I remember the day I took this photo, about two years ago in Thailand where I traveled solo for the first time in my life and fell madly and deeply in love with it. There was something so utterly seductive about strolling down the streets all on your own, meeting people as you went and knowing very well that you may never see them again.
I felt like a mistress of sorts, but a mistress of the cities I traveled to and could not commit to coming back right away.
“There are simply too many places I need to explore first before I come back,” I explained. “Perhaps I will, someday. But I cannot say when because I am not certain that I will.”
It was a beautiful and tragic thing. To love a place, knowing you must part ways with it soon enough. To have a deeper, intuitive understanding that that is okay. That you will explore again and you will leave again and you will love it anyway.
This narrative of travel is one that I not only came to accept, but one that I flourished in. Over the years, trial and error in my interpersonal relationships have taught me that I love and thrive best within a more traditional setting. I.e.: within the confines of monogamy, commitment, and loyalty. So when I traveled solo for the first time, it was a way for me to explore a different side of myself: A side that craved exploration. A side that wanted to immerse herself in love and then flee. A side that didn’t hold and clutch on to every moment, but rather, just allowed herself to experience it for what it was and then let it go.
What came in to question next is whether this sense of freedom was something I was only capable of feeling whilst traveling. I mean, I craved it all the time and still do. That’s what happens when you break the travel seal. But I wanted to find a way in which I could incorporate this in my everyday life. I wanted to be able to channel this version of myself. She seemed so…free.
What I actually found is that although there is something so unique about travel that you cannot find anywhere else, in terms of the other side of myself, there was a way to get her back. In fact, she was interwoven within my life already. I just hadn’t acknowledged it.
The reason I bring this up now is because during this time, as we isolate ourselves, there are ways in which we can still practice exploration. Though I don’t think we need to “achieve” anything during this pandemic, I do think we need hold or create practices / routines for ourselves that will keep us grounded and free (even when we are stuck within the confines of our own home).
There is a way we were made to think about time. Routines that held us accountable and schedules that gave us the perception of having control over what our week’s looked like (even if someone created them for us).
Now, we don’t exactly have that anymore. For the past 6 weeks or so (at least in Canada where I am based), life has taken a turn. Suddenly, all we have is time. All this time that isn’t accounted for. That someone didn’t schedule for us. So much time that we are squandering around, wondering what the hell to do with it.
I don’t want to come across as insensitive because I know this time is challenging for the majority of us. I work in a non-profit that houses and supports women and children fleeing domestic violence, so a huge focus of my stance is coming from an understanding of what life looks like for the vulnerable population right now. So I am in no way telling you how you should be spending your time (because I am not you). But I will offer you some practices that I’ve incorporated in my own life right now at home that have shifted things for me.
What I learned I could incorporate from travel that would give me the feeling of freedom that I craved so deeply was actually this sense, or rather, this ability to let go. To let go of what? Well, everything. Mostly because I’m a highly sensitive, emotional human being who loves to hold on to anything and everything: memories, sadness, anxiety, relationships – you name it.
Knowing that time is the only currency we can never get back, I also strive to make the most of what I have. But if I’m not careful – or mindful I should say, this too, can often lead me into burnout. This is mostly because I want to accomplish so much in a day and ticking off those boxes on a to-do list is what I THRIVE off of. I am at heart, a true Virgo moon after all. However, I have difficulty with knowing how to relax and so all of this “do-do-do” often leads me into panic mode or a mental breakdown in the days that follow.
Enter: Meditation and Yoga (but mostly yoga because my meditation practice is still sketchy at best. We’re working on it!) I have to say that having incorporated these practices into my life has changed me and has also shown to be crucial to my well-being during this time. Both of these practices encourage you to learn how to let go. How to let go of the past, of what the future might bring, of control, of all of it. I found that the greatest freedom I could ever reach is one that allowed me to just be and for that to happen, I needed to learn how to just let go.
If anything, what we are explicitly being shown right now is that we do not have control over much. That in the blink of an eye, we might have to create a brand new normal – which is something I think this will all lead to and something that we certainly need. I think in these moments, time will begin to shift for us, perhaps even gain a deeper meaning than it once did.
For those of you who have found yourself in a place where you suddenly have an excess of time and for those of you who feel even more crunched on it now (whether that’s because you have kids at home you have to home school, or you are an essential worker, etc.), how has this pandemic shifted your perception of time? Have you created new routines? Have you reflected? Have you spiraled countless times? Have you felt uncontrollably emotional?
And on to the next question: How would you like to change the way you spend time moving forward? Maybe once everything clears up? What has shifted for you during this time that might effect how you were living before and how you will live going forward?