How to Pack Up Your Life in 8 Steps

On the last day of last month (May 31st, 2015), I boarded a one-way flight out of Toronto with two backpacks and zero intention of returning. Originally I wrote this piece to share with friends who were wondering how and why am I leaving, and where the hell I am going. However I’ve decided to make this public because it’s nice to be honest on the internet. So without further ado, here are the eight steps to packing up your life.

  1. Ask yourself where you want to go and why. Make a rough sketch of an itinerary. It will help you determine what to bring with you. It doesn’t have to be logistically sound at this point, in fact, sketch your ideas on a napkin in Starbucks in while you wait for your phone to charge. Tell the person whom you have borrowed the phone charger from about your travel plan, and she’ll think you’re a bit insane, but that’s not important; the important part is that you trust your gut on this.
  2. Invest some time researching travel credit cards and travel insurance. Learn about sign-on bonuses, currency conversion fees, affiliate bonuses, annual fees — they will add up. A few strategic decisions and 45,000 bonus miles later, you book two international flights for under $200 USD. You are awfully proud of that.
  3. Sell your furniture on a secondhand market. Research into how much its worth depending on its age, condition, and demand. Sell them at a higher price point than what you would expect to make to allow room for bargaining. People will bargain. If all goes well, strangers will trickle into your condo the next few days to adopt your beloved Ikea friends.
  4. Cut down on physical things if you are the type to keep a lot of stuff. Stop buying new stuff, unless it is consumable or a travel necessity. Shamelessly pay someone to make an inventory of your closet. You discover that you have more scarves than pants(ugh why?!). Donate two bags of clothes. Get rid off uncomfortable shoes. A date takes you to a fancy dinner and wonders if flip flops are the only shoes you wear, you tell him this is just how you roll.
  5. Quit your job several weeks before the date of your travel. Fumble around with words before telling your manager that you want to “explore a different lifestyle.” He will understand, because it just so happens that he did something similar at twenty-five. Your co-workers will be sad to see you go, but happy for your new adventures. On the last day, you pack up your office belongings and go home and cry a little. Actually, you cry a lot.
  6. Pay respects to the friends and communities who contributed to your personal growth, because who knows how long it will be before you see them again. Visit the old gym where you fell in love with Muay Thai, where you first stepped into the ring. Your former coach, Mikey, shows you around the new rooms and you notice all the familiar faces. They hi-five you as if you never have left this gym. Near the front desk, you spot a blown-up photo of you and your team on the wall. Something powerful inside you stirs. You stare off into the ring in the corner as Mikey tells you tales about training in Thailand. You carve his advice into your memory. On your way home, you remind yourself to stay in Thailand for as long as you need on this trip, because you owe it to yourself to do the very thing that sets your heart on fire.
  7. Spend time with the guy who reached out to you after reading the personal essay you wrote on your birthday. Drink tea with him and watch the sun go down from your balcony. Discover what an amazing human being he is. You wonder why you didn’t reach out to him sooner despite sitting across from each other for nearly half a year. He takes you climbing on a cliff, and watches you struggle and patiently guides you through every maneuver until you reach the top. You reflect on that experience over the next few days and realize how much joy you derive from conquering seemingly impossible tasks. You and him are both crazy and introspective in that respect. You have late night conversations with him about the future and you can’t shake off that stupid grin on your face in the morning. He helps you with moving out, kisses you goodbye, and promises to run into you down the road. It all happens faster than you can keep up. You curse the cosmos for presenting someone so wonderful in front of you and then having to move away from it all, but are also grateful for this newfound connection and the strangely reassuring feeling it gives you for your journey forward.
  8. Ask yourself, once more, where you want to go and why. Will your trip will put your life on hold or move you towards something bigger? Lie awake and ponder at this question. You look out the window, the city below is humming away like a well-oiled neon machine. For the past two years you’ve been living here, you never got sick of this balcony view. Two more days and it will no longer be yours.
42nd floor, Toronto, Canada

What a shame. You used to love this city. It wasn’t long ago when you dreamed about living high up in a lakeside condo like this one. When you moved in, you marvelled at the urban, minimalist decor, and you got to bike to a wonderful office every morning. You wonder at what point did you fell out of love with this city and this lifestyle.

Maybe it was the long winters, or the loneliness, or that guy who made a mess out of your life. Maybe you always need to chase something in order to be satisfied, and when you obtain that thing you simply find another idea or activity or person to obsess over. Your exes always hated that part about you. It scares you that one of these days you might lose someone important because you are too self-involved. You decide that you need to figure this one out for yourself and for the people around you.

Eventually, the exhaustion from packing overtakes you, and you leave these unsettling problems to untangle on the long road ahead.