ON LIVING

FINDING LIFE & TRAVEL, WHEREVER YOU ARE

 
So often my mind is off in far corners of the earth, in foreign lands, in memories past and months ahead.  Admittedly it largely lives two years in the future where I have my Italian citizenship and I am living in an obscure town along the coast of France…I digress…

It isn’t easy to connect to the now on a daily basis— especially when so many of us are looking forward to a time where we can take off our masks, hug our parents without a prior quarantine, hop on a plane to another country, and sit down for a dinner party with friends again.  

I have had plenty of times during this pandemic when I felt my life was on pause; like I wasn’t living.  But living is not grandiose; it is not saving up all your money your whole life so you can start to travel when you are 60 and really begin then; it is not that trip you take every year to the beach; it is not your latest skydive, the list of restaurants you’ve dined at, the countries you've visited, or the job you have.  It is not your house, your car, your clothes.  It is not something to be put on hold until "normal" resumes or takes new form.

Real living is subtle.

Real living is discreet.

Real living connects and savors.

Real living pauses and observes.

Real living feels like gratitude and awe.

For me, travel often feels like living, and over the past months I have been able to understand why.

During travel I study a way of life different than my own; I become a quiet observer of all the beautiful and minute details around me, soaking in the slowness, reveling in the joie de vivre where nothing feels rushed. 

When traveling, I’ll have a slow morning, taking a coffee and local pastry outside.  Watching the children explore the yard, I savor where I am; fully appreciating a brief moment in time where we all seem untethered.

When traveling, I could go on forever with what I have in my suitcase; feeling more satisfied with the shirt on my back and a baguette in hand, sitting on a river bank, watching the water ebb along, than I ever do sitting at home in a room full of things I’ve accumulated throughout the years.

We feel we are living when we travel because we intentionally watch the world with awe; connecting to nature, new cities, new tastes and smells, observing and embracing new ways of life.  We see how similar we are as humans, across the entire earth; how our basic needs are the same; safety, security, family, health.  Through travel, we remember our connection to each other; we remember our connection to something bigger.

When travelling we are fully aware of how precious and fleeting our time is; we know we may never be here again, so we soak it in, we pay attention, we try something new and we make the most of the moment we're in.  Because of this, when we travel, we feel as if we are truly living.  This intentional focus and excitement is why a week of travel provides us with a lifetime of memories. 

It is no coincidence that these feelings of living usually arrive when we are doing something that costs us little to no money; watching the sunset, laying on dunes in the desert or atop a mountain looking up at the stars, picking out fruit at a local farmer’s market, listening to a musician play on a street corner, making a new friend, being surprised by the kindness of a stranger, dancing in the street at a festival, watching our children while they play a pickup game with kids they just met,  or studying them as they roast a marshmallow over a fire; in that moment realizing how quickly they (and we) have grown up.

In a moment of living we don’t care about taking a photo, we don’t care about our job, the clothes we're wearing, or what the kitchen backsplash looks like back home.  In that moment we merely and magnificently remember what it means to be human.

Our time at home these days does not have to be all that different.  We can all choose to live and find this same magical sense of awe, wonder and slowness, within our own homes, within our own cities; in the smallest of moments, in the most visited of places...

...in the restoration of a stolen five minutes sitting on the stoop feeling the sun on your skin

...in the peace of a stroll to a cafe then finding a tree to spend the afternoon under

...in the moments of reconnection where we turn off our computers and phones and become present

...in the wonder of a sunset

...in the awe of peering through a telescope

...in a restorative hike alone through nature

...in the care of watching plants grow

...in the feeling of community felt by spending an hour on a park bench watching people pass by, in the warmth of a conversation with a stranger

...in the slowness of turning off the news and instead reading the paper once a week

...in the joy of by grabbing pastries from a local bakery

...in the warmth of a home cooked meal, made with care, eaten outside under the stars with candles aglow

Where we go and which culture we are in has little to do with the magic of travel.  The real beauty is in the pause we choose to intentionally take; in living as if we may never be here again; in the wondrous observation of our surroundings; in the appreciation of nature, food, drink, breath, being alive, being present, being with other people; being human.  When fully present, we are able to remember we are a part of this planet; not apart from it.

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Being able to rest and reconnect to living during this time is a privilege.  I know the privilege I hold in being able to lament on trying to find peace and joy and wonder during this time when so many are trying to find food, work, rent, healthcare, water, and security.  If you also find yourself in a place of privilege and security during this time, I hope you help make your corner of the world a kinder, safer, warmer, more wondrous place for those who are struggling around you.  The simple act of donating to your local food bank, housing assistance programs, supporting local restaurants, and spending the few extra minutes and bucks to buy local instead of getting immediate satisfaction from a Prime delivery, and most of all, masking up outside of your home in order to protect others, is exactly what the world needs right now.

Years ago during an extremely difficult time in my life when my Dad was sick and going downhill for over a year, I found a painted rock during a walk in my neighborhood that said “This is just a wave.  Hold on until it passes.”  I held onto that rock and found strength and calm in that message from a total stranger who had wished me peace and resilience during a time where I was simply trying to keep my head above water.  It did nothing to change my circumstance but it helped me immensely to feel seen; for someone to remind me that this moment is not permanent; that sometimes life is an adventure and other times all we can do is try to tread water until calm seas find us again.

We can bring peace and life and hope to each other right now through the smallest (grandest) of gestures.  We can truly live right now in the smallest (grandest) of moments.

Wishing you life, peace, pause & some solid ground to stand on.  We may never be here again. We are all in this together.  This is just a wave.  Hold on until it passes.