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When boredom becomes a travel companion

Basilica of St. Michael, Bordeaux, France, built between the end of 14th century and the 16th century

The thing with dreams for those with hyperactive minds like mine is that once they become reality the brain will likely wrestle with the blooming of sameness. Halfway through my trip, around day 35, I felt a mash up of boredom and melancholy building up in my chest. It made absolutely no sense. I was now in France, for heaven's sake! I was living THE life, one stunning location after another, each new meal more exquisite than the last, each ancient wall filled with cracks and gargoyles that sparked my wildest medieval fairy tale fantasies. The freedom to choose where to go, what to do, who to talk to, when to sleep and wake up. For the past five weeks my decisions evolved around whether I would pour myself a glass of red, white, rosé or sparkling; whether I'd see the flow of life at a charming café or relax in solitude in my rental to the tunes of newly found local music. So why was it that the ecstatic sense of wander, the wholesomeness of ease and the calmness of surrendering had suddenly been replaced with tediousness? How could dullness layer up in my heart like a thorny organism metastasizing as I walked though gorgeous limestone buildings cemented in centuries of history? 

“Thoughts are like clouds, just observe them, don’t judge them,” I would tell myself, digging deep to recover advice from a year of guided meditations now more than a month on standby. I sought counseling on the rabbit hole of the Internet and a passage on a blog post triggered me: “I don’t think wanderlust is a longing desire to travel. I think it’s more our subconscious telling us to move on from what we’re doing to a project or work of higher personal meaning.” There is no question that aspects of my life needed to change, but I had embraced wanderlust as part of my higher personal meaning, as the IT itself. Why was someone questioning a notion that I had already figured out and accepted? My internal dialogue added tinder to the bonfire of low-grade emotions: “You spent your whole life dreaming of this trip and now you want to go back home? Of course, you do! You were delusional to start with by leaving a job that affords you these hedonistic luxuries. You always want too much, you're never satisfied with what you have. What will you be left with after this period of overindulging? Social media feeds with stunning landscapes and a load of food porn? They will never cover up that restlessness of spirit that you pretend it's getting easier to handle with age. When will you ever grow up?” My inner critic is a ferocious harpy and she was coming back in full force from a brief hibernation season. And that's how for the first time since I left home, I downloaded episodes of one of my favorite TV shows and on the plane leaving Bordeaux I binged watched someone else’s story, someone else's problems to be dealt with, a classic numbing move to avoid facing complex emotions and complicated decisions. 

Only a couple of weeks before, while entering a spiritual retreat in a remote rural setting in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Andalusia, nothing less than an eagle followed me from above for a good hour as I scouted the hilly terrain covered with olive trees. When the wise healer performed what I believe was a form of hypnosis by simply touching my ankle and prompting me with questions, I became the eagle. I saw the Earth beneath me, the yurt that hosted my human body, the world standing still under my gaze 20,000 feet above ground as my wings soared splendidly in the vastitude of heavens. For slivers of seconds I breathed peace, I felt the quietness of eternity. In the days following that extraordinary vision the Sahara Desert blew layers of dust into Europe creating an ominous orange cloud that when fused with the frigid rain literally made mud drizzle from the skies. It felt like the prelude to the apocalypse and yet I was in a state of complete non-resistance. I was sheltered in a rustic, brick farmhouse with no central heat where I would get up from the couch just to pick up firewood from the outdoor shed and bring it back to the hearth. I was feeling serene for simply managing to keep a fire alive for hours. 

"Benvenuti a Roma, please exit through the front door." Once I stepped into the Roman sunlight in what felt like the first day of spring after a harsh, mostly rainy winter month, something shifted in my blood, renewed streams of oxygen pumping joy, then marvel, then laughter. Like the Easter season I was coming to celebrate, I felt a rebirth of spirit. I hugged my beloved sister, my sweet brother-in-law and my beautiful two-year old niece whose fierceness, innocence and spontaneity helped dissolve any leftover negativity. Having been to Rome many times before, feeling zero obligations to visit churches, monuments or museums, I was feeling at peace for simply being in their presence under the warm sun. Family, familiarity and good weather were the firewood my heart needed to reignite my wanderings. 

Under the Roman sun

Within 24h I selected and booked my next destination, one where the sun would shine, one that feels like the most exotic one to date. I also hugged my inner critic, for I'm aware that though her delivery is harsh her role is to protect me. I'm letting her see that more than alluring photos in my Instagram, I've been gaining superpowers along my trip. When I'm in despair or unclear on what path to take, I can reactivate my eagle eyes and observe the world from above. I can call up in the folders of my memory the simple act of keeping the hearth heated without resisting the gloominess of the outside world or the complex constellations within me. Though the answers don't always come easily, serenity kicks in and serenity is an extraordinary travel companion. 

Finding serenity by the fire in Lanjarón, Spain

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Comments

  1. Excellent point about how consuming entertainment is an easy way to avoid taking charge of one's life. Continue to embrace the boredom as much as you can stand it, enjoy keeping your fire going!

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