Love & Life Midlife Strategies

Travelling Light: When Giving Up Possessions Liberates Your Mind

Making a big life change becomes easier if you ditch the emotional and physical baggage, and travel light – in body and heart.

By Kay Newton

My three-year adventure in Zanzibar was about to come to an end. It was time for me to leave this paradise and begin a new chapter in my life. With two days to go, the messages from my acquaintances were clear: “I had better start packing!” Yet I knew I had no need to rush, I had done this many times before and it wouldn’t take long to pack a 23 kg suitcase.

My friends didn’t believe me. “Surely you must have accumulated lots of possessions, bought lots of memorabilia,” they said. The short answer was NO! Living in a two-roomed house and a minimalist lifestyle meant that keeping that which no longer served was not high on my priority list.

Not only were my friends convinced that I would be “challenged” with packing my bags, they were adamant that I would also find the change itself a trial: “Change can never be a good thing, right?” At my age, especially, change is seen as equivalent to a midlife crisis.

When my husband and I had first told our peers we were moving to Africa, it had caused much consternation. Now that I was about to leave Africa, the comments were no longer based on adapting to a third-world country, and were instead all about how I would cope going back to the bustle of a modern world.

I acknowledged all the “encouragement” I received from my peers and thanked them for their concerns and then decided, after a few seconds’ thought, to ignore them all!

Within the space of two hours, I had divided my “stuff” into three piles. The coming-with-me pile, the staying-in-the-house pile, and the giving-as-gifts pile. We do not need to become too attached to anything. More importantly, we do not need to become attached to the emotion that the object holds, and this is the key.

Kay Newton
Kay Newton

The emotions we feel about stuff are nothing more than emotions. If the object caused you painful memories, letting go of allows for space to create new and better serving concepts. Often when we delve deeply, we realise the emotion was wrong from the start.

Another reason for ditching physical baggage was a selfish one. For me, there is nothing better than watching someone else enjoy your gifts, right now in the present, today. The local ladies’ impromptu ‘Kay Newton’ fashion parade was certainly a highlight of the whole Zanzibar journey and had me in hysterics. As well as helping them with clothing for themselves and their families and receiving thanks in return, it has created positive lasting memories for me.

Change, whatever it is, is preferable to stagnation – it means you are not dead yet! It is never the change that gets you; it is the way you go about adapting to the change that counts. It is always a choice.

PS: My bag weighed just 17 kg on the airport scales.

Kay Newton is a personal development coach based in UK. She’s an author, confidante and Tai Chi instructor. Follow her on

First published in eShe magazine’s May 2018 issue.

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