When travelling, one of the greatest challenges for me is staying true to myself, my values, and my principles; sometimes travelling makes it hard to stay in tune with yourself because you are constantly exposed to new things; new people, new places, new sights, smells, tastes etc. etc.
Being on the move a lot makes it especially hard for me to pay enough attention to my own thoughts, feelings, and needs. And of course this affects my behaviour and my interactions with the people around me, especially with A. We are used to spending all our time together at home, but travelling adds another dimension to this and, naturally, some challenges. It can be challenging for me to stay rational and fair at all times, when I get stressed out or overwhelmed I tend to have less patience and I become irritated more easily, and it isn’t fair to A if I am not capable of taking the time to myself that I need.
I have sometimes found it difficult to take that time. We don’t always have the possibility of taking time to ourselves while travelling, or doing what we feel like when we feel like it. At least not the way we usually do it at home. That is why it is so important to find ways to take that time.
One of the ways I take a little time to wind down these days is to enjoy my coffee a little extra, simply dwell on the taste. Shut everything out. Just me and my coffee.
A too needs time to process everything and to stay tuned into her own needs. She has different ways than me of coping with being on the move and it can be difficult for her as well, but she is very good at adjusting to different situations. This is something we have both learned and are both learning as we travel.
As such, travelling for us is also an exercise in listening to ourselves, our bodies, our minds, and our needs.
What helps us when we feel disconnected is to settle down and stay in one place for a longer period of time. We need these breaks from all our experiences and choices and impressions so we can process what we go through, and take time for ourselves to do simply nothing.
It is easy to get caught up in a belief that we have to rush to see all the things that all the places we visit have to offer. At least I sometimes get caught up in that belief. Luckily, A is much better at taking it easy. She is good at listening to her own needs.
She reminds me of the need to take it easy, which is a big help for me from time to time. She has a way of settling in the moment, an incredible ability to be content in the present, which allows her to enjoy the moment to the fullest. No matter if we are swimming in the Caribbean, walking down a busy street in Bogota or Quito, visiting an ancient ruin in Peru, or simply lazing around in our accommodation. A is good at being in the present. And she is good at letting me know if she needs a day to relax.
The other day A said she wanted to stay at home while Niels and I went into town. She spent the whole day with our host, Nini, and was so happy when we got back that she had been able to relax and unwind. She had been talking to my dad on skype, playing cards on the laptop, playing wii, simply enjoying herself. This time that she took for herself makes it possible for her to process some of all the things we have experienced on our travels.
When we take time to ourselves we don’t necessarily need to be alone. For example, as I am writing this we are three people in the room; one is reading, one is playing the ipad, and one is writing. Everyone is absorbed by their own thing, which is exactly what taking time for yourself is about. You don’t have to be alone to take time for yourself, you simply need to tune out of your surroundings and into yourself. This is an ability that A has mastered.
I am not the only one to notice A’s ability to be present in the now and to listen to her own needs. Numerous times people have complimented this ability in her and reminded me of how important this ability is. In a room full of people she is able to sit quietly in a corner, looking in a book, or watching some show on mute, or having a conversation with herself. And being able to do this is paramount, especially when on the move.
Our travels are continuing along with our learning and our exercises in staying true to ourselves and our own needs and values. We treasure the moments we have, the moments we get, and all the time that is given to us.