I’m very excited to be hosting an interview with Allison Vesterfelt, author of Packing Light, (which I reviewed here). She writes about the cost of following your dreams, and she is a lovely person to accompany you on any sort of journey. We have one copy of Packing Light to give away for FREE. Just leave a comment, saying what you would most love to do if money, health, and circumstances were no object. Here’s my interview with Allison:
Tell us a little about yourself, and the place you grew up.
My name is Allison, but you can call my Ally, and I grew up in Portland, Oregon. I love Portland and I will sing its praises until the day I die. If you haven’t been, it’s just one of the most beautiful and interesting places you’ll ever visit. The one interesting ramification of growing up in this area, however, was that I always felt a strong tension between my faith (my parents were involved with a missions organization, and I grew up going to church) and the culture that felt so natural and normal to me. I loved Portland and all its quirky weirdness, and I loved Jesus, but I always felt like those two things didn’t love each other, so I felt a little bit caught in the middle.
I knew from the time I was very young I wanted to be a writer, but when I would tell people what I wanted to do they would always say, “that’s nice, but you better have a back-up plan since you can’t make any money as a writer.” So I decided my back-up plan would be to teach. But before I knew it, my back-up plan became my whole life. And there came a moment where I had to decide — was I going to keep living this life I thought I was “supposed” to live? Or, was I going to take a huge risk and try to build the life I really wanted?
How would you summarise what the book is about? What does ‘Packing Light’ mean?
Packing Light is about letting go of the things that are getting in the way of living the life you really want to live, the life you feel like God has called you to live, and even the life you feel like He made you to live. This looks really different for everyone. For me, it meant selling all of my things, moving out of my apartment, quitting my job, and traveling across the country to visit all 50 States. So I had to let go of all kinds of physical possessions and emotional baggage and insecurity or self-doubt in order to do this. But I think that for some people it can simply mean letting go of toxic relationship, or unrealistic expectations they have for themselves, or the idea that “success” is defined by pleasing their parents or owning a Pottery Barn couch.
To discover what you need to let go in order to become the best version of yourself, I think you have to ask yourself a series of questions: 1) What do I really want (in the deepest part of me)? What do I think would give my life deep meaning? 2) What is getting in the way of me achieving what I really want? 3) Am I willing to let it go?
You did a crazy 6-month road trip round the USA with a friend, covering all 50 states, living out of the back of your car and friends’ hospitality. What were the things you were surprised to miss, and what were the things you were surprised you didn’t miss?
I was surprised how little stuff I actually missed. I missed people more than anything. But as far as my stuff goes, I was actually floored by how little stuff we owned — just what fit into the trunk and backseat of my Subaru — and how sometimes even that stuff felt like too much. I learned how little I truly need.
But I did miss people. Life on the road felt lonely to me at times, and I felt disconnected from my community, which was going on without me while I was gone.
And if I had to list some physical possessions I missed I would say I missed having a dresser (living out of a suitcase got old after awhile). And I missed having access to little luxuries like new shoes, frozen yogurt, and lattes. I think the experience taught me to see those things as what they were, though — luxuries. I think it helped me to see how I had grown to feel entitled to them, and helped me reset my expectations. And, most importantly, they were a small sacrifice for what I gained… a deeper sense of meaning and passion in my life, stronger character, patience, empathy, etc.
How did your relationship with God change through that time?
I think it just forced me to start really living what I believed. If I really believed that God was capable of anything, and that He cared for me deeply, and that He created me uniquely and specifically for a purpose — why wasn’t I living like I believed that to be true? Why was I chasing a career that didn’t feel good or natural to me? Who was I trying to impress? So going on this road trip forced me to put my money where my mouth was so-to-speak. It required me to take action.
The other thing that happened was it made me desperate for God. I hadn’t felt this way very often before because I very rarely lived without things I needed. I had always provided for myself. And what happened when I gave up my resources is I realized what it felt like to really need God. I needed him to provide for me, not just physically (with food and shelter and money) but also emotionally. I was so far outside of my comfort zone, so deep in the mess of my own brokenness, lost without my usual self-protection and coping mechanisms (like my strictly regimented schedule back home). I needed God to come and meet me in a real way.
And it happened. He did it. He met me. When I stopped providing everything I thought I “needed,” God started to provide for me, and He provided things I didn’t even know I needed. He met needs I didn’t know I had. In a weird way, I feel like my relationship with Him really started in this space, even though I had been a Christian my whole life.
If you were to do that time again, what would you do differently?
I would trust God more. I would lean into what He was teaching me. I wouldn’t swim around in my insecurity and self-doubt for so long, making decisions that were ultimately destructive to me. I wish I would have learned what I learned sooner.
Imagine you met your younger self today, deliberating about whether to go on this trip or stay in your secure job. What would you say to her?
I would say, go. For heavens sake, go. Quit sitting around waiting for life to happen to you. What are you so afraid of? You can choose to stay home, and it might be easier and more comfortable, but let me give you permission to do what you really want to do: go. You will encounter obstacles. It will be hard. But life will be hard either way. It might be difficult for a reason. You might as well have life be “hard” but have purpose.
Allison Vesterfelt is the author of Packing Light: Thoughts On Living Life With Less Baggage. She blogs at AllisonVesterfelt.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Over to you:
- What is your dream? If money, health, and personal circumstances were no object, what would you most like to do with your life?
LEAVE A COMMENT to enter the Packing Light giveaway draw. I will pick a name at random from the commenters on Weds 2 Oct 7am BST, and email the winner to notify them.