What I learnt from a yr’s distant work and travel by Cait Flanders
November 13, 2020
Since 2020 we have all kept a little closer to home. I’ve been thinking about all the trips I could do before the pandemic. Specifically how I spent most of 2019 in the UK after giving up my apartment in Canada and deciding to finally try what I always wanted to do: travel full time.
Since I’d been a freelance writer for many years and still had the freedom not to have a partner or children, planning was pretty straightforward: all I had to do was pack, book a flight, and place to stay, and close go . I told myself I didn’t have to travel forever (and thank goodness or I’d be even more upset about changing my plans and going home this year). I just told myself to try.
If I had written about the lessons I learned from this trip a year ago, this article could write more about the logistics of how it works. Now that we are there, I thought these lessons could be more helpful:
We need new experiences in our routines.
The main reason so many of us travel is to see what life is like in other parts of the world. We long for new sights and sounds – and take what we see and learn home with us. It is also believed that experiencing new things changes our perception of time, and the months and years go by more slowly and feel more memorable. Is that true? I can’t say for sure. But in a year where many of us literally stayed in our homes and did the same thing almost every day, it was surprising to look back and think about how quickly time has passed.
Instead of just waiting for this to “end,” I tried to add more new experiences to my weeks. It started with new recipes, like everyone else! But it has moved on to simpler things like: reading books aloud and not in my head, taking an online class in fiction, and exploring some of the plants and trees that I’ve always seen but never paid attention to. I’m not saying it’s the same as getting on a plane and exploring a new city on foot! But I come to the end of each week and I feel like I’ve done something new – and that feels good now.
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Indeed, you might be happier doing less.
Let me get this out of the way by saying that this doesn’t mean you need to be excited about how this year was because you didn’t. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling slowly, it’s that I very much prefer the days when I allow myself to do less, no more. When I speed from one tourist attraction to the next and am surrounded by crowds everywhere, I am exhausted – similar to when I try to meet myriad obligations at home. Going slower is easier to manage and more fulfilling. It might mean seeing fewer people, but we make more meaningful memories together. Bonus: my mental Health is also better off when I give myself permission to slow down. When this is “over,” I don’t want to go back to how I did things before. This pace feels healthier.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your life.
After all, one of the best things about traveling – especially alone – is that you can be whoever you want to be. That said, you can either be more of yourself than you feel at home, or you can try on new identities and imagine what it might be like to be someone else. Maybe someone who is a little more spontaneous or adventurous than you are in your normal daily life. Of course, it was always true that we could do this at home too. But one of the many truths this year brought to the surface is that nothing stays the same forever – and that could give more of us the courage to experiment every day rather than just on holidays.
There are often concerns that if we decide to change something about the way we live, we must a) do it perfectly and b) do it forever. None of these concerns are true, but stories that we tell each other because of our fears. The fear of not fitting, the fear of going out alone, the fear of being left behind. We don’t want to be alone, so we stick with what we know – but it often gets us stuck. Fortunately there is another way. What if you could rephrase your idea: I’m just trying something new! Do a little experiment. See how it goes! Does that sound a little less scary? Who knows, if you shared this with loved ones, they might want to try an experiment in their own life too. Wouldn’t that be a fun topic for your next call?
Cait Flanders is the author of Adventures in Opting Out: A Guide to Living an Intentional Life, published October 15 by Trigger Publishing at a price of £ 12.99, available online and in all good bookstores.
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