Thoughts on traveling

For my birthday at least 10 years ago, my parents gave me a book for my birthday called “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World”, written by Rita Golden Gelman.  I had already done quite a bit of traveling on my own, and I was inspired by Rita’s stories of her adventures in other lands, connecting with people around the world.  A few years later she put together a book called “Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World” and I was honored to have a story of mine with an accompanying recipe included in the book.  Just a few days ago, I received an email from a woman who had read my story was reaching out to see if I had any advice to give on traveling alone, and life and love in general.  When I sat down to write, the following is what came out:

Hawaii shoreline-0813

Learn how to trust your instincts.  Notice what you’re drawn to, moved to do, interested in.  Give up the notion that there’s anything you “should” see or do, and notice what feels good to your body, your heart, and spirit.  The universe will always be able to create an adventure or experience for you that will be more fabulous and perfectly designed for you—one that is even better that anything you can dream up yourself.  The way to get on the “train” bound towards this delicious, satisfying experience of life is by listening for and noticing what you feel excited about, drawn to, moved to do, see, explore…and also what you aren’t.  If you hear yourself using the word, “should” about any of your plans, it might be a good idea to check in with your body and your heart and see whether you’re pushing towards something that just isn’t right for you.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell

Do your best to give up all expectation of what your adventure should look like.  Spend a little time each morning connecting with your inner wisdom, your sacred heart, and then imagine the kind of day you’d like to have.  Imagine how you’d like to feel, what kind of interactions you’d like to have, and then give thanks for the day, this life, and anything else that you are grateful for.  This will help your energy to start flowing in a positive way, and get you on a good-feeling high vibration where you will be able to receive more of what you are asking for.

If at any point in your day you find yourself feeling unhappy or frustrated, or you find that you are drawing unwanted experiences to you, take a moment to pause and become still–you can do this in your mind if you aren’t able to stop moving your body (for instance if you’re on a bicycle tour, or swimming the English Channel).  Begin to listen to your thoughts and see what their “flavor” is.  Are they coming from a place of fear? (what if I miss my train? What if my stuff gets stolen? What if I run out of money or I can’t find a place to stay?)  And also check in with your body.  Are you tired?  Are you hungry or thirsty?  Are you feeling alone or lonely?  Is there some other need you have been ignoring because there is so much to see and do?

Acknowledge that things aren’t alway going to to look the way you think they should, remember back to the way you imagined feeling for the day, and ask the universe for another way to see or look at whatever situation you are in.  For example, if you don’t know where you are and you’re feeling upset about being lost, could this be an opportunity to ask for help, and get to speak or connect with a local?  If the museum the you had hoped to visit is already closed, maybe there’s a different adventure nearby that is waiting for you that afternoon.

Be open to surprises!  Take off your blinders and let your sight and awareness expand and notice what catches your attention.  Slow down.  If you ever find yourself feeling scared or unsure, and you aren’t in immediate danger from which you need to remove yourself, bring your attention to the present moment.  Notice what sensations you are feeling in your body.  Notice what is in your surroundings that you can be grateful for.  Ask for support and guidance from the universe and then take a little time, and make a little space for an answer to come.  Feel the sun or the wind (or the rain) on your face, wiggle your toes, and notice that in this moment, “I am ok”.  If you are in a physically uncomfortable situation (as opposed to just having fearful or uncomfortable thoughts), then of course take whatever action is available to change that.  Keep asking for support and trusting that you will get it.

cloud reflections in Florida-3017

We are part of a benevolent universe and I believe that everything that happens in our lives is happening FOR us; we are not victims of our circumstances, we are co-creators with the universe.  Whatever we are thinking about and putting our attention on, whether consciously or unconsciously, is affecting our vibration and therefor contributing to the creation of our experience.

If you ever have trouble releasing fear thoughts or other painful patterns or experiences, here are some of my favorite tools that I use to find freedom from fear or other kinds of pain.  These are techniques that I use for myself and with clients in my health and life coaching practice.  They are simple and straightforward, yet extremely effective and versatile.  I find them to be invaluable. I would recommend having at least one of these practices in your traveler’s “toolbox” to use to help with any negative feelings, fears or pain that might come up while traveling alone.  [Note: if you have experienced or are experiencing trauma or anxiety, please consider finding a practitioner to support you in doing this work especially in the beginning as it can bring up intense emotions]:

Now that we’ve covered what to do when you’re not having fun, here’s a reminder to enjoy yourself!  Let yourself live the good life.  Discover “il bel far niente”–the beauty of doing nothing.  Step outside your comfort zone when it feels good, and at the same time, respect your boundaries.  Don’t push yourself to do things that don’t feel right for you.  Make your adventure your own and try new things, but only the ones that draw you in.  Give yourself permission to go at whatever speed feels right to you.  And don’t be surprised if you don’t end up where you expected… I dare to say you may end up some place even more magnificent.
drifting on mass bay-0887
Drifting on Massachusetts Bay

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s mother, from his book, “P.S. I Love You”

(this quote has also been attributed to Mark Twain but it doesn’t appear anywhere in his writings, or anywhere else before 1990)

Expanding into abundance

I’ve noticed I do a thing when I’m scared. If I’m not sure I can go the distance or if my reserves appear to be low, I get smaller and hold on tight. I hold my breath. I put blinders on and I try not to move very much.

I think, “it’s almost gone, the money, food, love, energy (or whatever it is), and I better ration what I have.”

One major problem with this tactic is that what I am then putting out to the universe is this: I don’t trust that everything will turn out ok.

I’m basically saying I believe in scarcity; I don’t believe in an abundant universe. And then this is the vibration I am putting out, and then this is what I get back.

And then I find evidence everywhere that it’s a finite reality we live in. “See, I’m overdrawn”, I say. “It’s true I don’t have enough money.”

“See”, I sigh, “my friend canceled our date to go to the movies. Nobody loves me.”

And, did I mention? I also stop breathing.

Today I have a little more energy than I have been having in the morning, so I decide to go for a run. In the rain.

I pull on my workout clothes, and my seemingly inappropriate footwear: vibram’s FiveFingers toe shoes. I gingerly prance my way down the driveway, slipping only mildly on the slushy ice and snow.

Once on the clear road, I set off at a trot, listening to my new go-to running soundtrack, music from the movie, Pitch Perfect.

My feet are cold, and my legs too. Silly me, I have cotton leggings on. After making it about five minutes down the road, I stop to take a picture of this telephone pole and then I turn around.

winter: the last in a series of mysterious telephone pole art installations.
“Winter”: the last in a series of mysterious telephone pole art installations.

The wind is in my face now. Since I have decided not to “go the distance” today, I choose to make up for it in speed.

I set off at a sprint. Usually I last about 26 seconds on my first sprint. Today, I pass one telephone pole and as I reach for the second, I feel my body start to contract. My brain says, “this might be a stretch”, and my habitual reaction to this thought is to hunker down, make myself smaller, “conserve energy”, and basically stop breathing.

Whoa, I think. This is exactly what I was talking about with a friend last night. I was sharing with her about how I am taking a sabbatical, and as the money runs out, I notice myself start to hunker down and stop moving. She mentioned a neighbor of hers who lives in a house basically for free, just paying the taxes, and otherwise he doesn’t work much. She joked about how he mostly does nothing (or so it appears). “If I just stay very still, I won’t use much energy, and then I won’t have to buy much food to eat”, and so on.

I laughed at the truth in her playful banter. I laughed because I could see that in myself. I could see that there is a part of me that thinks the way to survive a “drought” in my life is to stop moving so I won’t get thirsty and then I won’t need to drink water.

I walk for a couple of minutes, letting my heart rate return to normal. “Don’t care about the money, money, money”, I sing along with the Barden Bellas.

I check in with my body about another sprint, and the energy seems available, so I set off. This time, as I get going, my mom’s voice pops into my head. “You don’t need to work harder to run faster, you just need to let go faster”, she says.

I’m momentarily transported to Steps beach on Nantucket when we were there for an overnight last August. I asked her for some feedback about my running. She is an Alexander Technique (AT) teacher, and I find her observations about movement so useful. She explained that in the model of moving with ease that the AT is based on, running faster isn’t about working harder, it is actually about releasing more, and more quickly.

As I pass the first telephone pole of my second sprint, I do my best to release more instead of working harder. I have some success, and feel a bit lighter. Still, I can tell that I am not using my breath fully, and there is a part of me that is scared to go for it, to really let go.

What if it doesn’t work? What if I don’t make it?

The thing is that this “letting go” business doesn’t really work when done half-assedly. I can’t let go part way and expect to feel the effects. Hanging on with one hand is SO MUCH MORE WORK!

Now I’m almost home and I feel like I’ve got one more sprint in me. This time, I really go for it. I release into the movement. I let my chest expand with great, full breaths. As I run, I can feel muscles working in my legs that I don’t usually notice, and probably don’t often engage either. It is as if I fully inhabit my body…all-wheel drive, in fifth gear–what power!

I am reminded of a paragraph I read in last year in Martha Beck‘s book, Finding You Way in a Wild New World. She suggests that,

“The only way…to live peacefully and abundantly in our wild new world is to let go of old models of thinking, working, decision making, and relating to others.  If that doesn’t work, the only option is to let go even more.  Surrender to the way things want to happen next, even though this often involves a vast and terrifying loss of control.  Trust the magic that was born into your soul…so that the nature of your true self can emerge.”

The difference is incredible. I want more of this in my life–this power, this freedom.  I want to let go…and expand into abundance.