Pressing Reset

Last July (2015) I quit my job, gave away everything I owned, and moved to England. The plan was to work in my friends sandwich shop and travel Europe as much as possible. I hadn’t been able to find a job using my degree, was stuck in the same industry I had worked in for the last 6 years throughout college, hated the city I lived in, and was just generally disenchanted. You know when you find yourself not wanting to go out and do anything… you’re too tired, overworked, not happy, bored with your surroundings, just not excited about the day. Well.. that was me. It wasn’t overnight. Just a kind of gradual slide. But either way, life is far, far too short for that.

I started this blog in 2014 specifically to write about those travels (I actually started it the year before when I left for the first time to travel in Europe, the entire month of August) and I’ve noticed that I haven’t really done that. It’s instead become an outlet for some thoughts and feelings. Traveling really is the best for solidifying thoughts and getting to know yourself. So this has become a study in openness, gathering my thoughts, and in writing publicly/online. Which is fantastic, but while looking through old journals the other night I realized there was a lot I had forgotten about in the day-to-day of my past traveling that I would have liked to write about or remember better. I even had to list out all the places I’d actually been to now, since many happened only in the last couple years. For remembrance sake, here goes:

  • England (Hull, Leeds, Manchester, London, York)
  • Netherlands (Amsterdam)
  • Belgium (Brussels)
  • France (Amiens, Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, Marseilles, Montpelier)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Italy (Rome, Lamezia, San Nicola Arcella, Praia a Mare, Civita, Calopezzati)
  • Greece (Corfu)
  • Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh)
  • Haiti (Labadee)
  • Bahamas (Nassau)
  • Mexico (Tijuana, Nuevo Progreso)
  • Canada (Windsor)
  • Hawaii (Waimea Bay, yes still US but a world away..)

On Monday I leave for my last big trip before I get back to the daily grind. I’ll be in Iceland for ten days. It’s going to be an amazing trip and I’m going to do my best to write about all of it, the big stuff to the mundane. Maybe just a daily log. It’s so easy to forget the minor details, and for me those are the best parts. The discussion you had with a new friend over wine, the quick stop you made in between major places to take an amazing photo, the weather on the day you visited your favorite church/ruin/park.

To wrap this up, through a random series of events, I’m now living in Washington DC. It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I really want from this life. After Iceland, I’m ending the chapter on my six solid months of travels but beginning a new one in a new place with a new career. I made a choice all those months ago to be happy and let go of anything negative, anything weighing me down. And while I know that going to that type of extreme is not for everyone, I think that people do hold onto a lot just for the sake of comfort. Not just material things but toxic relationships, unrewarding jobs, unhealthy locations. You can let go. You need less than you think you do. And when you have less you make space for better… positive people, happy thoughts, a better job, a fantastic relationship. Press reset and see what happens.

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For the Moment.

I was asked once, a very long time ago, by a person special to me… What are you running from? I’ve thought about that question so many times in the years since and wondered if it was a valid one; if I was/have been running from something or if I have instead been just searching for something during all this haphazard travel and in all these spontaneous moments. All these times that I have finally gotten somewhat comfortable in life and then flung myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible… What if anything am I looking for? What is my cause for this innate drive to explore the new and unexplored?

I thought of this post and the things I wanted to write while driving down a rain-soaked highway in Maryland (yet another couple-month stopover in my constant journey). There has never been a time during a long distance drive, watching the white divider lines on the highway blink by, that I have felt anything but a sense of calm contentedness… of life, promise, and possibility. Watching those lines on that drive brought me to this.

I believe that the journey itself is what I live for. Those calming in-between moments of travel from point A to point B. There is an exciting “anything-could-happen” and “I-could-go-anywhere” ambiance to it all. I get the same feeling in wide open spaces, times when I am truly alone, when I have the ability to stop in the night warm desert and sleep under the stars, basking in the freedom of my own mobility. I can stay. I can go. I can do whatever I like.

I have a special love of the new destination but have come to realize that it is on the path itself when I feel the most content. I could drive across this beautiful country again and again. I could fly to every country, take every train, decipher every road map and bus system in the world and I would still want more. I can think when I travel. I find solace in the simplistic act of it. The single task at hand that it offers me. I feel close to my own God, my own thoughts, my own brand of sleepy existentialism.

There is so much beauty and meaning in the journey, so much promise, that when I am deprived of it I lose my inspiration and start to lose myself. Some people find their comfort in stability. I find it in the in-between. I cannot yet comment on why this is, I just know that it has always been this way for me for as long as I can remember. Call it the product of a chaotic background. Call it inborn curiosity. Call it an interminable optimism that just around the corner is something profound. Call it a result of all these things. I have even, in part, chalked this unstoppable drive to explore up to Sagittarian wanderlust. I have met others of the same sign that are much like me, and with each passing year I am less apt to believe in coincidence.

So it has taken me years to be able to answer the question that I was asked so many years ago… but I think at this point I can say, as confidently as I can in knowing myself at this point in my life, I’m not running from anything. I’m not running to anything. I’m just living the only way that feels right to me and the only way that I know: For the moment. For promise. For the journey.

 

The Importance of Being Outside

I spent the entire day today at Chain O’ Lakes State Park, about 35 minutes northwest of Fort Wayne, Indiana. If anyone reading this is near that area, I highly recommend the place. I can’t remember the last time I took a whole day to just enjoy nature, spend time alone, read, and breathe. This park couldn’t have been a better place for that.

For 5$ an hour, I rented a kayak and cruised around on Sand Lake, a good-sized lake surrounded by green forests, hundred of lily pads and sunbathing  turtles. The lake connects to 9 other lakes through river-like channels through the woods. I couldn’t decide which scenery was more lovely, the sunny open lake or the shaded channels filled with bird songs (and the occasional mosquito, but hey.. what do you expect. Next time I’ll remember my bug spray!). The embedded video is a small clip of my exploring, the nature sounds mixed with the quiet sounds of the paddle were very relaxing (the video itself may be quite boring but there is a quick hello from me at the end :)). I then spent an hour or so reading on the beach, followed by a total of a mile and a half trail run on two of their “rugged” trails. With as flat as Northern Indiana is, rugged is sometimes used lightly. Hiking a mountain in California, to me that is rugged. But it was a nice workout nonetheless.

However, what surprised me about the park is how few people were there. “What a great find” I kept thinking… but also “I’d be here every day if I were closer”. I’m not complaining at all, I loved the solitude and that I didn’t have to run around anyone on the trails. But I think that many people just don’t think of going to a state park on their day off, or after work even. Everyone is running off to the next errand, the next kid that needs picked up, running home to catch a TV show they can’t miss. Going outside for no reason at all is often not at the forefront of things to do, but it really should be.

There is a multitude of research out there touting the importance of nature to our well-being.

In recent years, numerous experimental psychology studies have linked exposure to nature with increased energy and heightened sense of well-being. For example, research has shown that people on wilderness excursions report feeling more alive and that just recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Other studies suggest that the very presence of nature helps to ward off feelings of exhaustion and that 90 percent of people report increased energy when placed in outdoor activities.

People who take part in conservation projects report subjective health benefits, ascribed to being outdoors and to feeling part of a greater system connecting beyond the individual. Such projects can help overcome social isolation, develop skills, and improve employment prospects, as well as provide the known benefits associated with exercise.

A 2009 study by Kaplan et al showed that walking in the park at any time of the year has benefits for both attention and memory: after spending an hour in nature both increased by 20 per cent.

You can feel better and more relaxed from just taking a short walk outside in as little as 15 minutes. I’d love for everyone to be able to take an entire day and go to a park but I know that that is not always realistic for someone with young kids or an extremely demanding work schedule. But whenever you can, remind yourself to step away from the tv, set down your cell phone, step outside, take a deep breathe and remember that you are a part of this world that we live on, and that that is such a beautiful thing.