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The Art of Unpacking

After a big trip or adventure, we come home, unpack our clothes, do laundry, open mail, and try to get back to whatever normal is. We transition from being on vacation to being back at work. In the act of unpacking we may think about our experiences, share our photos, and discuss our stories with friends and family.

© Paula Brown / Visual Scribe /

© Paula Brown / Visual Scribe /

My daughter’s friend Jennifer, who is a prolific writer, adventurer and inspiration, recently helped me look at unpacking in a deeper way:

Unpacking is the act of mindfully and deliberately processing an experience and putting it all into perspective. It must include sharing your experience with others, and not just on Facebook or Instagram. It helps to sit face-to-face, and pour your heart out about what you saw, what moved you, and how you have been changed as a person.

Jennifer is only 25, but she has the wisdom of someone much older; in fact, her astute insights were very coach-like.

Unpacking can start when you board your plane home. One thing I tried on my last return flight was to journal about what I learned about myself on the trip. The list was very enlightening, plus it helped me start to unpack so that I could move forward when I got home.

The best part about the list was that I didn’t need to retell anything or go into detail (I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the patience for that); I just wrote bullet points. Somehow it felt freeing and like the perfect way to end the trip. I will definitely do this again.

How to unpack in your career

After any big project, seminar, workshop or business trip, write down what you learned about yourself, then discuss it with someone you trust. Note: It’s a given that you learned a lot about whatever subject matter was involved. That is less important for this exercise.

Put the focus instead on you – your journey, your insight, your new perspectives and your growth as a human being. It is from that insight that real growth occurs. Maybe that is why things look different at home when we return; it is because we have changed. This kind of unpacking will help you focus on the meaning of your journey to you as a person. Here’s to finding more meaning in your journeys!

How do you transition out of a big experience or trip, and re-enter your regular work life? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.

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