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Whenever I think about an upcoming trip to India, I feel like a kid in a movie theater imagining himself on a big sailing ship, heading out to new worlds. “Set the main sail, mateys, adventure waits for no man!”

Every January I vacation in India, and though the excitement of travel is invigorating, I also travel for the catharsis I experience. That process begins before I board the plane. In the weeks before I depart, I go through my home and clean out clutter, then donate the haul to charity.

I go through every room, every drawer, every closet, and decide what stays and what goes. It’s hard to let go of stuff I’ve had for years, but as I pick up an item, I ask, “Do I really need this?” I often hesitate. “Those shoes are perfectly good… maybe I’ll want to wear them next week.” My inner debate persists. “Sure, those shoes are perfectly good, but I haven’t worn them all year.” Then I picture a mother at the thrift store picking up those shoes knowing they will fit her son. That does the trick and I put the shoes in my “to go” box. 

After a week my home is clutter free. And for a few days I feel a sense of loss. All that stuff, even expired oats, had been part of my life; I am acutely aware that another year of my life has passed. How many are left in the tank? You never know.

Soon, though, I’m sitting on the plane and any lingering sense of loss is gone—every adventure must begin with a goodbye. I feel light and ready to travel. It’s a new year and I’m going to breathe fresh air, get new stuff, learn new things. I love it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain, and we’re beginning our descent into Chennai, India.”

Ah, I can smell the fresh air now.

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