The “suitcase life:” Bon voyage

Guest Column

I live in Virginia. My life has been in Virginia for many years. Nonetheless, approximately five years ago, I accepted a professor position in one of the most rural places in all of Georgia — Franklin Springs, a place that is exactly eight hours from my Virginia home.

This means I spend a lot of time commuting and living out of a suitcase. And this “suitcase life,” so far, has taught me a few valuable lessons.

The “suitcase life” is predictable, yet novel. Life presents us with a plethora of predictable experiences we can plan for. But sometimes, life throws us some curve balls — unexpected moments of exhilaration, fear, happiness, doubt,
curiosity and more. And it’s often within those novel moments we learn the most about ourselves, about those we love and about this journey of life.

Packing my suitcase, traveling the same roads, making the same stops and experiencing familiar frustrations of road travel are so ingrained in my memory that they are automated. But then, the novel happens — I see a herd of cows by the road and stop to take pictures of the calves clinging to their mothers; I am rerouted because of traffic flow and go through a neighborhood of breathtaking historic mansions; I stop to get food and a stranger pays for my meal; I get where I’m going and my grown children greet me with love and affection. The predictable is good, but the novel — it’s a memory in the making.

The “suitcase life” is compact, yet large. The lives we lead are often so compressed and full that everything becomes small and confined. We live in compartments of existence — this much time allotted to work, to travel, to family, to entertainment and so on. These tiny compartments, like those in a suitcase, help us stay organized and focused; they keep us from getting off task and losing our way. But when we step back and examine the segmented pieces, we begin to see the overlap.

The truth is life doesn’t happen in segments, or pieces or compartments. It is a synthesized whole with all parts coming together and impacting one another. It’s like putting a puzzle together. Each piece is a separate entity, but all are connected, and it’s only when we make those connections that we truly experience just how large our lives really are. My life isn’t happening in Georgia and then Virginia, in Virginia then Georgia — it’s happening all at once in every place I’ve ever been or ever chosen to go. And every experience is intermingled with every other experience. Compact is good — it’s manageable — but the vast expanse that is this life — that’s enlightening and humbling.

The “suitcase life” is fixed, yet fluid. Since I live my life by semesters, I know when the peaks and valleys are and when I can come and go. That fixed calendar makes it easy to schedule things. As is the case for most, I can’t just decide to change the calendar or move things around on a whim. But what I can do is make a conscious decision not to fill up and “fix” the rest of my calendar that isn’t already pre-determined. Instead, I can leave that time fluid and allow for spontaneity.

In this time of working remotely, I’m floating between visiting my kids and being at home, keeping the calendar as open as possible for those unscheduled adventures to hiking paths, strawberry patches, local attractions and stay-at-home crafting projects. Living by a fixed schedule is good, but spontaneous and fluid — that’s transformational.

I don’t know how long I might work in Georgia while living in Virginia but what I do know is there’s a lot to be learned and a lot to gain in this “suitcase life” of mine. I don’t plan to put my suitcase away any time soon. Maybe it’s time to pull yours out of the closet — bon voyage!

About Terilyn Goins, Ph.D. 64 Articles
Dr. Terilyn J. Goins is a motivational speaker/vocalist, trainer and coach. She offers a wide variety of training and motivational music programs. Goins creates programs that educate, inspire and challenge participants. Visit or reach her at 757-303-7807 or by email at

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