A lot of people are inspired by books like The Alchemist, Eat Pray Love, and other such accounts of pilgrimage-type journeys to find what you are meant to do. Myself included. They are inspiring. They let our minds wonder what it would be like to just take off and how we might handle all the consequences of that decision. These types of stories leave us wanting more from our lives than what we have managed to manifest, which is a good thing. It gets the wheels spinning and increases our courage to explore.
There are a few things I’ve been considering after a little over a month of travel, and they may be things to consider if you’re feeling in a rut with your current routine.
1. Vacations are important. When is the last time you took a vacation? Do you plan them regularly? I never really took vacations before about a year ago. In the year prior to this trip, while I was planning this time off, I did head off to Canada, and San Francisco and Vail in the US since the travel bug got me. However, prior to that for seven years of post-college work, if it wasn’t for a friends weddings, baby events, or family gatherings, I just didn’t go anywhere else on a real vacation. I thought it wasn’t worth the cost, that I wouldn’t have much fun alone, or that I didn’t want to take the time off of work. Now I realize how much I needed real vacations. To explore, wonder, learn, and most of all, restore. Vacations are important, and travel partners are nice to have but definitely not essential. Not every vacation needs to entail time off of work, either. We’ve been taking a ton of day trips in Europe and I’ll definitely be adding the solo weekend getaway to my trip planning for the coming year.
2. Nurturing your interests is essential. I have a lot of various interests that excite me and that I need to care for. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. It seems that most of us just get into a routine of doing a few things over and over, stay in that routine for a while and at times we stop trying to explore additional things that really interest us. It became really apparent that I had been doing this for the longest time. I need a variety of experiences in my life to stay satisfied. I knew this to some extent prior to my trip due to the fact that I can barely sit still through a two and a half hour movie, but I didn’t really know the implications of this, what this looked like in day to day life, or what it really meant. Now I think I do much more clearly. No longer do I feel the need to specialize or be a complete expert in one area, devote my whole entire life to it and to change the world by externally focusing on that one thing alone. This finding has even helped me accept that I even want changing weather in my life, even if it is the drastic tundra of Minnesota. What good are vacations if you live in perfect weather, anyway? 🙂
3. Slowing down is possible. The whole time issue. Here it is. We all think we don’t have time, but we do. We have tons of time (isn’t there even a song called “Nothing But Time”? maybe?), and we all have the same amount of time, relatively speaking. If we all had nothing but free time we would probably get into some pretty destructive things and develop some pretty depressed attitudes. The jobs we have that fill most of our time can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. We can lower our expectations for what can be done each day in order to keep running at a manageable pace. It’s okay to say no to some things. It’s okay to mix it up and try a different routine every few months or from week to week in order to accommodate our need for more time. Of course the small child in me stubbornly wants what I want. And I want to do it all. Every day. However, the more I individually allow myself the opportunity to leave certain things until the next day or week, the more we all will allow each other do the same. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about forgiveness, nurturing and not running around like chickens with our heads cut off all the time.
4. Learn to accept what is: today. Really let go and just accept it all. Now I am not saying I’m resigning my goals or becoming complacent. Just the opposite. I find that with acceptance I free myself up to focus on what I really want to accomplish without worry. This, for me, is the hardest one to grasp and continually practice. Similar to the time issue, things are always happening and changing. It is what it is. There was a really good quote I saw recently attributed to Michael J. Fox: “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” I think this is very true, especially while traveling. Accept things (and people!) as they are and we are free from judgement of ourselves and judgment towards others. We are all doing our best and life is way more fun with acceptance.
5. The change I want to see is within me (aka be the change you want to see). I definitely think the fastest way to change the world is if we all make smaller changes to our attitudes and participate actively in the things that interest us in our communities. There will always be people trying to mess the world up. Until there’s not. 🙂 For a lot of the changes I envision in the world around me, I have not always been the greatest at making changes myself. But how can I expect change around me without changing my habits as well? As an example, I really despise driving everywhere and relying so much on my car, above and beyond the cost and pollution aspects. This was one of my main complaints about living in Minneapolis since the transportation isn’t the most efficient for how the city has evolved. Now, I don’t need to seek out another city to move to just because I have a desire to take public transportation. Instead, I can move to an area within Minneapolis where it would be more convenient to use public transport, start using it as much as possible, and try to get involved at the community level to try to improve the system. There are many examples of this in my life where I can continue to make daily, weekly, or monthly changes. I believe if everyone makes small changes individually, it has an astounding impact.
I started out on this adventure knowing that I didn’t have a ton of money and thinking I’d just see where life would lead me. What ended up occurring to me was pretty surprising. It wasn’t some revelation that I should be doing one thing or another thing, it’s that I should be doing many different things, with excitement, acceptance, and love, over a longer period of time and without unrealistic expectations. I want to share these thoughts as considerations to others that may fantasize about a journey, but that don’t have the ability at the current time to actually leave for a few months. Sometimes small tweaks in perspective and small actionable changes are all that are needed.