “You girls just decided that you didn’t want full-time jobs anymore, so you quit to go on this road trip?”
He laughed. We were grinning.
“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty much.”
We tried to explain from the beginning. We talked about how discouraged we were feeling before our trip—like we were living someone else’s expectations for our lives instead of doing what we were made to do. We talked about the restlessness we felt, and about realizing the only reason we hadn’t pursued the dreams we had for our lives was because, somewhere along the way, we picked up the lie that it wasn’t possible for them to happen.
We felt like we were letting stuff get in the way.
“I felt like my life was just sort of happening to me,” I explained. “Like I was just sitting back and watching it pass by. I wanted to do something, anything, whatever it took to start living again, and stop spectating.”
“It’s like a jump start,” Sharaya said.
We shared openly, and Sean and Eva listened intently as we enjoyed thai spring rolls for an appetizer, some kind of curry dish for dinner, and coconut ice cream with sliced bananas for dessert.
“What do you guys need?” Eva asked, standing up to clear dessert plates.
“Nothing,” Sharaya said, putting her hand on her stomach.
“I’m perfectly content,” I agreed.
“I don’t just mean now,” Eva said. “I mean in general. What do you need? For the next six months of travel? What can we do for you? How can we help you?”
I thought about it, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Sharaya mentioned something about referrals for venues where we could book shows, and Sean said he knew a guy in Utah—Peter something—who he would connect us with. But me? I couldn’t think of anything.
In fact, I pictured our car parked out on the street, filled to the brim with everything from clothes to food to windshield wiper fluid, and I wondered what we would run out of in the next six months. I pondered what we would wish we had two weeks from now, or two months from now, or by the time we rounded the corner toward home.
It occurred to me that this is part of the difficulty of packing light.
You have to plan for something you can’t possibly understand yet. You have to know what cold feels like before you understand your need for a jacket.
If you’ve never felt hungry, you don’t understand your need for food. A person who knows nothing about London wouldn’t consider that rain boots might be helpful, and a traveler who has never been to Costa Rica in the winter wouldn’t know that, wherever you’re going in the city, you should take an umbrella with you in the afternoon. You have to feel a need before you can know it—and plan accordingly.
As for us, we hadn’t felt many needs yet. We hadn’t allowed ourselves to. We’d provided everything we needed for ourselves, and then some. We hadn’t felt hungry, wet, cold, tired, or panicked—yet. That would come later. So right then, we didn’t know what we needed.
This is the irony with needs. We all have them, but we generally don’t discover them until we go without for a while. We discover what we need when we live without things. This is part of the value of traveling and packing light as we travel.
Sometimes it’s good for us to need things and not have them.
Other times it’s good to have people like Sean and Eva who know what it feels like to need something, and who are willing to meet our need. To me, that’s the most tangible picture of compassion and grace—people sharing resources, even when they don’t know us, even if they’re not totally sure what our journey is about.
It’s not an obligation. It comes without expectations.
We have a need, and they give out of their abundance.
The more I think back about Sean and Eva, and the more I let my memory pass over all the places we visited, I can’t help but think: If we weren’t willing to let go of things we needed, we never would have gone on a trip. But if people weren’t willing to see our need and meet it, we never would have made it back home.
What do you need? What could you give up to discover what you really need?
For more of our story, you can grab a copy of my book Packing Light, which is available for the first time this week wherever books are sold.
Photo Credit: anna donlan , Creative Commons