When I was in college, I couldn't wait to study abroad. When junior year came, I was so ready to get out of dodge that I packed up all of my belongings and fled to the Gold Coast of Australia, with no intention of ever returning home.
I'd been through the usual collegiate collapse of relationships, both romantic and otherwise, and my grades were suffering because I just couldn't bring myself to care. I was bored, and I was convinced that moving to the other side of the world was the ticket to my happiness.
While everything about life as an Aussie was as amazing as I had hoped, I returned home to find ... everything was exactly the way I had left it. It was the same old thing I had left behind half a year before. Nothing there had changed except for me. I was finally forced to face all of the problems (read: frat boys) that I had tried so desperately to escape.
In my adult life, I often hear people complain about their boring social calendar, lackluster love life, or soul-sucking job. With the hope of making friends, getting faded on the daily, or meeting the love of their life, many people plan vacations to "get away."
"What are you trying to get away from?" I always wonder to myself when I hear about these plans to backpack through Europe or pamper themselves at a five-star resort and spa in Costa Rica. All of these places sound wonderful and romantic in our heads as we plan them, but upon arriving home a week or a month or a year later, nothing seems to have changed much.
How can we break ourselves of this cycle — not of living paycheck to paycheck, but of living vacation to vacation? How can we learn to live more in our daily lives, so every day feels like a soul-fulfilling, exotic adventure? I have a few ideas.
1. Treat yourself.
What's something that you love but never allow yourself to have? We put so many restrictions on ourselves in our daily lives, only to go on vacation and blow all of our money and all of our hard work because, "Hey, I'm on vacation, I'm going to drink all of the margaritas and eat all of the cake." In reality, we often find ourselves spending all of the money on things we don't need, and return home sunburned and even more drained than we left.
What balance, then, can you strike? Allow yourself to enjoy a whole milk, extra vanilla triple-whip latte once in a while. Give yourself a treat on Friday for making it through the work week. Go shopping. Take a nap. Do whatever you need to do so that you feel like you're being taken care of, too. It's so important. You are so, so important.
2. Make every day an adventure.
Do you go to the same yoga teacher every week because she is the very, very best yoga teacher there ever was and no one could ever be as great as she, and you could never dream of taking anyone else's class ever? I'm sure she's amazing, but I call BS.
Dig yourself out of your rut, and take someone else's class. Heck, go to a different studio! Take a class from someone you've never even heard of! Oh, the excitement and adventure of entering a new yoga class. It's invigorating! If baby steps are more realistic for you at this point, take a different route to work. Get shot of mocha in your coffee in the morning! Let your creativity run wild. The opportunities are endless.
3. Put yourself out there.
Say hi to the cutie on the mat next to you ("Nice downdog, fella/lady fella"), smile at the barista brewing your morning cup of joe, or sit uncomfortably close to someone in a packed cafe. I have made new friends in all of these ways! Not every situation is going to end with you making out to Edwin McCain (yeah, remember him?) in the rain, but you're not making any new friends by avoiding eye contact with every stranger you bump into on the subway. You have a beautiful smile, and it would be a shame for you to keep it all to yourself.
4. It sounds like a broken record, but do what you love.
Quit your job if it makes you miserable! Get your 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher training and teach yoga for the rest of your life! You don't need a home, or a bed or food in your belly, because you'll finally be free to do what makes you happy!
It sounds crazy because it is. We have to work to live in this society. We have familial obligations, deadlines and puppies who need to be fed. So, how can you be doing what you love and still bring home the bacon? I'm still learning the answer to this question, but I believe it all starts with one word: Gratitude.
I don't love getting up early, I get exhausted easily by having to interact face-to-face with hundreds of people every day, and most of the time I just want to lie down and take a nap. But you know what? I have a job! I am grateful for that.
Remind yourself daily how lucky you are to be exactly who and where and what you are right now. Gratitude is contagious. The more you practice it, the more others will catch on, and the more you will have to be grateful for.
So, the next time you're desperate to get out of town, ask yourself why? What am I running away from? Fix what needs to be fixed right here, right now! That way, you can enjoy the process of planning your vacation, your travels can be all about the what and where of a new and exciting place, and when you return home, it will be exactly as lovely and amazing as you left it.