I ache for the way travel dares you to live in the moment. I long to feel the force of it smashing me up against my own walls, and stories, and alibis, crumbling them into yesterdays. I yearn for the apparent ease of it, born by euphoria invoked through facing fears – one, and then another, and another, in quick succession, like waves crashing into a moment – this moment, here and now.
The conquering is addictive – conquering mountains, and molehills, situations, challenges, and oneself. And it’s that feeling, and the feeling of existing purely in the now that draws me back to my dreams of travel. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the unfamiliar – noticing smells, hearing sounds, being caught by the rush of sudden movement, feeling the warmth of colour rush up my neck and flush my cheeks red. And I know how a foreign landscape can draw you in – the stars seem brighter, the grass greener, and the air feels fresher against your skin. A year ago I stood on top of mountains and felt the whole world at my fingertips. The wind fluttered leaves against a background of pure magic. Tears pricked my eyes as I felt myself soak up every moment, my cells drinking the world in and filling me up from the inside out. Whatever door travel opens – it is one that cannot be closed. And if you are yourself open, and ready, then walking through that door can be just enough to jolt you awake from a dream you didn’t even know you were in.
But maybe this awakening can happen anywhere, at any time. Maybe it has nothing to do with travel at all. And so what I am craving may actually be something I already have.
As I sit here, and watch the beautiful sun set – I wonder why I have to work a little harder to ignite my senses at the same level of intensity when I am here at home. Is it the familiarity? Am I taking things for granted? Is it the predictability?
I wonder how to access such gratitude and acceptance in any given moment, particularly in a landscape familiar with a routine that repeats.
I yearn for the sunshine, and the mountains, and the sprawling spaces – and yet these things are here. I yearn for the freedom time affords – days into nights and nights into days – but no matter when I am the sun still rises and falls. I long for rainy days in steaming locales, forced into introspection, and quiet contemplation. I yearn for connection. There is something about the open road that simply expands your world beyond the known – and in the unknown spaces magic exists, fears are faced and you are left only with yourself – both pure, and simple.
How much of our experience is external, and how much internal? How much is based on what we know? How much of it is directed by the context in which we have learned to live our lives? And I say learned, because we do seem to live our lives the way we have learned. Ever think about unlearning? Or learning a new way?
Perhaps the very thing that travel opened up to me, is within us all anyway. Perhaps travel provides a means of access, but there are other means, other ways to open up your world.
When we are somewhere familiar we are faced with people and memories and moments that attach us somehow to something that we once considered ourselves to be. But we are not these things, and nor were we ever. When we remove these things, we still exist. When we remove our thoughts, and opinions, we still exist. Somehow we feel these things define us, even though we are made of much more. We become bound by these things, habitually letting them filter through to take hostage of our minds. We become too afraid to dig deeper and look further within, because when we look at everyone else they seem to have it all figured out – at least on the surface. We compare ourselves to others, when we cannot ever know their experience. We think maybe their path will work for us – when we can’t sit with ourselves long enough to learn our own. But the truth is, our minds are well trained – by us – by the human condition – whether we have done the training consciously, or not.
But when travelling I found it possible to feel entirely free. Free in the moment, free to be whoever, free to go wherever, free to see whoever, free to stay, free to go… free to just be.
And in contrast, it is when I find myself confined to a routine, day-to-day existence, and on a path well-trodden that the true challenge exists. This is about how I choose to think, how much time I choose to dedicate to thinking about the future, and how much time I choose to dedicate to thinking about the past. It’s about honouring oneself, redrawing boundaries, and redefining the person you really are. It’s about learning to live in the now.
And for now this is where I must be. It is a beautiful dance on the edge of want and desire. It’s a fine balance. It is becoming clearer to me that the more we repress our true nature and conform to living a life determined by others, the more crazy, anxious and wound up we feel. We are encouraged to think for ourselves within a framework so rigid and tightly constructed that we aren’t really afforded any freedom at all. The funny thing is we each hold the key to our own freedom and happiness. Society pushes us to look outside ourselves for this key – new gadgets, toys, computers, clothes, makeup, cars, houses, holidays… the list goes on and on. We fall for it – thinking if we only had this, or that, our lives would be so much better. But the truth is, the key is already within ourselves – it costs nothing, and it has very little to do with what we have, or don’t have. These things help create a level of comfort – but these things do not belong to us and if we choose to try and attach our happiness to them, we will be bitterly disappointed. The more we search for external quick fixes, the further we move away from ourselves and our true nature.
The answers lie within. If we want something in this life, we must create it ourselves. We can’t wait. We can’t sit back and wish things were different – we have to make them different. We can’t compare ourselves, or our path, to anybody else’s – they are not measurable. We have to sit with ourselves, get to know who we really are, remove the external distractions and be still. Stop and listen to the empty space in between – what fills it? Look beyond your thoughts and mind chatter – be a witness to them. Be your own teacher and realise that every person who crosses your path is also a teacher. And when you are comfortable here, with yourself in this space, you can begin to listen to your truth and begin to create a new world.
But here, as I begin down a new road, I feel myself challenged by the transition. The ball begins rolling – ever so slowly, and we try and find patience as it gently gathers momentum. We try and remind ourselves of the world and how big it is, and how small we really are. We try and draw ourselves back into the moment and find gratitude there. We try and remember that the challenges we face are necessary for our growth tomorrow and that the beauty of creating something is indeed in the process, the journey. If we wait only for the end result, we will realise that we missed all the juiciest parts.
So today, just be. And stay open.