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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History


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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Cara Lopez Lee on Letting Go of Excess Baggage

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ November 15, 2012

I am a firm believer in travelling light, so I’m delighted to have as my guest today Cara Lopez Lee, who travels even lighter than I do, to share how she decides what’s truly important in packing and in life. Cara is one of my fellow authors from the brand new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back are doing a blog exchange today, so after you read Cara’s article here you can read mine on her blog at

If you enjoy magazine columns and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, then you're sure to enjoy our collection of essays, designed to warm your heart, raise your spirits and compel you to examine your own life. Read about school days, quirky jobs, romance, raising a family, hard times, the writing journey, and find out what makes your favorite characters tick. Get a full listing of authors, essay titles and retailers here:

And now, from Cara:

My basement has become a complex staging area for the smallest packing job I've ever attempted. In 1999, I trekked around the world. I remember putting things in and taking things out of a large backpack, trying to get the weight down to 33 pounds, less than a third of my body weight. I was proud when I discovered I could carry on my back everything I needed for a six-month tour of Europe and Asia-which turned into eight. This time, I'm traveling to Guatemala. Tonight I'm putting things in and taking things out of a small daypack that will hold only 20 pounds, less than a fifth of my body weight-I've gained a few since '99. Each time I leave home, I discover how much happier I am with less.

My memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands, tells two stories: 1) the story of my nine years in Alaska, where I collected emotional baggage in a series of destructive relationships, and 2) my trip around the world in '99, where I jettisoned emotional baggage until all that was left was me and my 37-pound pack-I picked up souvenirs along the way. The body really is a teacher. The less I carried on my back, the better I felt. The more I decided that a relationship with myself was enough, with or without a man, the better I felt.

Still, when I wrote that book, its pages revealed that what was important to me was relationships, of all kinds. Some friends came and went, like the fellow-travelers who spent three weeks trekking with me around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal's Himalayas. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to Charlie (not her real name), the young German woman who told off a Nepali porter for looking over my shoulder when I wrote in my journal: "Excuse me! She is writing in her diary. Hello! Yes, you. She is writing in her diary. That means it is private." The porter looked as frightened as I'd felt when I'd first met her. No one messes with Charlie. But the sweet thing was, once she decided you were her friend, she wouldn't let anyone mess with you either.

Other friends came and stayed, like Sean (not his real name). You know how in a romantic comedy it's always obvious who the right guy is, to everyone except the leading lady? Sometimes it works that way in real life, too. I remember when Sean and I went for a swim on the beach in Monterosso, Italy and he stepped on a sea urchin, embedding several sharp spines so deeply in his foot that we couldn't remove them. Still he insisted on taking a walk with me because he knew I wanted to see the town. Is the right travel partner also the right romantic partner? You tell me.

Writing about my travels for articles, for my memoir, and for my blog, has required me to pay more attention to my experiences. And paying attention has shown me that what I chose to do expresses who I am. I'm no longer satisfied to simply "take a vacation," but want to be changed by every experience. In 2001, I went on a seven-week trek to Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Malawi. In the village of Mwanyama, Malawi, I watched children play soccer with a ball of wadded paper and plastic. Then a couple of older kids invited me to their choir practice. I've never heard singing more beautiful than in that small, bare, tin-roofed room, where children's bare feet slapped rhythms into cracked concrete. As the week went by, I realized most of those children only had one or two sets of clothes and no shoes. Since then, I've felt less pressure to "dress for success."

I got married in Costa Rica in 2003. We thought about exchanging vows on a beach, but it seemed that every American getting married in Costa Rica had a beach wedding. I wanted our own story. So we married at Arenal Volcano, which roared and spit fiery red rocks throughout our wedding night. Only two friends attended our ceremony. This was about the two of us - not just traveling light, but marrying light.

Since then, we've seen stone-age houses in Scotland's Orkney Islands and taken the Lares Valley trek to Machu Picchu, places few tourists go because most of them prefer castles and the Inca Trail. We wanted a different story. Because we like to travel, we haven't been able to afford most of the home improvements our house needs. Since I'm a writer, sometimes I think about buying a can of paint and painting words on the walls, like "Went to Peru" on our outdated kitchen, and "Trip to Scotland" on our crumbling downstairs bath. If life is a journey, then why not travel light at home, too? So long as we don't compare our house to others, we realize that we have all we need.

Last December, I herniated a disc, which caused nerve damage in my left foot, requiring me to have back surgery. My body became a teacher again. I'll feel safer carrying less on this trip to Guatemala. I'm also excited to see how few things I truly need. I rarely take makeup or a hair dryer when I travel, but how many days can I wear the same clothes? I don't mean without washing them, but without caring how it looks. As if I'm returning from a one-night stand? As if I'm poor? As if I have no pride?

Here's what it looks like to me: As if I don't want to deal with excess baggage when I visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, which lost its own treasures long ago. As if it's silly to worry about what anyone thinks when I tour the villages around Nebaj, which lost whole families to civil war not long ago. In a world full of baggage, it's a blessing to travel light. 

About the Author:

Cara Lopez Lee is the author of the memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands (Ghost Road Press, 2010), co-author of the novel Back in the Real World (Graham Publishing Group, 2011), and one of the contributing authors to the new anthology 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror (Thunder Horse Press, 2012). Her Girls Trek Too blog and workshop are dedicated to inspiring women to live life as an adventure. She has written for The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Wazee Journal, HGTV, and Food Network. She and her husband live in Denver, Colorado.

Learn more about Cara and her trekking adventures at:

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

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Reader Comments:

What great adventures, Cara! Thank you so much for sharing them with us. I would love to hear more about your time in the Orkneys!
-Donna, November 15, 2012

Thank you so much for hosting me on your beautiful blog, Donna. And thanks for your interest in hearing more about my travels in Scotland's Orkney Islands. It so happens I have a post on that one at the Girls Trek Too blog, here:
-Cara Lopez Lee, November 16, 2012

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