Once upon a time, in the good ol’ pre-pandemic times, I took the train to Edinburgh. My snack supplies were coming to their end, beautiful scenery was emerging, and an exciting long weekend was ahead. It was a long-awaited family weekend that not even a potentially terrible weather could stop.
How terrible was the weather in the end, one might ask. The crappiest weather I had seen in a while, let me tell you: we had a weekend of strong winds, cold rain, snow (my first snow in the UK, so…woohoo?), and – my all-time favourite – sleet. We did manage to have a lovely time together, once again proving it’s all about the company; the place is seldom relevant.
But the place does matter sometimes, in what it does to your cognition, your imagination, and – yes, I am going there – your spirit.
I think there are places – subjectively more special than others – that allow you to imagine a version of you that you might romanticise; a you that is leading a life that’s not necessarily impossible but maybe too bold to imagine.
In Edinburgh, it was the artist (probably a writer) me. Ah, I could see myself wearing a stylish coat and a hat that somehow magically looks good on me, I would be rushing through that horrible weather back to my cosy apartment where I would take my boots off and make myself some tea. The time would stop, I would look through my window at that neo-gothic horizon and that February sleet, but instead of thinking how unpleasant it is to walk through it, I would feel inspired and would continue working on my series of short stories.
Everything would be a source of inspiration, and I would be that cool and creative me who believes that she has valuable things to offer to this world.
In Thailand, if I had lived there longer, I could see myself in a different role. I could see myself getting (but like, properly) into yoga; I’d be fit and energised; I would start liking and even appreciating my natural hair colour. And, who knows, maybe I would start believing that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me.
When going on a walk in a cute coastal town here in the UK, I’d quickly imagine myself having a boat, and, more specifically, having constantly dry and cracked hands. My face would be wind-roughened, I would enjoy hard work, and would feel I deserve a big meal after a long day of that hard work. I don’t know what I would say, but I could imagine myself saying a prayer before meal.
Suddenly, a strong wind gust comes. “Holy crap!”, I shout out loud, as it makes me realise my jacket is not appropriate for this weather. I need gloves. And my face is cold. And I want a warm soup right now and not after a hard day’s work.
The imaginary coastal me might be able to handle that wind; the real me isn’t there yet.
I must say, my list of scenarios doesn’t stop there, but I think you get the point.
Yet what is the point here?
Is the point to believe that there is a magical place in this world where, in my case, my hair looks good effortlessly and I feel fulfilled, because that is the influence of this magical place?
If yes, all I need to do is to find that place. Once I’m there, what a beautiful time this will be! I will be able to rest, as a Buddhist saying goes, “without anxiety about non-perfection.” I will have cultivated a core belief that I am worthy of love and belonging. Belonging not just to that place, but in the world.
Here’s another scenario, though, where the place is irrelevant:
It’s a life we create for ourselves wherever we happen to be, slowly putting down the heavy boulders of our fears, shame, and anxiety. We don’t need to carry them anymore, not to any magical place where we can finally put them down.
Doing yoga outside of Thailand, writing short stories – or wearing stylish coats – outside of Edinburgh, and, hey, having cracked hands while not living on the coast. The last point might be the easiest to achieve, but I do believe other things are possible, too. The good news is that they are possible even when travelling is limited, if other things – like our minds and hearts – are open.
PS. If you’d like to listen to something unbearably beautiful on the effect our surroundings can have on us, I’d like to share this lovely podcast with you. It was shared with me by a friend and it would be a crime not to pass it on. A warning, though – it can crack your heart open.