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Taking it With Me

One of my favorite things about traveling is the chance to be separate from my regular, day-to-day life. There is an objectivity that comes from not being right in the big middle of it. If I’m feeling stressed at home or work, I often feel frustrated and stuck. But when I’m away from it, the distance lets me think about living in a way that feels more comfortable to me.

Being out in the world always reminds me that I’d like much more of that—and it doesn’t have to involve buying an airline ticket and making hotel reservations. Even just going for a walk can change the whole tone of a day. It lets me breathe, focuses my attention on the sky, the trees, the movement of other people. I want more of that in my regular life.

In the midst of busy days, I often let the pace of the external world set my own. That means I am not very likely to build in time to just walk outside and slow down. But when I’m on a trip like this one, the tempo is slower and it reminds me that I want more time in my life to just move slowly. Being on vacation also makes me think about how I use time. Managing my days is not my strongest suit. I tend to think I need to complete everything on my self-created to-do list, all in one day. When I'm away from all of that, I feel a huge need to temper my overactive vigilance.

So much of being on a trip is simply what we see, whether it’s nature or art. Without the pressures of daily life, I look up more, noticing words, trees, architecture, and the turns of light. At home, I am in a hurry, looking at my watch, my phone, my calendar. Keeping vacation resolutions is no easier than those made at the new year, but I’d like to try. I want to pay attention more—look around me and notice what's there at that moment. I’m not sure how long I can hold on to that idea, but it’s certainly worth looking at things with new eyes.

Even just going for a walk can change the whole tone of a day.

I’ve also spent a good part of this recent adventure walking—as we often do when we go to new cities. Moving is the answer to so much for me. It balances the huge amounts of food I love to eat, it takes me outside, and it almost literally grounds me. In real, day-to-day life, I forget to move much when I’m home. My brain gets full, I am busy and tired, and I tend to stay in one place. One of the first remedies I discovered to counter depression when I was younger was to simply get up and move—if I could muster it. In busy times, I forget to do it or feel too lazy. Even with a lovely path right next to my house, I’ll stay in and watch television in the evening rather than taking a long walk at dusk.

Finally, as I look out the living room window of the cottage we’ve rented on the Isle of Skye, I think about being creative, in word and deed. I want more of that—more coming up with good ideas, writing stories, taking photographs, listening to music, and appreciating what’s in the world around me. Using my imagination is one of my favorite activities. When my plate is full and all I'm thinking about are deadlines, being imaginative and creative are often the first activities to go.

I do know, though, that I like structure, too. When I’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks, with just a rough plan for the day and a place to stay at the end of it, I find myself longing for a bit more of a routine. I look at people doing their chores in the houses we pass and, in a weird way, I miss taking care of business. It’s no doubt one of the reasons I returned to regular work this year.

Traveling is amazing for so many reasons—for adventure, for sharing new places with my people, and for awakening me in every way. But I like the sense of getting things done, too, which reminds me of the power of balance.

So, in this early summer, I’m committed to moving, being outside, and staying healthy and productive and creative. Mostly, though, I'm determined to just pay attention to every detail I can. My desire is to remember the value of that detail when I get caught up in the business of life. Easier said than done, I know, but it's a good goal to keep on the horizon.

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