One of the things I love about travel is the way it shrinks your worries down to what fits in a suitcase. Sometimes it shrinks them a lot more, as I recently had to re-learn.
My pre-trip lists of concerns - "pick up last prescription," "buy extra sox,'' "call the cops and let them know,'' "cancel newspapers," "take one more t-shirt?'' - evaporate as soon as I get on the plane.
That first step into the jetway makes them irrelevant: By then, I have either done those tasks, or staunched those worries, or they involve things I can't do anything about now, anyway.
And I am forced to do what mental-health counselors always recommend: Let go. Be in the moment. Open my soul to the good old here and now.
Trips always do that, though they seldom turn out the way I expect. If they did, there'd be no point in going.
One of my traveling friends takes that idea farther: She says that if a trip runs too smoothly, there's something wrong - "smooth'' and "normal'' not being the same at all.
Right now, I'm readjusting to being home after five weeks in the South Pacific: Two as a volunteer in a library on Rarotonga; another week in New Zealand; another doing research in Australia, and the final one in Samoa.
Everything went fine - which I wouldn't have believed each time it threatened not to.
But the continuing novelty of travel is that the things I worried about before I left home weren't the things that really threatened. They never are.
Before the trip, I had been worried about whether I was setting my new camera correctly - not about whether I'd accidentally leave the precious thing at a hotel I'd just checked out of, on my way to a different island.
For a photojournalist, forgetting a camera is like forgetting your right arm. But the hotel kindly sent it to the airport in a taxi, and both camera and I made the flight.
Before the trip, I had been worried about whether I had packed the right shoes for all contingencies - not about whether I'd be in the path of a hurricane.
But Minnesota's winter is cyclone season in the South Pacific, and a week into the journey, a Category 3 bee-lined straight for Rarotonga, where I was staying. At the ultimate hour, the hurricane veered away, and life in paradise mercifully went on as usual.
Before the trip, I had worried about whether I was packing enough medications and enough clothes. A trans-Pacific tsunami warning never crossed my mind.
But one followed the tragic earthquake in Chile. It meant that residents and tourists all over the region - including Samoa, where I was by then - had to flee to higher ground. That meant leaving our heavy luggage behind at our hotels.
All my pre-trip lists and worries had funneled down to the contents of one embarrassingly ponderous black duffel bag. By the time I got to Samoa, I had dragged it around for weeks, and it felt strange to abandon it now, like leaving an old friend to drown.
When the tsunami failed to materialize - "cancelled for lack of interest!'' a jovial Australian said, back at my hotel - I found my duffel just where I left it, unscathed.
But by then, its contents didn't matter anymore. The vagaries of travel had just freed me from its burdens and shown me how little I really needed to survive.