i'm back!! how to return home from world travel and not get spent
You would think spending my days windowshopping for models, producing indulgent recipes, and chatting away with 'sisters from other mothers' would be an enviable way to live, but the truth is I sometimes want to run away from it all. That might explain why I took off to slow travel around the world in hopes of an undeniable wake up call. As a woman, the surging pressures of exhaustion, stress, and lack of motivation is enough to make us throw in the proverbial towel no matter how glamorous our life may seem to others (can I get an amen from 30 year old interns). But it doesn’t have to be that way. You know how I know? Well, like an acute idiot, I decided to plan my trip home right before Thanksgiving. Can anyone ask for a more overwhelmingly chaotic time to get off the plane? Lights, sounds, commercially driven conspicuous consumption. My head would literally float off my body this was two years ago. Holidays are definitely a time when keeping up with the Joneses is do or die. But I've never felt more calm and ready to take on [enter challenge here].
I have read each and every one of your lovely comments here on the blog and privately through email, and while I know most to you are completely revved up to one day leave the strappy sandals behind and take a leap of your own to travel to faraway fantastical destinations, it doesn't take travel to have an epiphany that a little self-care and mindfulness can go along way. Do something for yourself that doesn't involve a plane or train ticket. You don't have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to feel a bit whole.
While waiting for a full on breakdown from your boss, your lover, or even your roommate can induce much-needed change, why wait for that moment with everyone around you as an audience? Everyday is a new day, but it is not a clean slate; so you must take a stand to interject life’s little pleasures even when you think there is absolutely no room or no time.
A simple routine of four new habits can kick that negative energy in the butt, so that next time someone asks “How are you?” a poopy answer like ‘tired’ or ‘busy’ is a thing of the past. Because let’s get real for a second because all that family time, friend time, work time, time on the computer, time on the phone, and time trying to be superwoman is hardly benefitting you. One day you’ll just find yourself pulling your hair out. Well, if you haven’t already!
1. MULTI-TASKING SUPER WOMAN
Funny enough, I used to pride myself on being a veteran multi-tasker. It was a personality trait and skill that would work its way to the top of every resume, every conversation, every bio or elevator speech. Now I see it as the one thing that drives me literally insane and can make the brightest of days seem overcast and gray.
To combat this, I have become a big fan of lists. I was always jealous of the dedicated writers who would journal every day of every year (and please don't think fashion bloggers who post up their thoughts daily on how "totes cute Alex Wang's boots are" is what I'm referring to). I never could keep up. Instead, I now use my beautifully collectible journals to make daily lists. I write down what needs to get done that day and how much time it should take me. I set a little alarm clock and never go over the time. This is key, because with addictive tasks like grocery shopping, emailing, or even twatting on Twitter, time escapes you like fog into the night. And getting more tweets or Facebook posts into your day does not feel rewarding when you realize it’s 7pm and there are hungry mouths to feed yet you’ve only gotten through half of your list.
Stress is sure to come ring your doorbell. For an extra dose of carpe diem motivation, I plan out little rewards for myself when I complete my to-dos. Anything from a dark chocolate bar to a stroll outside during lunch break are easy ways to break up the day and ignite good behavior.
2. NATURE BEYOND SALAD LUNCHES
Living in a concrete jungle like New York City or Miami or Chicago is definitely a denial bubble. There are weekend trips galore that would quickly reintroduce me to the glorious sight of evergreens, wild birds, and roaming animals, but instead I usually deny myself of such pleasures by taking a trip to the newest restaurant or an organic spa that plays waterfall sounds. Denial, denial, denial. Niagara Falls is only an hour away and one would be as dense as stone to feel anything but serenity and peace when faced with nature’s beauty.
If you’re luckier than I am and find yourself surrounded by nature involuntarily, then stop making excuses not to embrace it. For those in a metropolitan bubble, save up pennies to participate in one of those annual retreats that have become wildly popular and healing, like my favorites by Squam Workshops. I'm sort of into yoga and Pilates now though (so cliche I know, but there's a reason for certain hype) and Pravassa Wellness retreats seem more up my alley.
Even better, day trips or weekend getaways to national parks, greener cities, or even camping grounds can enliven your spirit, even if you must glamp instead of camp. I don’t know a single person who feels stressed while strolling carelessly under the shady canopy of bristling trees. Haven't you noticed how delightful Kinfolk magazine always makes it seem. Much more attainable than the lives on the pages of Vogue. Without spending a penny, you find yourself being soothed by the aromatherapy of plant fragrances, chromatherapy by the colors of the season, and even sound therapy by the singing birds and whistling breeze. Yes, a facial or massage at the end would take the cake, but its nothing a DIY honey mask and foot rub from your sweetheart can’t cure.
3. TOXIC ENERGY
It is one thing to surround yourself with gossiping, energy-depleting, good for nothing people, but did you know that even ten negative colleagues or friends wouldn’t do as much damage to you as you are most likely already doing to yourself?
Every day, from the time you wake up to the time you start snoring at night, there is an orgy of toxins that want to do nothing more than clog your pores, air, and bloodstream with completely unnecessary chemicals. Your toothpaste, hair spray, lipstick, cotton dress, chicken salad, leather sofa, scented bubble bath…are all toxic and slowly killing you faster than you’d like.
They are safe and pretty sitting on the shelf, but when combined with others on a daily basis, they can lead to a lack of energy, depression, and of course diseases. You shouldn’t let the government’s lack of regulation and transparency determine how you care for yourself.
Make an effort to take baby steps toward wholesome beauty. I know it sounds granola and hippie but I wouldn't share my secrets if it didn't work for me. Small changes like water filters, organic foods or clothing, chemical-free paints and home decor, are all monumental impacts in the long run. I know it may seem strange that Luck magazine totally told you to buy it and that it was approved and loved by XYZ editor and all her friends, but it's nothing more than a press release and a paycheck. So take my word for it and do something for yourself, not for the bit guns who rack in dough off your misery.
4. DISCOVER MEANING
If you were to ask me the single best decision or purchase I made in 2012 it would be a little set of gratitude journals from the beloved Squam Workshops online store (2013 was obviously my ticket purchase to Portugal, doh!). Even though I rarely have the time or money to attend their covetable retreats, I sign up for their newsletter and find solace in peaceful updates and soul nourishing advice.
One day they announced a sale for handmade journals with artwork covers and I snapped up one of each, not even realizing that they were gratitude journals with five entries for every day of the year. Every night before bed I would doodle away, reminiscing about the day and what I felt grateful for. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and clear patterns would emerge.
I was happiest and most grateful when surrounded by laughter, cooking, and helping others. What started off as a silly way to document my day actually became an enlightening glimpse into what activities provided meaning in my life. I found extreme pleasure in cooking and baking, and even felt needed and adored for it; so much so that I decided to start an organic meal delivery club for older folks in my city. Later on I would soon inspire a friend to start a supper club in her hometown of Switzerland.
I also discovered that connecting with women on a business level was quite rewarding and surprisingly easy for me to do. That led to the launch of a freelancer and entrepreneur club where I empower and teach women to start a creative business from scratch with little to no money. And yes I know a lot of you commented on my post how I was able to travel while freelancing so I promise to get back to that answer soon!
In the end, you should do what works for you when it comes to finding meaning in your life. A volunteer project might turn into a lifelong passion. A meal might turn into a business. A conversation or journal entry might become your new purpose. This may all sound uber cheesy compared to flipping through J.Crew catalogs right now, but try even one of the habits above and then come back here and let me know how it worked out for you. If nothing felt like an injection of whimsy into a rather mundane life, then you're guaranteed your money back.... my currency is blog posts of course!