Half way reflections
This blog has been written by Emma! It was started in Ethiopia, forgotten about in Kenya and finished off in Uganda 😬 A bit of a personal one...brace yourselves!
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few periods in my life so far where I’ve chosen to take some extended time away from work and the ‘everyday’. Often, making these choices has meant a little bit of juggling (putting stuff in storage, house moves etc.) and some difficult decisions & conversations as we do the ‘unexpected’ or the ‘uncoventional’: “you’re spending 6 months apart?! but what about your relationship?” in response to travelling with a friend a few years ago whilst Ross stayed in London or, “but you’re just married, don’t you want to start a family or buy a house?” and “what about waiting until your kids go to university? Would that be a better time to go?” through to “aren’t you worried you won’t have a house deposit?” - questions we recieved whilst planning this trip! Some of these topics definitely crossed our own minds and we batted different scenarios around in our discussions. Should we postpone our adventure? Were we being indulgent? What about our age? Money? Family? There‘s a healthy dose of fear involved in changing things up and a sensible devil’s advocate telling you to grow up. In a way, you’re entering the unknown - chucking away your daily routine for a bit, tossing stability to the side and just following your heart & intuition.
These periods have been incredibly important for both of us. It has enabled us to get some perspective; reconnect with each other and with nature, focus on what is important and (very indulgently) spend time doing the things that make us truly happy.
The happy chappies in action:
But, halfway through this journey (and for the first time ever) I’ve come to the conclusion that this sort of lifestyle wouldn’t make me happy 100% of the time. Until now, I’ve always thought longingly about how nice it’d be to wake up in a beach shack every day, to while away hours and hours reading and doing yoga and to see new exotic things every day. That’s bliss isn’t it?
Well...I’ve realised that actually, I feel most fulfilled when I have a purpose, and when I feel like I’m doing what I can to make a difference to others. I also like the idea of (metaphorically) planting lots of little seeds that I can cultivate so that they’ll continue to grow and support me, Ross and our family throughout our lives. Seeds like building a home and making connections in a community and investing in a career that I love.
That said, I feel incredibly grateful (if not a tad extravagant) to be able to take this time ‘out’ of that though. Not because I need to escape - in fact, I’ve felt much the opposite on this trip so far - but because I am so keen to develop myself and our marriage so that when I go back to the inevitable ‘everyday’, I’ll be even stronger, even happier and even better at whatever it is I choose to do, be it as a wife, friend, leader, team mate, sister, daughter and hopefully one day a mother too.
Back to my lack of desire to escape: that might come as a surprise to some reading this as, from a distance, the trip we’re on does seem very much like an escape! Surely you’re shaking up the norm, banishing that awful daily grind, distancing yourself from all those hasty interactions you have with people that are too busy for xyz? Actually, no!
What a pleasure it is to be escaping nothing. To be truly content with the path you’ve chosen, the people you surround yourself with, your purpose in life. In comparison to those other periods in my life where I’ve had space, this one feels different. It feels much more connected to reality and as though there’s no need to compartmentalise between the travelling me (I even created an alter-ego named Aiko on my last trip in South America four years ago) and the home me. Perhaps in part that’s because of how content I am at home, perhaps it’s because I am here with my husband, or perhaps (and I hope it’s this) it’s because I’ve finally got to know myself and I’m not searching or grasping or comparing anymore.
Furthermore, the focus on this journey has shifted from ‘me’ to ‘us’ and instead of working solely on myself, Ross and I are investing a lot in our relationship. Absolutely nothing is wrong (sometimes I feel we jump to that conclusion if we suggest ‘working’ at something), instead, we’ve shifted from tired catch ups in the evening after separate days at work to 8 hours in a car together!
This, combined with the daily task of finding a place to sleep or the concern of running out of diesel in the desert, protecting ourselves against corrupt police and choosing which road will be safe from potholes or bandits, has meant we are instead spending our days learning about each other, developing our ability to have truly candid conversations and becoming even more attuned at reading each others’ minds. When do we need to compromise, when do we need to be silent and give the other some space, when do we need to be the bigger person and hold space so the other can vent or beً short tempered? I couldn’t think of a better way to start married life actually. We are experiencing something very beautiful together (because it is often difficult & uncomfortable) and that is strengthening us every day. Hooray for that.
To conclude- I’m reading Homo Deus at the moment (the sequel to Sapiens by Yuval Harari). Harari suggests that as we achieve more and improve the quality of our life, our expectations constantly rise and in turn so does our discontentment. I am trying to be really conscious of this and to appreciate all that I have, both here in the moment as I tap my ponderings into a note on my phone, sitting on a terrace by a lake in Ethiopia with a cold beer in reach and 7 x 1 month old puppies sleeping in the corner next to me, all of us awaiting the arrival of my best friend Kristy. As well as on a deeper level with our truly wonderful marriage, happy, special and loving family & friends, a career I love and lots of exciting things to come in the years ahead.
So instead of this trip being an escape, it’s actually making me even more excited to go back to the ’everyday’, equipped with more perspective and gratitude and feeling more grounded than ever before. I hope I can hold on to those emotions once we are home.
All that and we’re only half way through! Here’s to taking risks, to love, communication and contentment.
With love, xxx