Tag Archives: Gabrielle Zevin

Have a suitcase heart.

tumblr_m9pqw775iC1qb9bj4o1_500“Have a suitcase heart; be ready to travel.”
That’s American writer Gabrielle Zevin’s advice — and the guidance I’ve offered my first-born child this week as she’s packed up and, for the first time, gone off to see the world without me. She’s going to England and Scotland with a school group, and I wish them all bon voyage.
I packed a little notebook with the suitcase heart quote on it in her carry-on back. I’m encouraging her to write it all down. From my experience, that’s the travel memento I’ve enjoyed most — words that capture a perspective on a time and place that, even though you return to that place, you can never fully have again. Words on a page help retain that.
Through the years, you can open that notebook like a cherished bottle of perfume — close your eyes and, for a moment, relive that time, place and perspective.
I’ve thought a lot about a suitcase heart lately and have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds.
One kind can be less desirable, destructive even. That’s the kind that packs up its bits and bags and hits the road once it’s seen the sights and taken what it wants from a place — or a person, for that matter.
This suitcase heart is possible without ever going far. Certainly, it’s not the style of heart gear I wish for my daughter or those she encounters — or anyone else, for that matter.
The other kind of suitcase heart, and the kind I wish for my daughter and the other people both you and I love, is in the travel and place sense. Go see the world. Take in the places and all that you are able. Go there. Eat their food. Dance their dances. Sing their songs. Walk their bridges. Ride their trains. Smell their flowers.
By being open to what they share with you, you’ll gain insights into their culture and beliefs that will make you a better and more tolerant person.
In every place you go, and the whole time you’re there, be open to them.
They will teach you things at every turn. They can teach you things you don’t even know you need to learn. They can teach you things you don’t realize until years pass and it all begins to make sense.
Just as importantly as you being open to them and learning from them, be ready to give back to them at every opportunity.
Smile. Say thank you in their language. Share your gum. Teach them your dances. Teach them your songs. Show them your pictures. Know that it’s not all about you. It’s about them, and that, my dear, is when life will open up and become so much more than you’ve ever thought it could be.
Take each of those people and places you come to love and put them in your suitcase heart. You’ll be amazed how expandable that luggage is. Without ever taking a single heart out, you can keep putting in more and always have plenty to share.