January 28, 2019
Travel and the Soul
I started 2019 by jumping on a plane and going to one of my favorite places- Italy! The entire time leading up to the trip, I was anxious about packing, the new semester when I returned, and overall just being prepared. I made lists upon lists, schedules upon schedules, and I was really stressed. But, when I landed in Naples everything changed. Suddenly I was no longer in a familiar environment, meaning that familiar anxious feeling fled too.
My trip started in Naples, then Rome, and finally (my favorite) Florence. Along the way, we took day trips to Venice, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Pisa. We saw all the history, all the monuments, and everything in between. But, those weren’t the times that I felt myself let go and be present. It was when we didn’t have a set plan or schedule, and I was free to walk town.
A glimpse of one of my most present and honest moments with myself, was during our trip to the Palantine Hill. The group was free to just explore. I found a nice place to sit, in the sun, and at first I sat there to just tie my shoe and move on with looking around. But something made me stop in my tracks, close my eyes, and just listen for a second.
It was extraordinary.
I know what you’re thinking, “Okay Abi, what is so special about sitting and being mindful on a random rock?”. Well, it took me out of my own chaos for half a second. I was thinking about what I wanted to see, what our lunch plans were, what time I was supposed to meet the group, etc. Although I wasn’t making schedules or lists like I did at home, my mind was STILL going a mile a minute. Sitting and breathing for a second activated my brain to say, “Hey, wait a second! You’re in this beautiful place, why aren’t you just BEING in this moment?!”. And that is exactly what I did.
Being in a setting much different than I was used to, forced me to “walk outside of myself” and experience things a little differently. I carried this idea with me from that moment on the hill throughout the rest of the trip. Forcing myself to stop and take in anything I can like sounds, smells, etc, I realized how giant this world really is, and how small we really are.
Think about your biggest stress right now. It can be anything! Now, mentally put yourself in a different location. It could be a beach in Aruba, or a coffee shop in Paris, just as long as it’s a different place that brings you total presence. Now, bring that stressful issue to the table. It suddenly isn’t as important, right? Because why think about that, when you could explore this fun place! So, why don’t we feel this way in our ordinary environments? Why doesn’t this attitude of, “I’m in this beautiful place surrounded by such greatness, I shouldn’t be latched to a problem that in reality is so small!” stick around even in our hometowns?
Travel taught me that the sense of pure presence and relaxation even in some of the most stressful times comes from seeing your environment as a gift. You achieve relief from your own mind when you place yourself back in your world, and view this world as a complete and total haven.
We get so caught in the hustle and bustle, we forget how great our surroundings really can be. We only realize how great this world is, when we get to be part of a new environment.
Get out, explore, and see your world! Travel doesn’t have to be over the ocean. I can bet there are parts of the town you live in that are pure gems, that you don’t even know about yet. Your living environment can be your garden, but you are in charge of planting the flowers and finding the soil to make them grow perfectly.
Happy exploring- find yourself as you find the world.
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