‘Vietnamasté’ – On Why We All Need to Slow Down …

Why We All Need to Slow Down

Life today is so fast-paced and hurried that it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and what you really need in favour of what ‘seems right’ or what ‘everyone is doing’. If it means the next step from A to B will be easier, the majority of people will generally take the easy option and ensure the quickest escape and fix for what’s currently bothering them.

I’m not just talking from a backpackers’/travellers’ perspective, yet seeing as that’s the lifestyle I’m currently engaged with it makes sense to speak from this point of view at this present moment in time. This is another thing humans are guilty of – thinking that it’s not okay to change your lifestyle and habits to suit where you currently find yourself. Seeing as change is the one constant we seem to ever have in life, it makes no sense to cling to ‘the way you used to be’ or anything that ‘used to’ be a part of your life in general. Because of the familiarity, it’s often the easiest and most obvious thing to do to resort to it, yet we rarely stop to think actually, maybe this is not the most beneficial thing for me right now.

By practicing mindfulness, yoga, meditation, or even just taking a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reconsider, re-adjust, and observe your situation, it becomes easier to fully immerse yourself in the moment and your current state of being, instead of merely trying maintain something that worked in the past for the sake of convenience.

I regularly have to mentally remind myself to slow down, to not rush ahead to achieve things or arrive to places before it’s necessary. I’m a chronically early person, and this I feel reflects my tendency to anticipate and become apprehensive about things that don’t really matter all that much.

I feel a lot of what has been going on in the world recently reflects this exact inclination of humankind to rush ahead and try to solve issues without really taking any time to properly understand them or consider what options would most benefit them. Surely we are aware by now that violence only leads to further violence, the harshness and extremity of one groups’ actions generating a need and expectance almost for an equal reaction?? Why is it still happening that people are using violence to combat hate, hate as an excuse for lack of understanding, and premature movement and immediate responsiveness in a rush to solve issues that have taken time and many wrong turns to form into the catastrophic difficulties they have only now manifested as? Surely they will also take a similar amount of time to rectify?

While I don’t pretend to understand everything about the goings on of various political, paramilitary or otherwise groups who have been the subject of a lot of attention of late, I do understand that beneath all the violence, hate and unneccessary suffering there is an underlying confusion and general lack of understanding as to how this can all be allowed to happen. It’s easy to brush it off as something that doesn’t concern us when it’s not immediately phsyically affecting us, but the images, new stories, and panic of safety ‘check-in’ buttons being used online are enough to send even to most balanced and steady mind reeling and rushing ahead to assume the worst.

By slowing down and assessing the situation at hand and our own position to rectify or change anything about it, we remove the ‘panic’ element of things. It’s the same process I’ve employed since coming out travelling. If things have gone slightly wrong or awry in any way, which given the nomadic and changeable nature of just about everything in my life at the moment, I’d be stupid to not be prepared for, I now have comfort in the knowledge that I can deal with it, take a step back, and figure out another way around the issues that present themselves.

It’s a work in progress, and something that’s only ever going to be attainable by making a conscious decision to set a new and realistic pace for ourselves and our thoughts – one that doesn’t rush ahead, or assume too much, because in the end the only things we can ever actually know for sure are already here right now.

Ó Chonamara go Cambodia – From Connemara to Cambodia

Ó Chonamara go Cambodia – Seachtain Amháin Le Dhul

(Leagan Béarla ar bhun- English version below)

Éadaí fós sna málaí a d’iompar mé trasna na tíre ar an turas deiridh le hiarnáil amach, iad ag stanadh orm ó chúinne an seomra, láithreacht déanta níos glórmhaire toisc go bhfuil níos lú ná coíscíse le dhul go n-imeoidh mé arís.
Ag an bpointe seo is dóigh go bhfuil an maisín níocháin faoi a thuilleadh bhrú ná mar atá mé fhéin, ag iarraidh dul i ngleic leis an lámhdeachais (turnover) seo agus cinnte a dhéanamh go bhfágfaidh mé le mála droma lán le héadaí úra le chaitheamh agus tuáillí breá glan is tirim.
Teastaíonn uaim dul tríd gach rud, rudaí le thabhairt a shocrú amach, rudaí le caitheamh. Ba cheart dom liosta dhéanamh, rudaí a sheacáil as an liosta sin, pacáil a dhéanamh uair amháin le feiceáil an dtéann gach rud isteach, agus gach rud a bhaint amach arís le stuif a bhogadh thart.

Ba cheart dom. Ach ar chúis éigin, níl mé ró-bhuartha faoi.
Mar tá a fhios agam go mbeidh sé uilig togha. Cé nár chaith mé an oiread seo ama as baile riamh le chéile ag aon am amháin – tá tréimhsí fada déanta agam i nGaillimh le seachtainí ar deireadh a chéile gan trácht ná smaoineamh a chaitheamh siar don bhaile – ach tá sé seo difriúil. 10 seachtain ag obair agus ag taistil in oirdheisceart na hÁise. Seans mhaith nach mbeidh mé ag iarraidh filleadh abhaile ariamh – ná bí buartha, a Mham, beidh mé sa bhaile don Nollaig, ach cá bhfios cén áit a dtógfaidh an taithí seo mé ina dhiaidh sin – agus táim oscailte le cíbe rud!
B’fhéidir nach bhfuil sé gearr go leor go fóill leis na sceirbe a bheith ag teacht isteach…ach ar bhealach éigin airím nach mbeidh siad ansin an uair seo. Airíonn sé uilig comh maith sin. Airíonn sé i gceart. Nílim buartha faoi na nithe beaga de; na rudaí nach gá bheith buartha faoi. An scaoll idir eitiltí leis an gceangal a dhéanamh i gceart, nó an bosca mór piollairí malaria a bheidh liom an t-am uilig, gan trácht ar na féidireachtaí a bheidh ann teacht i dteagmháil le roinnt galair eile.
Is cúis imní níos mó ar fad dom é go mbeidh mé nochtaithe ar fad – ag taistil liom féin go tír comh iasachta seo gan teagmháil láithreach ar bith nó lámh le greim a choinneál ar má tharlaíonn aon rud.

Ar bhealach eile táim níos mó ar bís ná mar a bhí mé riamh d’aon rud. Ag cur mé fhéin amach ansin mar seo – dúshlánach agus dánaíoch go leor, ach ag forbairt ar mo chuid sháiniúlachta agus neart fhéin ag an am céanna, mar ní bheidh deis ach a bheith ag súil amach dom fhéin. Mise a bheidhs ar thús cadhanaíochta do na geataí imeachta, don deasc ‘visas’, don t-ostán agus ar aghaidh don scoil gach lá ina dhiaidh sin. Mise a bheidhs freagrach as cé comh maith no holc a n-éiríonn liom ar an turas seo – agus seo an rud – ní fíor-rogha atá san ‘olc’ sin!!
Is follasach a rá go bhfuil idir meascán de mhothúcháin agam, ach ag an am céanna, creidim go láidir nach mbeidh riamh aon ‘am ceart’ le rud mar seo a dhéanamh. Beidh ‘risk factor’ de shaghas éigin i gcónaí ann, agus da mba rud é gur fhán muid uilig i gcónaí ar an ‘opportune moment’ glacadh le dúshláin nó athraithe móra, bheadh muid ag fanacht go deo!

Mar atá sé anois airím réidh, airím láidir agus go breá cumasach, ar bís le feiceáil cá dtógfaidh an turas seo mé, go fisiciúil agus go spioradálta. Laethanta caite ag breathnú in éad agus ardmheas ag post Kathryn Thomas ar ‘No Frontiers’ is mé i mo shuí le cóipleabhar mata thart, mé anois ag cothú leis an ‘wanderlust’ agus spreagadh chun taistil is mé in ann faoi dheireadh dul amach liom fhéin sa domhan. Nílim tosaithe ag pacáil go fóill, ach tá liosta intinne déanta agam de na nithe a bheidh uaim, nithe a bheadh áisiúil, nithe nach dteastaíonn uaim in aon chor, agus nithe a ndéanfaidh mé gach iarracht a thabhairt liom ar aon chaoi.
An cúis imní is mó atá agam i láthair na huaire ná ag oibriú amach cén chaoi mála droma, giotar, mata íoga agus laptop a thabhairt liom uilig ag aon am amháin tríd na haerfoirt éagsúla agus amchriosanna (time zones) le casadh le duine éigin ar an taobh eile – le fírinne, d’fhéadfainn cúraimí níos measa a bheith agam faoi láthair! Tá go maith.

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From Connemara to Cambodia – 1 Week to Go

Ironing out the creases on clothes that I have yet to unpack is a beckoning chore, the bags I’ve just lugged cross-country made all the more noticeable in the corner of the room due to the fact that there are less than two weeks to go until I leave again.

At this stage I’m fairly sure that the washing machine is more apprehensive than I am, being expected to accommodate this turnover and ensure that I leave fully equipped with a backpack full of fresh clothes to wear and clean, dry towels. I need to go through everything, to sort out what to bring, what to wear. I should make a list, tick things off, pack once to see if everything fits and unpack again to rearrange things.

I should. But for some reason I’m not that worried about it.

Because I know it’ll all be fine. Even though I’ve never been away from home for this long all in one go – I’ve done stints in Galway for weeks on end without even thinking about home – but this is different. 10 weeks of work and travel in South East Asia. Chances are I won’t ever want to come home – don’t worry, Mum, I’ll be home for Christmas, but God knows where the experience could take me after that – and I’m open to anything!

Maybe it’s not quite close enough to it yet for the anxieties to have crept in…but somehow I feel like they’re not going to be there this time. It all feels so fine. It feels right. I’m not worried about the small details of it; the unecessary things. The panic of making connection flights, or the large box of malaria tablets I’ll have to keep on my person like a passport at all times, or the possibilities of contracting some unknown foreign diseases.

I’m more concerned with the fact that I’ll be so exposed – travelling alone, to such a foreign country and with no immediate contact or hand to hold should something go wrong.

In another way I’m more excited than I ever have been for anything. Exposing oneself like this is simultaneously daring and challenging, yet also extremely character-building and exciting, because I’ll have no choice but to look out for myself. I’ll be the one leading the way to the departure gates, to the visa desk, to the hotel and subsequent school the next day. I’ll be the one responsible for how well or badly the trip goes, and here’s the rub – ‘badly’ is not even being considered a real option here!

I think it’s safe to say I’m experiencing a very mixed range of emotions, but at the same time, I’m a firm believer that there is never going to be a ‘right time’ for me to do any of this or for me to make it happen. There’s always going to be some sort of risk factor involved, and if we were to always wait around for the ‘opportune moment’ to come to undertake a big change or challenge, we’d be waiting around forever!

As it stands I feel ready, I feel strong and capable and excited to see where this trip takes me, both literally and spiritually. My days of ogling Kathryn Thomas’s job on ‘No Frontiers’ as I sat and finished maths homework that was due days beforehand are finally being given some food to grow and see what can be made of the wanderlust that frustrated me at not being allowed out into the world. I haven’t started packing yet, but I’ve made mental lists of things I’ll need to bring, things that would be handy, things I definitely don’t need to bring, and things I’m probably going to try to bring anyway.

My main concern at the moment is how I’m going to manage a backpack, guitar, yogamat and laptop all at once as I travel through the various airports and arrive in a confusion of timezones to be (hopefully) received at the other side – to be honest, there are worse worries I could be having right now! All is well.

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On the Importance of Roots…

On The Importance of Roots… (and not the hair kind!)

 I recently had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend who moved away when we were both very young. Our families remained in contact, and as a result so did we through the years, seeing each other at staggered and unpredictable intervals every six or seven months when our parents decided it was time for a catch-up. Even though our lives naturally took different routes and twists that nobody could have anticipated, we remained solid friends, the advent of the likes of e-mail, Bebo and MSN in our early teens enabling us to stay in more regular and consistent contact, albeit rarely face-to-face. As such we now have the privilege of being able to introduce one another with the title of ‘one of my oldest friends’; a phrase I had previously never used, having thought it a cheesy and overly-emotive phrase reserved for American TV shows and chick flicks.

This time, however, after an absence of over a (fairly turbulent) year with only the odd Facebook or Snapchat message allowing us insight into the others’ busy and ever-changing life, it really hit home for me that this person has known me my entire life. Not only that, but she has stuck with me, an ever-present comfort for me to contact should the need arise, even if that contact consisted purely of a name on a screen. Although we share none of the same friends anymore, and live completely different lives from the days we played knick-knack on the neighbours around the corner, there is something extremely reassuring in the knowledge that there is always someone there to talk to that will give honest and objective opinions about things that are going on in your life, sit down and listen, even if it no longer has anything to do with them.

Going back to your roots and re-connecting with old friends, places, or even family you haven’t seen for a while really can help change the way you look at things. For me, it succeeded in bringing me back and reminding me of how I looked at certain things when I was younger – how easy things seemed, how little panic is actually necessary in dealing with situations I tend to make bigger deals out of than is required. The 5-year-old Jenny did not care how many calories she ate in one sitting. She was just happy to be sitting there eating them. It made no difference to her what she looked like leaving the house – she was just happy to be going somewhere.
In returning to this childlike state of thinking, sinking below the heightened sense of responsibility, anxiety and guilt that comes automatically with being an adult, there was such a freedom and respite that after we said our goodbyes I genuinely felt like I was floating on a sugar-buzz from the bags of sherbert flying-saucers and 10-pennys mixes we used to get in the shop down the road.

 For anyone struggling at the moment to find themselves, or to establish a firm foundation on which to build and take the next step from in your life, I urge you to first take a step backwards and look at where you’ve come from; who you’ve grown from – that little boy or girl who got excited at the mere thought of a trip to the cinema or playground, not needing to think into it or worry about the implications of such actions. Not needing to worry about what people would say if they did or didn’t go to the party that night; not needing to explain and absorb mountains of guilt and apologise for making mistakes.
Because it was natural; the next step forward, and the lead-on from the previous day at school to get up and go again in the morning. We didn’t question it, or dwell too long on the negatives – generally by lunchtime I was happy to see a packet of Iced Gems and carton of Ribena in front of me, and that was that. The simplicity of it astounded me to remember, but moreso the realisation that in reality there is no reason for us to not be able to access that purity again. The only difference is that we now have responsibilities, ‘expections’ to live up to that really have been placed there by ourselves, and a society that questions our purpose with every new acquaintance and shake of the hand enquiring a ‘polite’ “So what is it you do??”
Usually this question is not put out of any genuine interest or agenda whatsoever, and serves as a filler of a line that begs a concrete answer with each new encounter. Heaven forbid you respond with a semi-confident ‘I write’, or ‘I play music’ that has taken you years to get up the courage to undertake as a lifestyle– you’d be lucky to get an awkward nod of the head and an ‘oh, fairplay!’

What I’m trying to say is that meeting up with my old friend and talking as if it hadn’t been almost 2 years since we’d seen each other genuinely felt like the last few years of confusion and uncertainty in the post-college floundering to tread water and establish myself as a human being hadn’t happened. It reminded me that I’ve been me all along. I’ve been that child who ran to the shops to get another 50p bouncy ball from the machine outside Super Valu and chased it around the garden for the rest of the evening – I just stopped enjoying the little things about taking the trip there; the excitement of wondering which one would come out, and the delight when it bounced higher than I’d ever made it go before.
It reminded me that no matter where you go, who you meet, what friend-groups you become a part of, what sector you’re in or division or new team you play for, countries you travel to and time spent alone in strange new places, you will always appreciate that strong base of the first friends, family and experiences that shaped you as a child, where you ground your first roots and started to learn to stand tall by yourself.

It doesn’t matter if things got a little bit lost and mixed up along the way – some trees go years without any noticable growth or change. Each layer is built around the previous one, and is merely a reflection of what is actually contained inside. The reason your true self was so easy to access and embody as a child is because there were less layers to peel back to reach it. As we grow and become more accustomed to the world, people, relationships, habits and experiences around us, these layers become thicker, more complicated, and ultimately harder to see and retreat back through. In knowing now that this inner strength still exists as strong as ever, with all these new layers which I see now are there to protect instead of mask it, there is a potential and energy so exciting that I can barely contain myself.

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Destination: The Office

My Travel-Blog
Date: 21/09/15
Destination: Work
Time: 7.55am

 It’s cold this morning, though I probably won’t need this jumper by lunchtime. I turn left instead of right coming out of the house to take the opposite route towards the bustop; my feeble efforts to introduce some excitement and variety into the day – is that a new car outside number 79?
My old reliable 8am bus buddies have already begun to gather in the pre-acknowledged and respected morning silence; one by one, some nodding in recognition as I approach, others choosing the familiar awkward drop-of-the-gaze towards the ground – generally also my favoured approach at this hour of the morning, so no offence is taken.
Mrs. Purple Jacket noticably deflates as her talkative aquaintance Miss Multicoloured-Nails comes to settle chirpily by her side, greeting her with a ‘cold morning!!’ and a glance to the right to ‘see if it’s coming yet’.
It’s not.
Bleary-eyed and shivering slightly I check my phone for the second time in as many minutes, a blank glance the first time having failed to inform me of the time -just that the screen was very bright.
By the time the bus pulls up we’ve assumed our usual formation – tall lady with the furry coat who gets off in Ballsbridge stepping ahead of the guy that I recognise from primary school yet haven’t spoken to since that night in the pub down the road where I christened him my ‘bus mate’, and all the while me praying that my Leapcard doesn’t beep for longer than expected – the inconvenience it would cause to have to count out change amongst my orderly co-commuters would be shameful!
Stumbling my way to my usual seat at the back between Candy-Crush-playing –redheaded-guy and fair-haired-nurse-at-The-Hermitage-Clinic I try to focus my attention on the fact that the book I have in my bag to read is actually starting to get very interesting. I try to convince myself of the significance of this and mentally prepare myself to engage in the strength necessary to disappear into it’s pages for the next 45 minutes of my life.
As the morning brightens outside the windows, the mood inside the bus becomes gloomier with every full stop of commuters sighing away more and more of the precious oxygen and contributing to the increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere.

I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday’, and ‘I’m going to be sooooo late’ are common phrases in morning-commute land that allow successful communication with other travellers, but that I’ve learned to avoid on account of them being incessantly negative and pointless in their expression, especially in a situation such as aboard the 8am bus. These are uttered amongst passengers quite regularly with varying levels of boredom and energy, though in general the mood and tone is low.
As we turn on to the quays and the sun’s feeble effort to shine through the fogged windows reaches it’s peak, I put my book away in favour of the people-spotting opportunities the slow crawl of traffic before 9am presents to Dublin Bus passengers. The ground outside along the pathway seems to hold some sort of magical attention-keeping aspect to it, the sheer intensity of the walkers’ gazes fixed downwards as they hurry to their destinations seeming to cement hands in pockets and keep headphones blaring to block out the grumbling and bleeping of a city waking up.
As I disembark with a glum ‘thank-you’, echoing my previous self every day for the last month or so, I turn and jaywalk across to the other side of the road, a rush of adrenaline pulsing through me as I just about make it to the curb before the traffic surges forwards again. This spurs me on with one final burst of energy to take the too-wide steps of the Ha’penny Bridge one at a time, where I usually take them with two.

How exciting. Here’s to another exciting workday in Dublin.

I Want To Write

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I want to write, but ideally I don’t want to present you with repeated and recycled bullshit that I’ve seen online, and endless lists of things people don’t really care about purely to get ‘views’.
I want to write, but not be the kind of writer that is rude and/or judgemental of people who really don’t deserve it, again, purely to get attention or views online and in print.
I want to write, and not have to care about how well a piece of work is received or spread, because spending the entire creative process of writing it worrying how people are going to percieve and view it defeats the entire purpose of expressing my thoughts in the first place. The second I let a thought concerning other people’s opinions of my work enter my head, it no longer belongs to me. It has been tainted.
I want to write because I feel it is my way of communicating with the world, of putting some sort of solidity on the blinks and glances of thoughts that flit through my brain on a daily basis as I move from place to place, and possibly to make some sense of the more ambiguous ones; to really break them down in order to be able to put them all together again.

I want to write because I want to understand. I want to learn from what I see around me, I want to be able to structure some solid opinions and views on the world that are just not possible for me to clarify without writing them down.
I want to write to be able to support myself and feel a sense of fulfillment; to ensure I am able to travel around and see all there is to see, learn what there is to learn, and write about it while I go.
I want to write because I want to travel, and I feel that pictures can only capture the brink of what it really is to experience a new culture; a new country; a new climate or timezone.
I want to write because writing for me feels as natural as breathing, and having nothing and nowhere to write about is as suffocating as sitting at an office desk where the windows don’t open and the heating is stuck on high in the middle of Summer.

I want to be a writer, and I’m not going to pretend I haven’t bought into the current trends of trying to write ‘hilarious’ reviews with catchy or crude headlines, or pieces that will go viral online and receive a high readership – because I have. I’ve tried to write things people will find entertaining, interesting, insightful even. And sometimes I’ve succeeded. But where my heart truly lies, and it’s taken me a while to figure this out – is in movement, travel, and observing the world around me as I go. Staying still prevents the flow of words that comes like a torrent of ideas, emotions, and possibilities whenever I step foot into the world outside my door, whether it’s on board a plane, boat, train, bus; anything.
I want to write, and I will always continue to write and recount life experiences I have around the world, regardless if I ever eventually make it to Bali, Tokyo, or the Amazon. Anywhere will do. I just need to be moving. I need to be in motion for the channels of inspiration and structure to work together and allow me to produce something that makes sense.
I want to write, but I also want to travel, and the World is my destination.

A Windowseat of One’s Own – On Adapting & Perspective

– A Windowseat of One’s Own

‘Adapting’

Changing clothes and coats and outer layers regularly only becomes a problem when you start leaving important things in pockets. In changing myself to suit other people or please a general majority or crowd, I was placing yet another layer atop my already stifled self. For the core to shine through, to really be seen, for ‘shine’ is what any honest truth really will do when given the opportunity, we must become comfortable with that which lies beneath the layers.

The human body amazes me in that it will do every single thing necessary and within its’ power to fix and help itself. If there is one thing my ‘journey’ up until now has shown me, it is that. The human body is a masterpiece of engineering, with cells reforming and repairing themselves through even the harshest of treatment; enzymes and vitamins and minerals working alongside one another to carry out tasks and ensure everything is functioning to the best of its’ ability – all without even a thought or instruction from us. I am hugely grateful for this fact, yet it also baffles me that given the the case with the physical body, that it doesn’t come as second nature or automatic for us to adapt similarly and to help ourselves mentally, should an issue arise. If it were a thing that we were physically programmed to help our own mentality improve when we felt it struggling, the world would be a very different place. Often our bodies do things to help us survive without us even realising the fact, which makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate it at all. Because we don’t need to acknowledge it, we end up taking it for granted, and not realising the need to acknowledge and take similar action against mental problems when they arise.

In learning to recognise our own individual symptoms, triggers and warning signs, we are ultimately taking responsibility for ourselves and the space we occupy upon this earth – because no one else will. No one else can occupy this windowseat while I sit here. They might do in an hour or so when the train arrives, is cleaned out, and prepared for a return journey, but by that time I will be long gone; probably sitting in another seat of a connecting bus or train or plane, destined for another stop on my timeline.

‘Perspective’

In recognising that the world is as fleeting, inconsistant and unpredictable as we as humans are ourselves, we may somehow be able to greet it as a very large entity on which we have just somehow found ourselves walking. The endless predictions and prophesizing that the earth will someday end, that the sun will burn out and cease to support life as we know it is a strangly humbling and comforting thought if we consider ourselves in relation to it. We have been given the privelege of existing within this short space of time when the sun and earth have come in to some sort of symbiosis with one another, resulting in a mass expansion of new life, experiences, places, people, and diversity. Our timeline of a mere 80-85 years in such a place is surely something to be celebrated, to embrace, and to fully appreciate by experiencing as much as we possibly can during our time here. It’s almost as if we are currently in some sort of prolonged eclipse of the earth and sun, which has resulted in a burst of life and uncontrolled expansion and exploration of new elements interacting with those they have not yet met with before, constantly moving forward, growing, evolving; progressing. In transporting myself to as many places as I can in order to experience more and more of these elements, my journey is continuing on in the only way in which I see fit to do it. In order for me to successfully carry this out, both my body and my mind must be sufficiently nourished and strong enough to handle the unkowns the world may have in store – the tests, the things my soul has not yet encountered. In coming to terms with my own existance as I sit here on the train and type, I am simultaneously being transported onwards, in a direct and physical manifestation of that which is constantly happening around us and within our lives.

What I observe outside the window has no doubt been observed before by others who have knowingly come this way too, our paths having taken a similar route, yet both each individually carrying on our own journeys, our own goals and needs and lives moving forwards. Yet none of what I am seeing has been seen in quite the same light before, with the same experiences, emotions, mental, spiritual and physical conditions at similar levels and in combination. For the past few hours, this windowseat and view has been my own, but soon, it will cease to mean anything to me, and move on to be experienced by the next lonesome and contemplative traveller. My journey has brought me through bumpy times, uncertain and sometimes downright terrifying thoughts and behaviours, usually punctuated by contrasting moments of contentment and balance. In knowing these positive moments do occur, and are possible to obtain provided I remain aware of myself and surroundings, I know the hike ahead is a lot more managable than I ever thought it would be. It’s a constant work in progress, and in not knowing exactly what’s on the horizion, one inevitably is left open to both the good and bad aspects of what lies ahead. But I am now more equipped than ever, stronger, more aware, and ready to see everything this planet has to offer me as I embrace the good luck and fortune I have in experiencing the paralling of both of our brief existences.

“You are Beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.”

‘You are beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.’

I found a note on my phone the other morning with those words saved to it. I don’t remember saving it there, when or what even prompted me to write it, but I’m so glad I did.

When I looked up I realised that sure, all I was doing was sitting on the bus searching through my phone for some entertainment. But then I really thought, and I saw that I was sitting on the bus.
I looked around, and instead of shifting my gaze awkwardly from the searching eyes of the technologically-challenged elderly woman opposite me who had nothing but the world outside the window to pass the journey with, I looked at her full on and gave a simple smile.

Because at that moment, that was all I could do.
There was no point staring at the screen of my device and wishing I was elsewhere, or talking with someone online and losing myself in a life that’s not my own while my body was physically transported across the earth. From the past, I had inadvertently chosen to divert my attention into this present moment, and to interact with my surroundings.

And guess what the woman did?
She smiled back.
She didn’t have to, and I didn’t make her – but she smiled back.

 A short message, most likely written as a result of an inverted and paralysed moment of anxiety at some point in a public situation, had opened my mind and spurred me on to smile at this stranger. Purely because I had reminded myself of my own worth, she had then smiled and prompted a chain-reaction of positivity that would not have been possible otherwise.

Distraction

It’s so easy to look away when we feel we’re not worth looking at.
So easy to distract ourselves from our busy thoughts with other unimportant aspects of our lives, and get worked up about things that aren’t true, and most certainly aren’t worth it. We do it all the time with factors that are completely out of our control – we look away and ignore the world outside unless the sun is shining when we get up in the morning. But the world is still there, even during a storm. Even on a bad hair day, it doesn’t change the fact that I still have hair, no matter how many hairbands or hats I try to hide it with.

Power to Change

How often have you found yourself avoiding the mirror and leaving the house with a frown because of something you can not change at that present moment– be it your hair colour, height, weight, outside influences or thoughts about tasks you must complete within a given day?
By establishing mental boundaries and accepting the environmental factors that are both within and outside of our control, I find that my mind calms somewhat, with the knowledge and reaffirmation that although I am strong in myself, that there will always be things outside of my control. It’s a grounding and empowering realisation all at once, which places me firmly within my own body, and aware of both the potential and the limitations of it.

Everybody Gets It

We’ve all been in positions where we wish we could disappear or change certain aspects of our appearance. In grounding yourself in the moment, letting go of ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’, and coming to terms with the you that is in the minute right now, reading these words, it allows a lot of these preoccupations with beauty, perceptions and opinions to become irrelevant. We can begin to finally accept ourselves for what we really are.

So look away from that phone screen, close the laptop, and turn off the television for a mere few minutes – a fleeting moment in which you can think about where and what you are, and meet yourself there.

Just look up.

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Why a Book is the Greatest Travel Companion….

There’s something about being in motion and physically moving from one place to another that calms my mind and helps me achieve a sense of purpose. No matter the distance, whether on a bus, train, plane, or even a car, travelling fills me with the excitement of possibility, of change and progression, and the knowledge that absolutely nothing stays the same no matter how long you sit still.
I’m also a book hoarder. I’ll admit it. I have an addiction to buying books. If I’m in a bookshop and I see something that’s even mildly interesting or is on sale at a special price it is very difficult to prevent myself from spending hard-earned money on it, even though I’m more than likely already halfway through and just barely started up to about 5 other volumes of completely unrelated material. One of my favourite things to do in an airport is to buy a new book, even if my hand luggage is already over-capacity with the stash I’ve brought from home.
Ironic really, considering that my sister works in a library.
She’s berated me on many occasions for buying books she could source easily within a few days, and simply refuses to see that it’s ok to take them on trips around the world, even provided you return them safe and sound afterwards. I like to see my library card as a passport for a book to be taken away, often wondering as I stand at a shelf how many of the books around me contain grains of sand from faraway beaches, dried pages from a spillage during turbulence, or coffee stains from cafés in bustling cities.

When I read, my brain takes a trip. Something in my mind just clicks, and I end up tapping in to the unquenched wanderlust that’s incessantly telling me to travel, the need to move and see things and go places I’ve never been. If travel is unavailable to me at that time, the book generally does the job and lets me expend some of the mental energy on experiencing the pages of the story, while my body remains stationary.

When I travel, my body physically being transported from one place to another, or even without any fixed destination, it’s my mind that needs to be stilled and brought back down to earth and into the two feet that make this mobility possible. By reading whilst traveling, I enter into this state of calmness and togetherness, the need to move and the need for mental stimulation both being met in a coffee buzz of contented existance. Not only am I aware of being physically transported through new locations and grounds, but my mind is also being taken on a journey through the pages of whatever novel I’ve chosen for the journey (I do have preferences, mind you -I’m not the kind of book-junkie that will read just about anything, but for the purpose of this post there’s not much need for specifics).

While travel companions vary from journey to journey, trip to trip and place to place, there are few transportation methods and systems on which a book is not a compatible match. It makes solo travel all the more enjoyable, while also providing an escape from the pressures of 2-hour-conversations with strange Dutch men with pinstriped trousers purely because he happened to sit beside you on the bus and you don’t know how to stop replying to his incessant questions.

I’m currently compiling a list of books I wish to read this Summer, and to be honest seeing the stack of them pile up in front of me and knowing some of them must be returned to the safety of their library shelves within a set amount of time puts a kind of exciting pressure of me to travel and utilise their power while I can. Thank God for online re-issuing!