I’m very lucky to live in the countryside surrounded by beautiful fields, full of animals and quiet country lanes. It’s like a setting from a Jane Austen novel (only with the occasional Land Rover racing by to drop the children off at school). I just came back from walking the dog along those serene country roads and when I got home I sat down and had a coffee before opening my laptop. How lucky am I? Before I ‘hit the rat race’, I’ve managed a bit of exercise in the fresh air and then got to sit and enjoy a peaceful drink before starting on what I hope will be a productive day.
But I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember much about the dog walk. I couldn’t even tell you whether we saw anybody pass us by. And I can’t recall how long it took to drink my coffee. Just that suddenly I looked down and realised that it was gone!
All I do remember is that I’ve spent the last hour thinking about what the day holds. Everything I have to do, what I need to think about for the Peru trip I am organising for a friend, whether I’ve allocated enough to my marketing budget for this month … and what will happen if we don’t get enough bookings to cover that spend. All important thoughts – but I may as well have given the coffee and the dog walk a miss and just sat down at my computer.
I know it’s not just me. How often do we look down and wonder where our coffee went? How often are we shocked about where the time has gone? How is it Christmas again already? How have our children suddenly grown so tall? Where have all those grey hairs miraculously sprung from? The unfortunate answer is ‘too often’!
All too often we miss out on the most precious moments in our lives because we are distracted. Distracted by our phones, emails, jobs, thoughts … whatever it is that stops us from enjoying the moment we’re in. This morning I thought back to the last time I completely switched off and was able to concentrate purely on what was happening in front of me. It was in June. Over 6 months ago. And I know that for some of you it will be much longer than that.
So, in June I was lucky enough to go to Kenya on a camping safari. When I arrived I was horrified to find that for most of the trip we would have no access to wifi. And when we did, it wouldn’t be the amazing, super fast broadband that we’ve all become accustomed to. Gosh – how did we ever cope without it? Were our lives empty and worthless? Were we constantly inconvenienced because we had to wait for our sister to finish chatting to her boyfriend before we could plug the internet in? We’d dial up for a whining signal, before getting kicked off because Grandma needed to call Aunty Joyce? Sorry … distracted again.
Back to Kenya … so instead of burying my head in my phone, checking my emails and spending my ‘downtime’ thinking about how I needed to respond, I concentrated on what was in front of me. I had finally mastered the art of ‘being present’! I stared out of the window searching for lion cubs yawning in the grass, I strained my eyes looking for the elegant leopard in the tree, and I watched in wonder as a herd of elephants just strolled on by my window without a care in the world. Wow! Isn’t this world amazing?
And then I came home with a renewed love for life and a promise that I would always ‘be present’! No matter what! I created visual plans of how I would read more books, listen to more music, spend more time chatting with friends. Life was going to be different from now on! Kenya had changed my life.
It didn’t take long of course for me to drop back into my usual routine of ‘over-thinking’ and ‘over-working’. But those 8 days of ‘being present’ meant that I came back with a new energy, a more positive outlook and my batteries were back to 100%. Had I actually mastered the art of ‘being present’? I pondered on that thought as I opened my laptop to catch up on the thousands of emails I had missed whilst I had been away!
So, here’s the moral of the story. I am a great believer that travel should always change us in some way. It should challenge us. But it doesn’t have to be dramatic. A single trip doesn’t have to be life changing. But every time we see a new part of the world and ‘really’ see it, we can allow it to change our direction in life even by the tiniest fraction of a degree. And over the course of our lives, that tiniest fraction of a degree in the direction we’re heading, will add up to thousands of miles difference between where we are and where we would have been!
Now, let’s put the kettle on and make a fresh mug of coffee!