Luggage Filled with a Lighter Lifestyle — By Jennifer Shipp
Chiapas Mexico North America Trips

Luggage Filled with a Lighter Lifestyle — By Jennifer Shipp

Garfield revolted against the packing of the bags. He and Babs had to stay behind this time.

We’re not jungle people. Yes, there was a time when I cultivated fantasies of building a tree house in an extremely isolated place like a rainforest, that was before I’d actually been to a rainforest. Now, having racked up at several months of my life in various jungles in different parts of the world, I know better than to think that I could live with the ants, the mosquitos, and the general sense of chaos that comes with being in the jungle. I’d have to work my way up to that sort of lifestyle long-term. But tonight, and for the next five nights, I’ll be in the jungle, nonetheless.

Technically, this “jungle” is pretty tame. We’re in Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas so that Lydian and I can go to a biomagnetism conference. This isn’t the jungle jungle. I mean, yes, there’s a lizard on my ceiling and the owner of this house talked about “not worrying over the earthquakes” or the “tiny holes in the ceiling” where the water leaks in as he gave us our tour of the place (it’s AirBnB). So while Tuxtla is very civilized, it differs from Guanajuato (which is decidedly NOT jungle-y). The humidity is high. I would guess that all the buses here are air conditioned to the point of refrigeration (that’s how they do it in Mexico) but despite that I’ll still melt myself to sleep each night in my un-air-conditioned room. It is a jungle, but it’s been extensively civilized by people.

It rained three times today on the last leg of our journey here. On the outskirts of one small town, there were mango trees as far as the eye could see. And there was the requisite dead-snake-in-the-road, which is always awe-inspiring in the Mexican jungle-areas where the flora appears relatively innocuous from the road until you see the size of the snakes that chance a crossing from time-to-time. Today’s snake was gray and probably as tall as I am (though it had been hit a few times by several cars so I’m only guessing based on it’s thickness). I reminisced over the jungles of Tortuguero, Costa Rica where there are no cars, but only foot and boat traffic. There, people talked of “snake accidents” instead of automobile accidents.

I’ve missed traveling so much! The last trip we took was short (2 days long) to Sierra Gorda in the summer last year (also a jungle-location). It’s been nearly two years since we took our last long trip (of 2 months or more) to a far-away place (India). This journey to Tuxtla Gutierrez was supposed to help us gear up for a bigger trip (hopefully) as soon as our house in Guanajuato is finished (hopefully soon, but who knows?). It’s been over 2 years since I’ve packed for the challenging prospect of confronting a 3rd world country or some epic land-journey and I need to amp up my skills.

Lydian and I sat on the couch before we left, the bags laid out on the floor in front of us.

“Can you believe how little we packed?”

We looked down at the three bags, a very small pile compared to the last trip that we took. We looked at each other and counted the things we’d changed about our lives on our fingers:

  • We’ve all lost a ton of weight and none of us feel like we need to worry about getting exercise while traveling so we didn’t pack any work-out clothes.
  • We cook only steamed vegetables (for the most part), so the only kitchen–thing we need is a portable steamer and a knife.
  • I used to carry a whole bag full of medical supplies (particularly for jungle environments) like antibiotics, etc. Now I carry just MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution), DMSO, baking soda, some White Willow Bark, and a couple small bottles of essential oils.
  • We use hand-made, non-toxic shampoo that comes in a little cube instead of big bottles of shampoo. We use baking soda as toothpaste and as detergent. Lydian and I wear very little make-up now because neither of us have any skin issues anymore.
  • Lydi and I both got Luna cups so we don’t have to carry tampons or other “girl-gear” with us anymore. (Is that too much information?… I don’t care).
  • We’re all working on slowly changing our eye-glass prescription to eventually get rid of the whole contact lens/glasses ordeal. All of us are down by 1 diopter so far from our prescription and working toward 20/20 in the hopes that we can carry even less with us in the future.
  • John lost about 30 pounds after we started taking iodine and vitamin B17 and vitamin B15 so his clothes are smaller.

As a result of all these changes, our baggage requirements have been substantially simplified.  There’s nothing like packing up five bags of stuff every night to kill the fun of traveling to places like Angkor Wat or Palenque. When traveling, less is definitely more particularly in hot humid places where there are lots of bugs. It doesn’t matter whether we’re driving ourselves or traveling by prop-plane, I want to carry less not more. As a general rule, I want memories, not things. When we travel, I want to be able to take care of myself and my family with the simplest, smallest bag of tricks possible.

If there’s an Ebola outbreak in a neighboring city while we’re traveling through Africa, or if one of us gets malaria, I want to survive it. The way that I endeavored to survive was a lot different before than it is now.


At airports, I always ponder the luggage thoroughly while waiting bleary-eyed for our luggage to arrive. Luggage says something about people. I’m not sure if it’s a good measure of a person. Probably not. But it does say something. And I have a feeling that there’s an inverse relationship between the size of a person’s life and the size of the bag they carry on their backs.

From Tuxtla Gutierrez, we’ll travel to San Cristobal de las Casas, higher in the mountains beyond the jungle environment at the lower altitudes. San Cristobal is buried in a valley with coniferous mountains on all sides. We brought 5-days-worth of seminar-worthy clothes for Tuxtla along with a selection of warm-weather gear for the higher altitudes. Still, our bags aren’t bursting the way they did in the past.

I suppose some people would call me crazy for leaving the antibiotics behind in favor of something as obscure as MMS and DMSO. Some people might think that we’re destined for cavities brushing only with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). We still have to carry our tech gear (computers, etc.), but John and I hope to cut back on our online work as soon as our house is done. I’m still weirded out by the simplicity of it all and I wonder what we can do in this world if we carry less. It’s hard to know. We’ve been weighed down for so long by what seemed like a complicated, heavy, and very expensive existence.

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