The art of arriving

When you arrive home after a trip, how long does it take you to unpack your bag? Do you do it straight away or does it sit there for ages?


Unpacked suitcase clutter

The unpacked suitcase is an often overlooked form of clutter because you tell yourself it’s only a bag and it’s only temporary. Some fully or partially-unpacked suitcases may be left languishing in people’s homes for days, weeks, months or even years.

The well-seasoned traveller generally unpacks straight away, but many people procrastinate. After retrieving a few essentials, the rest stays in suitcase limbo with the bag half-open, half-closed, like a faithful dog waiting for attention.

If you lost your bag in transit, you’d be upset But now you’re safely home with it, you’re indifferent to its contents. What’s going on?

Of course it’s your perfect right to live like this if you choose to and you’ve probably never even considered it could be a problem. But the fact of the matter is that until you’ve unpacked, you haven’t really arrived. Part of you is still “on the road”. And if you haven’t fully arrived, there are levels of depth, intimacy, and richness that you will never access in your life and not even know you are missing.

Travel tips

It works the other way round, too. When you’re away on your travels, if you arrive in a place and don’t fully unpack, you aren’t fully present or available for experiences while you’re there. It’s usually not worth doing if you arrive late at night and are leaving the next morning, but if you’re staying any longer, unpacking your case will change your relationship to the location, the people you meet and the quality of the experiences you have there. It makes a significant difference between just visiting a place and truly being there, physically and energetically. It’s a choice between a superficial engagement and  one that has substance, between idly drifting or a life well-lived.

That’s why, when I’m teaching a residential workshop or training, I always ask my students to fully unpack the first night they arrive. I know I’ll be able to work with them at a much deeper level if they do so, and they will get much more from the course as a result. Those who can’t be bothered are not as present or committed and it often turns out they may as well have saved their money and stayed at home.

Know in which direction your loved ones are

While we’re on the topic of travelling, there’s another wisdom I can offer, learned from decades of flying all over the world to teach events.

When you arrive in a new place, take a few moments to figure out in which geographical direction your loved ones are (it helps to carry a small compass for this purpose). Hold this peripheral awareness during the hours of sleep and it will allow you to feel emotionally nurtured and connected to them, no matter how far away you are. This in turn allows you to fully arrive and engage at a deeper level, because you feel connected, not separate, from those you hold dear. It feels as if a part of them is there with you, involved in your life instead of distant from it.

This is a great technique to practice whenever you’re away and it works especially well when you visit somewhere you’ve never been before or are travelling alone.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2015, updated 2022

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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6 Responses to The art of arriving

  1. Hi, I feel so different when I unpack and when I leave bags “packed”. What about bags that are always prepped for travel (with toiletries)? It feels like that would fall in the middle somewhere.

    1. Hi Elizabeth – If you travel regularly and have some items that you always take with you, it makes good sense to keep them “prepped for travel”, as you put it. These items would only become clutter if you rarely or never travel.

  2. Dear Karen,

    I like this article very much. It explains to me why I always loved to unpack my things immediately after arriving since I was a child. Somehow I manage to spread my things everywhere whereever I go and even if it is just for two nights or even less. I got somewhere and it was home for the time being there and it’s still like that. I could never explain why I’m doing this, now I understand. As so often you can explain things so well and you really did a lot of good to me since I first read your book. I especially loved a clutter clearing weekend you did in Munich some years ago… it has done a lot of good to me. I can only say a great big thank you for a wonderful and very positive influence in my life and wish you all the best !

    Greetings from Munich and Namasté, Irene

  3. It’s really interesting to read this article, especially about knowing where your loved ones are relative to you when travelling, as I have done something similar, but the opposite way round. When I’m at home, I sometimes think about where my spiritual teachers are and turn myself to that direction and mentally take myself to where they are (seeing the buildings and people etc). It definitely gives me a feeling of being connected to them.
    I shall try the travel tip for knowing where my loved ones are next time I’m away from home!
    Thanks, Karen!

  4. Wow…I wish I read this insightful piece last week. We had arrived at the hotel later than expected due to unbelievable traffic so I left my suitcase in the room, kissed the boys and fled to the seminar that I had been looking forward to attending. I was late for it so I missed the connection I was striving for and had thought on the drive back to the hotel that I should had just stayed with the family that night and I could have possible caught up with this group on another occasion, maybe? It’s the first time I didn’t unpack when I arrived at a place….I always do! I also always unpack when I arrive home immediately unless it’s late and I prepare for bed and take care of it in the morning. I love the idea of knowing what direction you loved ones are…we are heading out again soon and even though we are all going I will try to make a connection with the nest while we are away. Happy trails!

  5. “The Art of Arriving Home” from a long over night trip now no longer applies to my life as it once did. I used to travel ground/ flight weekly for work and now travel maybe one overnight trip a year. Yet I see this as a hugely valuable concept. I see it helping me when packing and unpacking my huge purse/bag for my daily outings…weather it be for work or play!…fully arriving and fully coming home.

    Thank You Karen for your insights!

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