Like many of you out there, I love to travel. Strolling down a winding street in a strange new city feels like magic to me. The thrill of new adventures fuels my soul. I revel in the healing that comes from a change of pace and am inspired by the beauty I find along the way. At times, travel is my respite from stress and busyness while other times it is the spark that frees me from the monotony of the day-to-day. Whether it is the beach, mountains, big city, or wilderness, each has a special place in my travel universe.
Unfortunately though, I am not always able to explore the world as much as I would like. Life circumstances don’t always allow it. Currently, I am a student, teacher, and counselor, juggling several jobs with little extra time or money. It is hard to fit travel into this complicated equation of responsibilities and commitments.
I know, however, that I’m not alone in this. You too might be somebody who feels the way I do…. or has in the recent past. Some of you, like me, have probably also wondered what it is you can do about this feeling? How might it be possible to fulfill this craving for a change of scenery while you wait for the next opportunity to sail the seven seas?
Well, what sometimes helps me is applying two basic principles that are often used in counseling practice: mindfulness and gratitude. The following is an example of how I sometimes use these concepts to bring myself the relief, inspiration, and healing that would normally come from a great trip (but without the travel) . You don’t need to do exactly this, but maybe this will trigger some ideas for what would work best for you.
Although I won’t be flying to New Zealand anytime soon, I still try to take time out of my schedule to live like I’m on vacation. I try to regularly take a morning, afternoon, or evening to explore a part of my community, city, or even my own home like I was visiting it for the first time. This is no easy task and requires a change in mindset.
For example, I sometimes wake up in the morning and take a walk where I live. I pay attention to the details that surround me much like I would if I was exploring the mysterious streets of a beautiful Spanish village. I might stop and smell the flowers, notice the intricacies of a home’s architecture, or the color of the sky at dawn. The more I am able to be curious and am able to slow down, the more gratifying the experience. Sometimes inviting others to join me on these little local outings or adding a new restaurant, cafe, meal, park, vista, or museum enhances the journey.
A key to this practice actually feeling restorative is to use keen and attentive mindfulness. I try to be intentional and specific about what I experience with my five senses. What do I smell, hear, feel, see, and taste? With this approach, a cup of coffee or a wonderful meal with friends can be transformed into something more like a trip to an uncharted territory. Keeping a journal right afterwards or at the end of the day helps too. I find that listing 3 to 5 things that I was grateful for on my short safari makes it richer and more fulfilling.
Again, these are just short suggestions that I use to make these experiences come to life. For me, even when I can’t travel far, I still need to stay curious, to be inspired, and for my life to stay fresh and feel new. I hope some of you out there might be able to take some of these ideas and transform them in such a way that makes them work for you.
For anyone out there who is searching for additional ways to find balance, rest, inspiration, or support and would like to have somebody walk alongside them on this journey, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Refuge Center at 615-591-5262.
Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Paul Jenkins.