The Power of the List

My pre-trip lists revealed

A few nights ago while digging around my desk I knocked over a crumpled stack of papers that I had wedged into a corner. Taking a closer peek at my scribblings and scratches, I realized these were the to-do and packing lists I had written up before I left on my travels. Scanning them became a trip back in time as I glimpsed myself prior to these remarkable 8 months.

I could see on paper my concerns (schedule movers, get Vietnam visas, order travel insurance) and accomplishments (clean out apartment), and surprised myself with the accuracy with which I had gauged the things I would need to survive on the road (I really did love that headlamp).

What I see now is that all those sheets of paper would come to represent a singular intangible.


I wrote those lists terrified, wondering how on earth I’d fit 3 pages of single-spaced items into one 65-ounce backpack, or how I could manage to pack up an apartment that represented my world as I loved it. But lurking under that fear was the knowledge that I had just made a very big, brave decision and was about to board a plane, and then dozens more flights, trains and buses after that which would take me on an adventure of  a lifetime. I realize no stranger could read these pages and have that takeaway. But these pages and words were mine, and I remember.

Now, upon my return I’m starting a whole other type of journey. One which will involve travel to cities, most typically New York and Philadelphia with a sprinkle of Bucks County, Pa. thrown in for good measure, and which will also involve getting my feet used to firmer, more permanent ground. On some days, it’s downright overwhelming to think about making lists in my new world order; but on other days, I see my new to-do items as nothing but opportunity and joy at a new beginning.

A few items on the upcoming list:

  • Explore New York City. It’s my adopted home, of sorts, and I want to get to love it like I love my Philly.
  • Make better use of my free time. I tend to rely on the joys of Twitter and Facebook to distract me. Imagine if I started practicing piano again, instead?
  • Spend time with the fam. I’ve been doing a lot of this lately and it has it’s highs (realizing my mom knows way more about pop culture than I do, particularly as it relates to Usher and Bradley Cooper) and lows (awkward conversations with my father about Sandy’s nightgown in the movie Grease — he thinks it’s really pretty).
  • Write. On this blog, in my journal, anywhere. I’ve let this go for a while as I’ve been getting my groove back post-trip. It’s time for some self-discipline.
It’s go time. Now, what’s on your list?


  1. Got quite a few things on my list!

    1. get my personal site up and running
    2. start my food blog once and for all
    3. perfect the kale chip!
    4. get to maine this summer
    5. paint my office

    and on and on and on…

    • Valerie Conners says:

      and on and on and on! but isn’t it the visualizing that helps us keep track? And can I try your kale chips? I’ve never had them. And START YOUR FOOD BLOG! Every time you post a pic I drool.

      • I feel like we should be listening to that Wilco song right about now! YES you can have some kale chips, I’ve only just started experimenting with them and so far so good. The food blog is imminent. I wrote a big chunk of about copy last night. Domain is boughten. Just need to bringeth.

  2. I too am trying to write more. And my other list includes:
    1. More yoga/stretching/meditation
    2. Keep plugging through the training for my 3-day walk
    3. Having my blog redesigned
    4. Spending time with those I love & care about.

    I’m sure there are more, i’m an over-achieving. That’s what comes to mind now!

  3. Valerie Conners says:

    yes – it’s also on my list. Even if I start small – I’m not the most patient meditator. But I know that it does wonders for clearing the head; and I could definitely use that!