Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Letting Go

You probably won’t be too surprised that after seven months of constant, full steam ahead travel, our bodies and minds were getting rather tired. You may be more surprised however, to learn that we were so astounded by this development. So much so, that we didn’t really believe we needed to listen to the little message our bodies were trying to tell us, and trooped on, regardless of the lack of motivation or energy. We were travelling, which meant moving, exploring, seeing and doing – that’s what we had been doing for the last seven months, that’s what we knew how to do, and so that’s how we would continue.

And yet, rather suddenly, I was over travelling. I couldn’t get excited. I didn’t want to go on another tour, see another building, or read another guide book. I couldn’t be bothered doing anything. I just wanted to settle down and stay – somewhere, anywhere. In part, I wanted to go home. But because we were travelling around the world for a year, that was what we kept doing. Of course, as is usually the case when one doesn’t heed one’s bodies' warnings, we got sick. And then we got sick again, and again. Until, after another month and a half of heart-not-quite-in-it travel, we were finally forced to stop.

Now I’ve been chronically sick before, and therefore theoretically know the need for pacing, listening to your body, and taking time out when needed. However, travelling seemed to throw all my carefully learnt rules out the window, as the complete lack of routine and stability created new rules, schedules and systems. Plus, both mine and C.P’s inherent perfectionism meant we couldn’t help wanting to see every monument in every city, every city in every country, every corner of every continent. We wanted to make the most of every minute of every day of this year of travel. Hence the reason we probably chose to do a round the world trip, with quick stops in four continents, unlike the slower, more sensible method of spending a year truly exploring one continent or one country.

I never understood most travellers’ preference for chilling out in one place for a few months - relaxing, just hanging out, not doing much of anything. More like I didn’t know how this was possible for someone like me, who needed to keep busy to keep the anxiety of not having a routine at bay. Until now. Or until this last month, which has seen us doing absolutely nothing. Not seeing much, not doing much, just staying in one place, waking each day, and taking it as it comes. Admittedly we were literally forced into this situation by our constant sickness, but hey I’ll take a break when it’s offered on a plate. 

However, as you can imagine, being sick and starting to crave the comforts of home meant hotels, hostels and bathroom’s shared with other sickly creatures were starting to wear thin. Enter our saviour in the form of airbnb - our new home abroad, and the chance to reacquaint ourselves with the joys of cooking and cleaning. Our delightful little cabin in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico came equipped with three cats, one dog, a gorgeous, grassy section, vegetable and herb filled garden and - oh yes the house - a tiny, rustic one room retreat encompassing just a bed, kitchen bench, writing desk and clay pot fire. Rekindling our love of home cooking was never so much fun as when we could pick our own vegetables, roast potatoes and beetroots in the fire, and eat it outside our house looking over the animals and garden, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. I put aside my need for seeing every church and climbing every hill and let myself revel in a whole lot of nothing, and a little bit of home making. And it wasn’t as hard as I had expected, although it helped that my constant headache and active parasite made it near impossible to move.

Of course, once we had experienced this quiet variety of travel, we finally understood the appeal. And now we can’t imagine going back to the speedy ways of before, the need to do everything. We're not so worried about all the places we are missing by spending longer in just one spot.  We stopped feeling the need to experience every country in Central America. After all, we were never going to see it all anyway.

On the eve of our journey to South America and (hooray!) closer to home, I’m looking for the perfect spot for another retreat, perhaps in an adorable sea side abode this time. What better place to do some writing, some relaxing, and a little bit more of nothing.

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