“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~Seth Godin
Over the last few years I’ve felt a little trapped in a cycle of travel, normal life, travel, normal life, constantly changing externals in an attempt to find a level of contentment.
I travel because it excites me, makes me feel alive, and brings me satisfaction. Then, when the draw of home and seeing loved ones sets in, I’ll return, determined to get a “real job” and settle into daily English life.
This usually lasts a year or two before the boredom and dissatisfaction set in and I head off on another adventure.
Although there is nothing wrong with this existence, the last time the “real life suffocation” set in, I decided to stay to explore those feelings so I could understand what made me feel so alive when I was away and so suffocated when I was at home.
I wanted to discover what away has that home doesn’t—apart from the beautiful vistas, constant change, and sunshine—and if there was any way I could incorporate the feelings of being away when I was back at home.
Here’s what I found.
Be More Mindful in Your Daily Life
I was sitting in a dark, dank Northern Line tube carriage on my daily forty-five-minute commute into central London when I decided, for a change, to look up from my headphone-induced daydream and be totally present in that moment.
I started to hear the sounds of the carriage slicing its way through the underground maze. I studied (in a non-creepy way) the sullen faces of my fellow commuters, who appeared lost in their own daydreams, when it struck me:
When I’m away, I am always fully present in every experience, no matter how mundane or challenging.
When I am trying to be a “real life participant,” I lose that focus and attention to detail, often forgetting completely to be present.
Instead, I go through daily experiences almost on autopilot—head down, headphones in, coffee slurped in a rush, lunch eaten at my desk in between dealing with an ever-growing inbox of emails.
If I were away—sitting in a café in New Zealand, on a bus in Costa Rica, or on a beach in Mexico—my eyes would be peeled, studying every color, creature, person, or thing; my ears would be pricked to the sounds of chattering or wildlife; I’d taste every sip of each thirst-quenching drink or bite of a spicy meal; I’d pay attention to the smell of car fumes, or tropical trees. I’d invite magical experiences and synchronicity into each day.
Be fully present in every moment, no matter how mundane. Be nowhere else but where you are and notice how your mindset changes.
Surround Yourself with Your Kind
It always surprises me, every time I come home from being away, how little has changed. Some people are still complaining about their other halves or another friend, regarding something trivial that happened five years ago.
I sometimes find myself, in groups of people I love, feeling like a black sheep, uninterested in the hearsay chatter, feeling so very different from them. I don’t view them or myself as any better or worse off for our life choices; we each carve our own path aligned to what makes us happy.
But I have often dedicated time to people at home, due to habit or obligation, that I might not have if I had met them when I was away.
I’ve been faced, at times, with questions such as: Are you going to be putting your life on hold again to go away? Shouldn’t you start thinking about settling down at your age?
The beauty of life is you always have a choice. You get to choose who is in your tribe.
They say you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Don’t turn your back on people from your past, but give yourself permission to move on from relationships that don’t serve you, or that bring you down.
When you’re on an adventure and you meet someone you connect with, you spend time with them and perhaps even share part of your journey with them; and there are those you don’t connect with, so you both move on. It’s okay to apply this to “real life” too.
Choose your five people (who you spend most of your time with) carefully, just as you would when you’re away.
Kill Your TV
Seriously. Put it on eBay and buy yourself a concert ticket or a ton of new books. When you’re traveling or on holiday, when do you ever watch TV? The occasional film or show, sure. But you likely wouldn’t spend your evenings or weekends sitting in front of a box, starting at it.
Okay, so maybe don’t get rid of your TV altogether, but you could cut down on how much TV you watch. I hear so many people say, “I haven’t got time to…go to yoga, read, cook, learn something new, draw, play an instrument, be creative, meditate…,” yet they can tell you who’s on Celebrity Big Brother, who’s been voted out of The X Factor, or how many times they’ve seen the same episode of Dinner Date.
Don’t deny yourself your favorite show if it brings you joy, but keep it in a healthy balance with other activities you enjoy when you’re away. Read, go exploring, meditate, go for a walk, go see a local band play. Stay active, stay curious.
It should be so easy to be yourself, because that’s who you are! But often we find ourselves in jobs, careers, situations, or relationships where we barely recognize ourselves. Cue the “square peg in a round hole” feeling.
I tried so hard in the past, when home, to care about what my peers cared about—DIY, pay scales, job titles—but I just couldn’t.
I was trying to follow a career path that didn’t feel aligned with my passions, but it just led me to those feelings of being trapped or suffocated, and in turn resulting in a “run away” adventure to escape and take a big gasp of air.
It is so important to prioritize staying connected with yourself and your own happiness in everyday life, much like you do on vacation. By doing so, you will show up as your best self in your relationships, commitments, and responsibilities.
You cannot serve others or your work effectively if you are not being true to yourself or them.
Write down, explore, and really understand what it is you love about yourself and your experiences when you’re away.
An easy way to do this is to write down the details of your favorite vacation or trip.
What made it so special? What did you allow yourself to do in order to make yourself happy? What did you love about yourself in that experience? Was it wild adventure or cultural break? Did you take time out for relaxation, walking, or a massage?
Be clear on what you love, what makes you come alive, and try to incorporate that into your “real life.”
For me, I came to realize that I love spontaneity and change, I love being by the sea or in wild open spaces, I love being with and supporting people, and I’m not very good with routine. Therefore, chasing a nine-to-five management career in London simply because it looked good on my resume or paid well wasn’t serving my authentic self.
You don’t have to move to the country or turn your life upside down to be authentic, but rather simply identify the treasures, passions, and interests you’ve uncovered for yourself when adventuring, and then make time for and prioritize them into your “real life” at home.
Join an activity group, write, volunteer, use your weekends wisely, and be unapologetically you, wherever you are on the planet and whatever situation you find yourself in.
And probably most importantly, try not to see “home” and “away” as two separate lives.
Your adventuring isn’t running away; it is a rich life experience. Similarly, don’t see being home as set rules of shoulds or musts to be followed.
There is a beautiful sweet spot in between the two, that, with some time and exploration, you can find.