I had the opportunity to help out a fellow blogger and read her debut book called Packing Light. Allison Vesterfelt is a reader, thinker, dreamer and risk-taker who is learning what it looks like to live life with less baggage.
This is a fast read, but leaves you thinking long after you shut the book. Fun and lighthearted, Allison tackles some really tough life questions. Questions every one of us who’s committed to living life to the fullest asks. There is a lot of vulnerability and honesty in this account of her dream trip.
If money wasn’t an object, what would you do? Allison quit her job as a teacher, and lived in a car with a friend on a tour of all fifty states relying on the generosity of strangers often for shelter and food. This is the story of her trip, what she learned about herself, her faith, and others. If you’ve found yourself wondering: what am I supposed to do with my life? Is there more to this than what I’m living? Read this book.
I had a chance to chat with Allison about the book. Here’s our interview.
LHW: In the book, you talk about how you identify with the rich young ruler. Did you find this to be a universal feeling among those you met?
AV: The way I interpreted the story of the rich young ruler is a young guy who has means. He thinks, “I’ve done all the stuff I was supposed to do but I still feel empty, this restlessness, this can’t be all there is to this life.” In that way, everyone I meet identifies with that. In this country we are so much wealthier than we think we are because we’re comparing ourselves to the guy next door and we miss out on the ways we really are rich. We can identify with, “I followed all the rules but there’s still something missing, I missed the point.”
What happened for me, what I’m calling readers to do, is to stop following the rules and engage in the party, get in the mess of life. Where you’re in relationship with Jesus—you’re growing and changing and becoming more like Him.
LHW: Some people told you this trip was too dangerous, too much of a risk, and these thoughts crossed your own mind from time to time. In your opinion, is there a difference between taking a risk and actually risking your life to follow your dreams?
AV: You weigh what you risk losing against what you could gain. That kind of risk looks different for different people. To a mother with young children I’d ask what do you really want out of life? Does risking your life fit into gaining that sense of meaning?
If someone felt their calling was to a part of the world that risked their physical safety, then yeah, go. Because the risk is worth that sense of meaning.
To act like we can live our lives without any risk is denying reality. Let’s think about the risk practically, but still engage that part of us longing for meaning and for adventure and risk.
LHW: Much of your trip required you to rely on total strangers for shelter and even food. What would you say to the cynic who says nothin’s for free, etc.?
AV: My story really changed me and changed how I saw the idea of relying on other people. I hope it wakes something up in them—that the cynicism is off-base. My journey was about putting a toe in the water, and I found it was pretty warm. That gave me the courage I needed to move forward. To the cynics I say test it. See what happens, I dare you. I dare you to see how generous people can be, or how generous God can be.
LHW: “It matters what you put in your suitcase.” I loved this quote because you weren’t talking about what goes in your physical suitcase – shoes, clothes, makeup, but rather the emotional baggage we all carry. What’s in your suitcase now, having the wisdom of hind sight?
AV: I think that I am more in tune with the emotional baggage that I carry and in a more astute way I realize that is something I have to put down on a daily basis. The easy answer is relationships I really care about, my relationship with my husband, immediate family, close friends. But even within those relationships there is baggage that I bring that I need to surrender.
The way the message is ringing true in my life is that even in the context of those relationships I would never let go of, there is baggage making the relationships heavier than they need to be.
You’re very vulnerable about your own thoughts, feelings, and flaws in the book. Now that the book is set to release are there any regrets, second-thoughts, anxiety?
I’m a vulnerable person to the point that it’s a little much for people. But it’s my greatest strength as a person and a writer. I do feel exposed. Am I anxious? Yeah, a little bit. But not because I think I did something terribly wrong. You’re starting a new relationship with whoever buys the book who have no context for me or my life. Do they like me? Do they want to hang out with me? Did I say something weird? Ultimately I hope it’s helpful more than it’s hurtful, if there are things they find shocking. And that it invites them to be vulnerable too. If the book does that, any anxiety will be worth it.
Packing Light officially releases on September 1st, but you can order your copy now while Amazon has it on sale for 40% off!