Have you seen the 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love? I loved that movie and its sceneries, totally identified with the love of Italy and its wine and food, a little less with the rest. It was always my aspiration to accomplish a bold move like the main character did, leave my real life for a prolonged adventure and come back a different person, with a new life.
When it came down to it though, I chose to establish a good financial and professional base for myself, then leave for a set period on an organised jaunt, and come back to the same life. No one makes movies about that.
Still, I couldn’t let go of the ideal of a fantastic personal transformation. Once back home though, I didn’t feel transformed in the least.
As I walked around for most of my trip with a sinus infection and a bum rib, I was in major need of rest, so I slept like crazy my first week back. I then started decluttering my apartment. I knew from the beginning that living so many days with a set number of clothing pieces would help me streamline my wardrobe. The same turned out to be true of living in hotel rooms with only functional furniture. My place looked way too full.
Doing this busied my body and left me with space to think and allowed me to distil the gains from my trip. Not having to worry about anything but what was happening today and tomorrow, or about anyone other than me, meant that I benefited from ample head space to think about what I wanted and needed. I can’t remember ever having that luxury before.
Over the past years reading specialized books and seeing therapists, I realized I had become completely blind to what was best for me. I just went through disappointments and hardships repeating, like a mantra, “I can handle this”, “I’m strong enough to do this”, “I’ll make do”. It depleted me.
You know what helped me think differently throughout my trip? Being sick and injured – ha!
Early on, I made me let go of the idea of traipsing everywhere, and going on exerting adventures. I also made my peace with fact that everyone who travelled where I did would go: “You didn’t go there?! You didn’t do this?! But it’s the most important part of X!!” and not care. Pain has a way of letting go of needless thoughts. Had I been at home, I would’ve gone to work every day, and continued with my detrimental mantra.
On a poshier side, what also helped was the fantastic opportunity of being upgraded to business class on my longest flights for a minimal cost. (Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines have a fantastic “bid to upgrade” system where, if you’re lucky, you bid an amount a fraction of the cost of purchasing a business class ticket.) Especially on ANZ, you feel so nicely catered to, and the food, and the drinks! It’s a feeling I’ve very rarely experienced and it opened my eyes.
My time away allowed me the space to get back to myself and take my rightful place at the head of my decisions table. I need to let go of the idea of adapting to all situations and muting my needs, and instead spend time asking for help, and for changes, even slight ones, to try and modify them to my benefit, instead of living through them to my detriment.
I may not be able to change all difficult circumstances coming my way, but I can try and what I can change, will leave me with a better life. I hope.