Transatlantic Flight Post Pandemic

In the past I viewed myself as a wanderluster, perhaps I still am.  I was on a plane nearly every month during the 6 ½ years I had been an expat, before the pandemic started.  The pandemic hit, and although it is still ongoing, so must our lives.  Now, I have been an expat for officially 8 years and 1 month, and I am travelling for several weeks back to the USA.  Luckily my work has afforded me a complimentary flight home for a visit.  It’s been 20 months since I have been to the states, or seen any family or friends.  And it’s time for a trip.  Jet setting was such a breeze before.  There was limited anxiety, I slept on a majority of the flights, but now things have changed.  

There is so many essentials to be taken care of before one even takes off.  A negative covid test the day before, upload it, and wearing a mask the entire time from after I park my car until arrival.  I was hoping to use my lounge passes from my credit card, but even the lounges were closed.  When I got through security, I wanted to cry.  This was not out of sadness, but out of relief.  It’s easy to focus on the little things that go wrong, which today included a nearly flat tire which needed air in, one of my dog crying as I drove to the dog minder, and other tiny bouts of frustration that arose.  Yet, little do we focus on the amount of things that go right, that we depend on.  The tire filled with ease and luckily I left the house early enough, I had a negative covid test, no traffic, ease of getting though security and re-adjusting my bags that were slightly over-filled, kind staff throughout the day, free magazines at the airport, and a cappaccino as I waited.  There was a multitide of things that went right, and I wanted to cry as a form of release from the stress of travelling, even though it barely just begun. 

There was a recognition that for weeks, I could not let myself be too excited for this trip.  At any moment it could have been cancelled with either a positive covid test, or the state of the UK, the USA, or the world.  I simply bought a ticket, hoped for the best, and held my breath.  This was the moment of release that was emerging. 

 I finally boarded the plane, and could not fall asleep.  Was it excitement? Anxiety? Stress? Novelty?  I generally was such a good traveller, but what happened? I wasn’t relaxed enough to journal, had no intention to glance at a magazine, or interested in my book to devour it.  I simply sat and watched a film.  Eventually a thirty minute nap arose, which I was grateful for.  But jumping on planes would take some getting used to again.  It’s a necessity and a benefit to being a human at this time of life.  We have taken it for granted before, but now a new normal has arrived.  How will you adjust to finding ease in the skies? 

Enjoy The Ride Not Just The Destination

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about the destination.”

-Drake

         Last week I drove my two dogs to the beach.  This does not seem like a big ordeal, but driving solo over 80 minutes to a British Norfolk beach solo with two older dogs can be cumbersome.  As we drove with my sunroof down, the dogs were loving every bit of the wind sprayed onto their face.  Regardless of the fact it was gray skies, it didn’t matter.  They were with their owner on an unexpected joy ride, and were ecstatic.  I closed the roof as it sprinkled rain, and automatically I silently cursed myself on not doing this on a more gorgeous day.  But I looked back at my dogs, and remembered I promised at least one trip to the beach this summer.  The ride seemed enough for them, it wouldn’t matter how long they were at the beach for or what the day was like.  

I arrived at the Wells-next-to-the-sea early in the day, or so I thought.  It was 10:30 AM.  Two parking lots were full, and a spill over parking lot was made available.  Intuition warned me of this, I knew the next parking lot was 1 ½ miles away.  I didn’t mind the walk, but my 14 year 2 month old English Bulldgo Puzo may not be able to handle it.  I brought a stroller (or as the Brits call it “pram”).  He got in, and the joyride continued.  We stopped along the way, to let their paws and my feet play in the shallow waters where the boats parked.  The sun began to shine on the newly formed picturesque day.  Puzo smiled as he sat next to his 12 ½ year old sister Bella in his pram.  They listened to the sea breeze and got the attention and grins of fellow beach goers.  We stopped at another shallow area to briefly cool off and take in the scenery, but our journey continued.   Past the scenic walkway, through the woods, towards the dog friendly area.  After the one hour stroll, we finally arrived to the beach.  We took in the scenery of vintage beach houses, happy families and friends, and dogs grateful to be included in the festivities.  The beach was gorgeous and serene, and I was grateful I could take them to appreciate the shore for another year.  I’m reminded our time together is limited, and every ounce of joy I can give them is worth it.  

Our time at the beach was definitely less than the hours of driving and walking to and from it, but it didn’t matter.  The entire journey there and back was appreciated by the dogs.  These animals de compagnie (French for “pets”) remind me to slow down and lavish in each moment. Although we may strive for the end result, we can indulge along the way.  The entire ride is part of the process to be enjoyed, not just the high of the beach.  There are multiple miniature thrills along the way.

If Something Is Too Good To Be True…

         There is an adage that goes, “If something is too good to be true, it probably is.”  I have been the victim of two separate internet scams this summer.  My mom had told me to go onto a website, as they were having a deal on Birkenstocks.  You could buy two pairs of Birkenstocks for the price of one.  It turned out neither was delivered, but simply a girl’s tanktop from China.  Another was a tarot reading and profile summary.  The only reason I know this is a scam is my friend received the exact same profile/reading.   In both of these instances another individual was the one who told me of the deal, and I followed suit.  Everything is easy with Paypal.  We swipe often without thinking, and yet sometimes things are too good to be true.  Before we know it, we are scammed, and cannot get our money back despite complaints and disputes made. 

         This blog post is not to complain but to reframe.  What can be learned?  First, why am I making a purchase?  Is it coming from a place of need or greed?  I think I am going to land the most amazing deal, only to be cheated.  I probably did not need to make the purchase from the start.  Second, I am in the process of decluttering.  As I do this, why am I adding? Third, perhaps I need to learn patience, desire, versus immediate gratification.  Fourth, if I am going to buy anything it’s more beneficial to support in person products from local vendors and services versus internet ads.  

         Maybe you have been victim to an internet scam, if so how did you handle this? What were your lessons learned?  How have you shifted your experience as a customer after this occurrence? 

Balancing Discipline and Restoration During Travel

I’ve been on a sound healing course in rural Wales.  Although the course is from 10:00-5:00 for four days, somehow it does feel as if I am on a retreat.  Perhaps because the center we are staying in has a retreat feel.  The essentials are provided.  There is no luxury, but there is enough.  Cell service is poor, but you are amidst greenery, trees, woods.  No responsibilities can pull at you at the moment.  All is asked is your presence.  Due to a later start in the morning and my only commute time equating with taking several turns down a hallway, my mornings appear luxurious.  There is time and space to maintain my daily discipline. 

            My mornings are filled with meditation, morning pages (journaling), gratitude, setting a morning intention, and yoga.  Somehow, I am mostly sustaining my intermittent fasting.   Since there are no dogs or people pulling for my attention, I have time to craft my mornings to look what I want it to look like.  Having some type of discipline while I travel helps create a light set of boundaries to my day.  I can keep a foundation of my essence, although other aspects may be out of control.  It may be easier to do this on a retreat or workshop, because your schedule is predictable.  Yet this is also possible to sustain if you are crafting your own trip.  Mornings can be sacred as a means to develop and sustain your discipline, whatever that looks like for you.  Yet it’s important to leave space for adventure, serendipity, and spontaneity. 

            Although my days are filled, part of me wishes to squeeze more out of them.  For me, this is more writing, creativity, or productivity.  Yet what I realize after dinner is my body is tired.  In reality, this even occurred during the training.  Our first day ended with an hour long sound bath.  Not only did I fall asleep, I was the first one and was lightly snoring!  This was embarrassing to hear in front of our group, but I couldn’t deny the truth.  My body and mind have been extremely busy.  It’s nudging me to be nurtured.  It is longing for more rest, rejuvenation, recuperation.  Allow your body and mind the time to slow down.  The word vacation comes from the Latin word “vacare” which means to “be unoccupied.”  Leave space for this to occur.  Between the busy-ness, adventure, learning, doing, exploring, and gallavanting allow yourself to be unoccupied.  Perhaps you may let out a sigh, yawn, or even a snore.  Welcome whatever arises.  It needs it!

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”- Ovid

Trusting Your Travel Intuition

Go with your gut, particularly when it comes to travel.  Although I know this in theory, it’s easy to lose sight of this.  We think others may know better.  They are more familiar with the terrain, have travelled more extensively, and perhaps you have not researched enough.  But what’s important to keep in mind is only you knows what you are looking for.

            This was the case for me yesterday.  I was driving to Wales for a sound healing training.  I chose this one particular Georgian beach town to visit, as it was only 45 minutes away from where I was headed.  It was a four hour drive away.  When I inquired with a colleague familiar with the area, she frowned.   She noted how that town disappointed her, as it was rundown.  She suggested another town that had more vibrancy and I would appreciate it more.  I looked at a virtual map, it was only three hours away.  I thought somehow I would be saving time.   When I landed in the town, I found the center: a shopping mall.  This was fine, it could be my base.  It was across from a tiny river.  I parked my car, found clean toilets, grabbed a latte and then I began to explore.  Although the town had some high street stores, there was no charm to it.  It was pure chain stores.  To me the town felt rundown, deprived of historic culture, and was simply a low income eyesore.  When I sat in a restaurant to look at the driving distance from here to my retreat center, it was nearly another three hour drive!!!

            Not only was the town disappointing, but my total hours in the car was going to be extended by two hours!!!  I was highly frustrated.  It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to be in nature, in a charming town.  I didn’t want to be surrounded by stores that I could see in my own backyard.  I was upset at myself for asking for the opinion of another and wasting an afternoon in an ugly town, when I could have been surrounded by inspiration. 

But I tried to remind myself that this lesson of trusting my gut versus asking the opinion of others was luckily not an expensive one.  It didn’t cost much money, just additional hours of my time.  How often do we pivot our lives to please others?  How often do we take jobs, move to cities, remain in a long term relationship, purchase an expensive piece of property, or cut off ties with people because others say so?  In life, we have to listen to our gut.  What do we really want?  What are we looking for? We can listen to others’ advice, if solicited, but it’s important to remember what your intention is.

            I was not clear with this when inquiring with my colleague.  I was simply asking her opinion.  What I actually longed for was beautiful scenery or perhaps to be surrounded by nature.  I did ruminate about my poor decision and spontaneity during my Welsh countryside drive, which cost me an afternoon.  But as I drove my additional three hours to the center, I stumbled upon this beauty.  

I paused.  Got out of the car, and simply sat to take it in.  This is what I was actually looking for.  A moment like this, when the world stopped.  My heart was reset and inspired again.  Perhaps I would not have been given this opportunity to view this if I had not been re-routed.  

I was reminded that travel doesn’t always go as planned.  We can’t always have wins or beautiful moments.  Like life, there will be disappointments, detours, frustrations, and self-doubt.  Can we let that go and learn?  Can we accepted the flawed with the unexpected beauty?  Can we take in the totality of a moment?  Detours can take us to the unexpected.  All is part of the journey.

“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”-Anthony Bourdain

To Remove is To Reveal

Earlier this week, I decided to cut out an additional side project in which I would be coaching part time for a particular organization.   There were hours of training, an exam, and structured sessions necessary to partner with them.  This seemed to be like a lot of work for only a several hour weekly commitment of a side job.  In the past, I would simply go along with this, not thinking much of what was required.  Yet the older I get, the more I try to pivot towards authenticity.  I am asking myself “What do I really want to do?” versus telling myself “this is something I should do.  I am turning up the volume of my internal wisdom.  Not only is the sound getting louder, but I am finally listening.  

To say no to this does not equate with fear that nothing else will come along. To say no is to say yes to a more true me.  After I made this decision, I listened.  The next day synchronicity arose from the books I was reading, and ideas shared within them.  Clarity arose.  I recognized I wanted to focus my extra energy and hours (outside of my full time job and other commitments) towards my writing world.  A brilliant idea came to pitch a course to another organization, and finally self publish my second book, that has been sitting for the past year, waiting to be read.  

When we remove the excess, truth is revealed.  

This does not mean when “stuff” is removed, it should automatically be replaced with more “stuff.”  What it means is that when we declutter, space is made available to see our internal longings.  From this, we can choose to act wisely.

It’s up to you of how you want to view what “stuff” means to you.  “Stuff” can equate with tangible things like clothes, shoes, paperwork.  What it can also mean is busy-ness, toxic people, negative thoughts, commitments.  Ironically, this is what my book The Subtraction Method: Mastering the Art of Less is about.   More to come on that in the upcoming months. 

Ask: What in your life can you work on removing?  

Release: Can you allow yourself the privilege to release that which no longer serves you?

Intuit: Once this process is completed, listen.  What does your intuition say? 

Act: Take action.

The process is simple, but it’s so necessary to allow space to listen before replacing.  Then act from a place of wisdom versus fear.  Share your experience with me.

Life is Short

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”- Mark Twain

Is it possible to live a life without regrets? 

If so how is that done?  

How am I going to live, knowing that I will die? 

I ask myself these questions frequently.  Nearing middle age, I remind myself “life is short.”   Time is a valuable resource, which is limited, the question unknown to all of us is the amount.  A colleague of mine says weekly, “we only have so many heartbeats.”  And knowing this, how do you want to live your life?

For many of us during covid, we had nothing but time to pause and reflect on what we want to do when lockdowns lifts.  What was it we really valued?  Was it travels to adventurous places?  Visiting friends and family?  Being in a romantic relationship?  Changing careers?  Deepening one’s spiritual community?  Trying a new hobby you have been putting off?

I know I write about this topic frequently, but the essence is important.  There is an app called “we croak” , which reminds us five times a day we are going to die.  This is taken from a Buddhist tradition from Bhutan.  When the app warns you, death is imminent, and inspirational quote follows.  This is not meant to be morbid or dark, but remind you that your life is waiting to be lived. It’s interesting because I share this app with so many people, I even talk about it when giving presentations or workshops.  So I found it interesting when I shared the above Mark Twain quote with a friend this past week, he shared a quote with me from the we croak app. “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”-Dolly Parton

Time is a valuable treasure.  In our youth, many of us feel we are immortal.  Death will be during “old age,” but the truth is none of us knows when this will come.  If you are not proud or joyous in the life you are living, you have the luxury to take that other path.

We have all these opportunities to course correct our lives.  If you are dissatisfied, will you take it?  If not, why not?  What are you waiting for?

Take Yourself On A Date

Have you taken yourself on a date lately?  

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, encourages all creatives to do three things each week: morning pages (freestyle journaling each morning for three pages), 20 minute walks daily, and artist dates.  Although we may not view ourselves as “creative”, these are amazing weekly activities we all should participate in.  The idea of taking ourselves on a date, may feel awkward.  We tend to only try new restaurants, see shows or films, or go to museums in the company of others.  There is nothing wrong with having dates with others, but it’s also important to date ourselves.  When we date someone, intimacy develops.  We peak into the other’s likes, dislikes, passions, interests, dreams through deep conversations, exploration, adventure, and a sense of wandering.  It is vital we do this with ourselves.

Artist dates do not have to equate with going to a museum, writing conference, or painting class (although it can).  I tend to view these dates as a form of self-care, it could include everything from a much needed massage, to a walk along a beach, sitting in a coffee shop sipping a latte, or going for a hike.  We simply need to be intentional with these acts, and inquire within to listen what our heart’s desire longs for this week.  And enjoy.  Lavish in the date.

During the lockdown, I admit my artist dates were not so unique.  They included such things as making a new cuisine for myself (in which I splurged on ingredients for), watching a film on Netflix uninterrupted, coloring in my hygge adult coloring book, and sitting in the park reading a book.  Yet, on my recent trip, I engaged in numerous artist dates.  I couldn’t wait to report back to my virtual Artist Way group about them.  These included numerous hikes, coffee shop visits with journaling time, a West End show, street art walking tour, and a front row seat at the Pump Room (a Bath restaurant from the late 1700s) where a musical trio performed.  Artist Dates inspire us to live a more enriched life, and appreciate the small moments.  We may find that we are content with living a luxurious life, that doesn’t really cost much money.  We don’t have to wait to live the life we want.  We are already living it.  

So I encourage you readers to take time out for yourself this week.  Treat yourself to an artist date.  Share with me what you did!!! 

The Flux of Routine on Vacation

“If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine: It’s Lethal.”– Paulo Coelho.

We travel to break the monotony of our daily lives.  This includes leaving our jobs, responsibilities, familiarities, and tendencies at home.  We travel to restore ourselves, try new things, let go of our contained selves to allow movement to our souls and bodies.  Yet, what I am finding for me is that we need to navigate a balance of ourselves on trips: our vacation self, disciplined self, playful self, curious self, and wise self.  

It’s easy to let loose on vacation.  I hadn’t left my home to stay overnight in ten months, and to embark on an adventure was celebratory.  This included my senses being on overload with sights, smells, walks, and tastes of non-stop fun.  But we can overdo it, or at least I did.  Somehow much of the food I ate the past several days caught up with me: full English breakfasts (even though they were vegetarian), burgers, chips (also known as French fries to Americans), a lack of hydration, partnered with non-stop tourist attractions, driving down windy British back roads, and being around people 24/7 post covid overwhelmed me.  In addition, I longed for seafood and perhaps overate to simply taste the pleasures of the coastal life.  After 2 days of this, I felt as if I woke up with a hangover.  It was not due to drinking, but non-stop going, and being out of my eating regime.  During trips we want to let loose, and we should.  Yet a balance may be necessary, depending on what your day to day life looked like before.

I’ve allowed myself the space for my morning discipline to take place: meditation, journaling (also known as morning pages), gratitude, silence, intention.  But I realized I need the additional centering from the rejuvenation of naps, stillness, and slowing down.  How can we enjoy vacations if they are at full speed?  The luxury lies in the ability to slow down. 

I took an evening to do nothing, skipped a meal, slept, rehydrated, and allowed myself to recalibrate.  And I feel much better.  As I continue the remainder of this week long journey, I know my days must balance the adventurer with the self-nurturer.  This will lead to an enriched sustainable journey.Who are you when you vacation? Do you live a life of excess, moderation, balance, or flow?  How has the pandemic impacted who you are when you travel today?  What can you do to allow stillness and presence to arrive in the midst of vacation

Stillness In Sailboats

I arise to the sounds of birds calling from my room.  At 5:00 am, I take it as wake up calls to get out of bed and take in the day.  I am staying on the Isle of Portland, in the Jurassic Coast.  This is the first time I have stayed overnight somewhere that was not my home in ten months, due to covid.  For a wanderluster, like me, it feels like years.  But as I watched the stillness of the sailboats, I realize I don’t need much to bring me to a place of tranquility.

I have been longing for this.  Months of non-stop work at my place of employment, and my side projects have kept me busy. Although I love staycations, and find enjoyment in my home, I do appreciate exploring the world outdoors.

Nobody in the hotel or town is up yet, and therefore I put on my shoes and light jacket and step outside.  I find the perfect spot for my morning meditation: sitting on the pier outside of my hotel.  Today my meditation consisted of closing my eyes, and simply focusing on the sense of sound.  There are seagulls but many other birds I can’t identify.  Are these mating calls, wake up calls, or simply shout outs to friends to gather nearby and find food?  I hear waves, not from the water in front of me, but somewhere in the distance.  The atmosphere appears silent, but in reality, it’s oozing with life.  And then I hear and sense the tiny raindrops that fall onto the water in front of me, and I sense them on my skin.  I do not run for cover.  It’s England.  I simply embrace the moment.  

Although I am one who loves travelling to exotic lands, or the ends of the earth, there is something refreshing with the stillness of sailboats in calm waters.  Perhaps as we are drawn to water, because so much of us internally consists of water.  Or the sailboats are reminiscent of memories I can’t place.  There is a universality to seeing sailboats in Old Saybrook Connecticut, Paros Greece, Honolulu, seas of Jordan, or Long Beach California.   It may be in our collective unconscious to find rejuvenation when gazing at the simplicity of a sailboat.  

When choosing a place to say, the Isle of Portland, became our hub.  Just outside our door, was the Navy and Air bases that were the departure points for DDay for many Americans, a castle built during the time of Henry the 8th, and a location hub for the Olympics in 2021 for sailing competitions.  Despite all this history, this town is modest, quiet, and non-elitist.  Other sites in Dorset county, pull the attention of tourists to it.  The hotel is no frills but boasts a beautiful view from the window sill of our room, which I make as my makeshift writing nook.  

We travel for adventure, vitality, escape, restoration, bragging rights, and a break from boredom.  But sometimes all we desire is a reason to slow down from the busy-ness of our everyday lives.   We don’t need a fancy hotel, expensive restaurants, or an over the top Instagram snapshot.  We solely need to view of the stillness of sailboats, and find once again the stillness that can exist within.  

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