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Packing Your Psychological Suitcase

by Mica Pointer
packing study abroad travel

Last Updated on June 10, 2015 by

Packing is not easy.

Here you are, having to decide in a matter of days what is going to last you through several weeks, several months, or even an entire year in a completely different place. Of course, you try to plan ahead and troubleshoot what may happen. You bring some warm clothes just in case it’s cool, some lighter clothes just in case it’s warm, an umbrella in case it rains, sunglasses in case it doesn’t, something formal, something casual, something to fit any occasion.

That’s the hope, at least.

The trouble is, you won’t know if you packed the right things until you actually get there. People are always saying to “expect the unexpected,” but the problem is that you’re not really able to expect the unexpected because, as the name implies, it’s unexpected! So then, what solution is there?

Just because you don’t know what’s on the other side of the door, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth opening. What matters isn’t so much what’s on the other side, but rather how you handle it when the time comes to face the unexpected. You can only prepare yourself so much with specific things that come in handy in specific situations. But why not focus on things that will come in handy in any situation you happen to find yourself?

When preparing to travel, there is always the period of research that everyone finds themselves in. But you won’t know if you did everything right until you actually get there.

Basically there are three things to pack that are good for any situation:

  1. Observation
  2. Problem solving
  3. Common sense

Observation: Before jumping into a situation or environment, take stock of who is there, what they’re doing, what the topography and geography is like, locate the exit.

A large part of observation is situational awareness and it doesn’t have to be just visual. You can also look with your ears and listen with your eyes. In all, the name of the game is to blend in. Become a cultural chameleon. Observe what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.

Problem Solving: Rather than just taking in what is around you as a passive observer, you are going to actively participate with it. With problem solving, you have a goal that you wish to achieve and need to find a basic strategy to help you achieve it. For example, finding your way from point A to point B. Google maps are great, but the challenge is to find your way without the use of a map and asking for directions only as a last resort. You can start out with a map to get your bearings, find a location to reach, and figure out how to get there. But once you get going you’re left with your wits to reach your destination!

Common Sense: Trust your gut feeling.

If a situation feels wrong or dangerous, get yourself out of it. Ask later why it felt wrong, but for the moment, take a step back, take stock of the situation, and proceed in a way you best see fit.

In all, proceed carefully, cautiously, and confidently into whatever you are about to do. Keep your heart and mind open, but also keep them safe. That way, even if you’re caught in the rain without an umbrella, you can still know how to stay dry.

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