by Karen Davies | Apr 7, 2018 | Personal Insights, Travel Blog, UK
Here we are half way through our trip back to Blighty and I felt inspired to write down my thoughts as we navigate our way through this strange period of our nomadic lives.
Operation UK, as we have lovingly called it, has been a journey full of the usual texture and colour that we have come to expect from our adventurous lives. Although I must admit as we prepared for our temporary homecoming, it had an odd hue of grey around the edges as I struggled to get my head – and my heart around going back.
As I reflect back to December, when our plans became more real, I remember the deep sense of dread which seems to be a recurring pattern when we consider a trip back to UK. It’s a really strange sensation as I picture ‘the return’ which fills me with uncertainty and anxiety. I’ve never been quite sure what has driven this feeling for my homeland. Although I embrace it, as I have every other emotional response we’ve had since we hit the road two years ago.
Our first trip back was Christmas 2016 for a mere three weeks and it was a whirlwind visit to spend precious time with friends and family. As I recall, this ‘return’ had a more intense fear to it, as we had only intended to travel for a gap-year whilst we sold some property, although such was our love for our new lives that we decided to keep going. So this trip was filled with an anxiety that played out some very strange scenarios for me;
Would we want to stay?
Would we harbour deep-seated regrets for all we had left behind?
Would there be a surprising desire to return to our roots and bricks and mortar?
I think it was the anticipation of these questions and doubts that nibbled away on the inside of my ego. Although thankfully none of them came to fruition and with a fervour in our heels, we hopped, skipped and jumped our way back to our new European homeland to seek out more life-enriching experiences. Our trip had been affirming, comforting and full of lovely reconnections, yet nothing held us back from the happiness we have found as nomads.
So you could be forgiven for thinking that having done it once I could come back to UK with a certain degree of confidence in my soul. Although this latest trip was for longer…. This could be up to three months! How would I cope with that and what unexpected nuances would influence our travelling landscape?
Just before we set out on our epic route back through France, to quote the famed Mr King, ‘I had a dream’… Said dream gave me an absolute clarity about our trip to UK and the role it played in our lives today and tomorrow. It wasn’t so much a ‘going back’ as an opportunity to consolidate a base on which more years of travel could be built on. That realisation brought me a resounding peace and in a flash of that waking moment, I said goodbye to dread and hello to positive purpose.
So often during the course of the last two years I have been reminded of my work as a life coach and the insights that clients and I create to heal their suffering. And here was yet another lovely lesson from my own story book… When things look difficult or tricky, hard or upsetting, then explore whether, within its fabric, is a positive purpose – a reason that that situation, interaction or person is in your life. Once we see this perspective, it makes our handling of it so much easier.
Added to this, an important conversation with a friend gave me the ‘ah-ha’ I sought to the source of my ‘RETURNING’ fear. Because we decided to swap our corporate stress for a more fulfilling sense of happiness, adventure and simplicity, coming back had the shadow of historical ghosts that lined up ready to suck me back into the nightmare of our previous lives. My fear was more about what the UK represented for me; a place where for too many years we struggled with stress, mental fatigue and people-pleasing traits that called the shots and that sent our lives into a seemingly uncontrollable spiral. A place that we chose to leave behind and one that we never want to return to, having found the enriching life of nomads.
With clarity of heart and mind we stepped on snowy UK shores with a determination that continues to drive us even into our second month. What was more interesting was that our arrival was exactly two years to the day that we had left for European shores. Was that a strange twist of fate or merely a co-incidence? I’ll leave this to your own imagination, as to ponder on its significance seems futile for us at this point. Perhaps it will become clearer at another junction of our lives, although for now we’ll put it down to co-incidence.
Intent on meaningful connections, productive selling, even more positive purchasing and a little milestone Birthday, we initiated our operation with the strategic character of a battle-field. A busy month has had our feet not even touching the ground and our to-do-list reducing day by day.
With a bit of an April respite as we housesit back on home turf in Taunton, a place that we proudly called home for four years, we smile at the way we have reacted to being back on the farm where it all started. Our old house next-door is now occupied by new tenants and as they make it their home, our memories strangely don’t feature in any wistful recollections. We simply feel grateful for all that was and all that is right now. Having this stationery sojourn feels comforting and known as we complete the next set of tasks from our list.
One month on, we are making excellent progress on the financial foundation and the social reconnections are being beautifully restored and whilst we sit here on a wet and grey UK day feeling just a bit jaded from our exploits, we know that we are doing well and navigating our intense journey with teamwork. We must though during this next phase of housesitting, allow our bodies (and our livers if we’re honest), take a rest and whilst it is important to see all our lovely friends and family, we must not to fall foul to the old people-pleasing beasts that lurk in the wings of our life’s stage. We must ensure that we continue to put our well-being first so that we may live our lives with the same energy we have up until this point.
And don’t get me wrong, my wanderlust is rising up from my feet with the eagerness of wild horses ready to run through wilderness, although for now this is not where we are meant to be. Our travels will resume soon and in fact there is plenty of adventure to be had in this phase of our lives. It is just shaped by a purposeful need to get our house in order so that we may move forward with greater certainty and confidence.
What will the next chapter bring? That we don’t know, although what we do realise is that with our partnership, love and resilience we can navigate it all with the deftness of a coursing river.
by Karen Davies | Aug 22, 2017 | Personal Insights, Travel Blog
Navigating mindfully through the bad days
“We often hold this notion that when we move house, change our job or the car that magically things will shift, that life will somehow transform into the land of our dreams.”
Sat in the wilds of Transylvania, we have a moment of stillness to reflect on what has been a challenging couple of weeks and make sense of all the events that have unfolded. It’s been a bit odd really as it feels a bit like having a favourite sandwich; some fabulous experiences in the middle of some personally and financially stretching events. The unexpected storm tonight seems to match with my mood, as my mind races erratically like a tempestuous teenager, reviewing the series of challenges we have had to deal with. It causes me to reflect on my own learning and the dualities of a nomadic life and our travel choices.
The magic of change
“It is such a romantic notion to run away into the sunset and travel aimlessly, being guided by the wind, your intuition or the warmth of the sun.”
We often hold this ideal that when we move house, change our job or the car that magically things will shift; that life will somehow transform into the land of our dreams. And it is true, that for a time, it will certainly feel different, may-be even better. It could last a week, a month or a few years. Although the reality is that there is no complete escape – because life still vibrates around us, the clocks still chime and the earth still revolves.
The same happens when we decide to travel. Whether we choose backpacking around the world, an exciting sponsored-trip to the jungle or embark on a 3 month tour of Europe in a camper, we don’t escape life, we simply change the parameters within which we choose to live.
It is such a romantic notion to run away into the sunset and travel aimlessly, being guided by the wind, your intuition or the warmth of the sun. And it is a privileged and wonderful life, there’s no doubting that. How amazing is it to swap the routine of the Home, Work, Shops triangle for the sound of wolves in the mountain depths of Bulgaria or the crashing waves of the azure Grecian seas? I certainly wouldn’t swap.
Yet whilst we may find the courage to change our lives beyond recognition and, to use that cliché, ‘live the dream’ there is another perspective that must be packed into the suitcase of our new life choices – called the shadow.
As there is day, there too must be night, where the sun shines, the rain too must fall. The shadow exists as part of the duality of life and is not intended as a gloomy insight, just an aspect of life that, with awareness can keep us rooted into the reality of this beautiful, challenging and crazy world. Knowing the shadow exists can maintain our nomadic sanity
Amidst the joy of waking up in a new land with evocative smells of the local street food or the prospect of walking to the local bakery for your morning’s croissant, we need to be mindful of the shadow’s role in throwing challenges, problems and crises our way. I’m not suggesting that we keep this as such a strong focus that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, although if we can just ‘keep our heads, when all around us are loosing theirs..’ to quote Kipling, then surely our travelling experiences will be all the richer.
The problem with shadow’s presence on our travels is that it can cause us to get lost in fear, stress and anxiety, none of which are healthy places at any time, least of all whilst we are away from home. So what if we could apply some techniques for navigating these difficulties more smoothly, which would allow us to return to the business of seeking adventures?
Tips for Travelling Mindfully and navigating the bad days
There are so many things we can do to prevent the travellers’ droop and the risk of our dreams crashing to the floor. Here are my mindful insights, based on our recent stretching experiences:
- Acceptance. Let’s face it, bad days will happen from time to time. We could well have something stolen, a laptop damaged by a freak storm, an uncomfortable interaction, an accident that damages our vehicle or break pads that need changing in a country of a strangers. And of course Banks still need to be dealt with, Insurance firms want us to jump through hoops when making a claim and compliance to the System’s rules keep a loose thread around us. Health issues are bound to crop up and stuff back home still needs our loving support and encouragement. Accepting that things will happen out of the blue will help you navigate this journey with more ease.
- Awareness. What defines us and our happy lifestyle is how we handle what comes up. Our typical response to a crisis is to move into a flight or fight reaction, where primal behaviours kick in and we go into high alert. This protects us to some degree although may have us acting in a way that is not natural on a day to day basis. Instead, as our martial arts friend recently quoted ‘Be prepared not paranoid’. Know what action you will take in the event of a crisis, such as someone breaking into your space. Have a plan about how you will go about dealing with a stolen wallet. Know the emergency numbers of the country you’re visiting and always make sure your phone is charged. Be aware and alert without being paranoid – this pairing can carry you through a crisis or challenge with dexterity and calmness.
- Breathe. In the midst of the vortex we go into a instinctive mode where our body reacts chemically to protect us from harm. In this high alert state we forget to breathe, which can instantly calm us and reduce our racing heart-rate. In stress or an event that triggers anger, sadness or disappointment, remember to breathe as it will reduce the alertness we are experiencing and creates a more rational space for us to operate in.
- Be mindful. Travel and mindfulness is an art and skills we need to acquire. I’ve found travel to be my greatest teacher in the last 18 months and I continue to stay grounded in the experiences, both good and bad so that I can grow. Keep coming back to the here and now. It’s all too easy for our primitive, reptilian brain to scatter fear, uncertainty and doubt around our feet so that a forest of anxiety springs up, suffocating our dreams. Be attentive to how you feel, sit with whatever comes up and give it space to breathe. Don’t feed it, just be aware of it and it too will pass.
- Rational thinking. We often believe that our thinking is the root of all evil and it certainly rules the roost much of the time especially when they come from our unconscious mind or reptilian brain. Instead when we mindfully bring our thoughts back into our conscious mind in the pre-frontal cortex, then we can rationalise what is going on and challenge our irrational thoughts. Take a step back, assess the bigger picture, see all sides and decide on appropriate action. This will hold you in the reality of the situation rather than the nightmare action movie you have just directed in your head.
- Be grateful for all you have, all you experience and all that goes well. It’s so easy when there is a run of bad luck or challenges sent to try us, to get into a victim mentality. It is from this space that our thoughts of ‘home’ may return and we start to wonder if we should continue. Gratitude is key to us being in the moment and appreciating all we have, thanks to our life choices. Whilst ‘going back’ may be the right thing to do, listen to your heart and not your head, especially whilst it feels in crisis mode. Make decisions in the cool light of day.
- See things as they are, not as you think they are. It’s that reptilian brain playing tricks with us again. It sees a situation and starts bringing in historical events, drama and over-generalisation and, before we know it we’ve inflamed the situation. See it for what it is. A stolen passport, a disgruntled person or a soggy laptop. Avoid the trap of ‘Why me?’ ‘It’s not fair’ and concentrate on creating a resolution.
- Take responsibility and learn from what has happened. As with everything in life, there is always a lesson. I’m a great believer in ‘People (and indeed events) come into your life for a reason, season or a lifetime.’ Take time, after the challenge is over to explore what you can do differently to prevent it coming up again. Take the experience positively so you can move on quickly.
- Let go! Whatever has happened, work through the resolution and then let go. Releasing the tension over a challenging situation means you move on with your travels, without the shadow clouding your experiences. We hold onto too much negative emotion that affects our enjoyment of the the moment. So learn to accept what has happened and then move forward.
So as we throw ourselves at the mercy of our wanderlust and commit to the joys of travel, remember that travelling mindfully is the key to our positive, self-expanding experiences that will have us trotting around the globe seeking out new adventures for as long as forever may be for us.
With love and happiness Karen x
Karen is a life coach, author and travel commentator who, with her seriously entertaining husband Myles, are feeding their curiosity with full-time travel in their camper. Together they are passionate about inspiring you to travel; whenever, wherever and however you can.
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