I’ve got that twitchy foot again. And this time it’s bad. I mean REAL BAD. I feel boxed in and just want to get on a plane or get in my car and GO. Of course, I can’t do that. But lately, the feeling is becoming overwhelming. It’s been building for months. I periodically go through this every year since becoming a full-time single mommy of two boys. It usually starts in February. (Here’s a photo montage on how I tried to cure my wanderlust through local trips last year: A Single Mom’s Wanderlust: A State of Mind.)
The aching wanderlust hit full tilt earlier this week when I had an ichat with my ex. He was in a taxi with this amazing light flashing in an out of the window and wind blowing lightly in his hair. He was driving through Brussels at sunset and smiling at me and James, our five-year-old who was sitting in my lap waving. My ex looked so happy. He looked so free. And suddenly, all I could think was “I’ve got to get out of here.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that my ex is living his dream and that he seems so happy. Truly I am. (I know some of you don’t believe me!) We’ve been through a lot over the past five years since he’s moved back to Europe. We are now friends again. But even if we weren’t, I’d still be happy for him. It’s just the way I choose to be. My wanderlust isn’t about him. I’ve always had it. And now that I’m boxed in, I start going crazy after two months without a weekend off. Waiting until August is going to be tough…although it can’t be helped. So, it’s only natural that I start to miss some aspects of my old life. There, I said it. Six years ago, when living in London, I was able take advantage of a lastminute.com sales promotion or a craigslist house swap and with a few clicks I’d purchase rail tickets and we’d be off to Paris for the weekend.
My life is clearly, completely different now. I love this small beach town. I do. Really. I love watching dolphins every day. I love biking and watching surfers. I’m obsessed with sunsets and sunrises over my stretch of the Pacific Ocean. I love looking for treasures on the beach with my little guy. But…I appreciate this small town and my two boys SO much more when I get a chance to refuel, get away and come back. So, while I LOVE these boys more than anything, I’m starting to go LOCO. Here’s a list of what I’m calling survival tips for wanderlust. If you are someone who is also afflicted with a periodic need to see new vistas, meander in new distant cities, sit in cafes and people watch, sans children, or crave the freedom of getting in your car with the windows down and driving AWAY, to ANYWHERE…sigh…these survival tips are for you:
- Detach. Detach. Detach.
One of the biggest perks to traveling is that it lets you leave your little world, your little community and any worries within it, behind. My first taste of freedom happened when I was 16 and went to Russia and Europe for the summer with the People to People Student Ambassador Program. This was before cell phones and Facebook. Two months were spent in Russia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, England, Ireland—I was off the grid. I didn’t speak to my parents, my boyfriend or any friends (all good for me to distance myself from at the time!) the entire summer. I was out of all the gossip and petty concerns. I didn’t have to worry about that boyfriend who was doing drugs and cheating on me. Yup. I didn’t have to worry about my parent’s marriage that was falling apart. I didn’t have to worry about trying to be a good dancer even though I have flat feet. … I got away from all the concerns in my North Carolina town and immersed myself in drastically different worlds and lives. I saw poverty, beauty and kindness in Russia. I met the most charming and entertaining people in Ireland. I could see the contrast from the proper and inhibited English and all the nakedness in Denmark—two nude beaches and nude hikers, go figure! It was a great experience and later fueled my desire to keep traveling. Which I did, to abandon. When wanderlust hits, I try to remember how it feels to be away. I meditate. I remember what I did in certain locales, or people I met and how little they may have had materially, but how much richer their lives seemed to be. I meditate and imagine exotic sounds or smells, like when I was shopping in Jaipur, India. I imagine the marketplace, the incense, the spices, the colors, the dirt, the broken teeth, the hooka tents, the cows, the tattered Bangladeshi children, etc. I put myself there. I drop into that place. If that doesn’t work, I meditate with a guided CD (my favorite being David Ji) which usually forces my thoughts to still. And finally, after 15 minutes, I’ve detached from this place and am able to garner a better perspective.
My new habit during the week is to cut off the TV, turn off my phone and shut down the computer every night after the kids go to bed. If there are dishes to do, I leave them for the morning. I then go downstairs into my room where I have photos that I shot in Sweden, Denmark and Italy, and I turn on my little clock radio. Yup. The one that crackles. I play the public station and listen to opera, or classical or jazz. I open the window slightly, so I can hear the ocean. Then, I either start writing or editing my novel, or I read one of my favorite authors. I instantly feel like I’m away. I feel like I did when visiting Eastern European cities like Prague or Budapest or small coastal towns in Spain or Portugal. For some reason, there was never good wifi and few modern conveniences. So crackling music, sometimes in another language, feels just right. This is my time to feel like I’m completely away.
- Find creative, inexpensive ways to get away!
I am a BIG fan of Airbnb.com, VRBO and SabbaticalHomes.org. Here’s an article where I outline affordable ways to get away. Single Mom’s Budget Travel Tips. Just planning the next adventure can be a bit of cure for what ails ya. This May, for my birthday, I’m either taking the boys to New York, or to Yosemite. I’m trying to figure it out. In August, I plan to go to Paris or Barcelona for two weeks while the boys are with their dad. I want to put the finishing touches on my novel in a far-a-way venue. I’m listing my home and reaching out to friends for home swaps. It may not happen, but I’m trying and putting it out there!
- Find a partner-in-crime.
Thelma had Louise. Find your Louise. Find another single mom to swap babysitting with. Whether you get an overnite or a night out once as month, just make sure that it’s an equitable swap. So mom’s of three, don’t swap with a mom of one. It may take some time to find the perfect partner-in-crime, but SO worth the effort!
- Be Grateful.
Every night I make my boys say their “gratefuls”. James says 5 things he is grateful for, since he is 5. William says 12, since he is 12. (They both always go over!) We’ve done this since they were old enough to understand how. I used to do this as a child and find that now, more than ever, I need to do it. I tend to write down my grateful lists and I’m amazed at how long they’ve become! On especially challenging days, I’ll even stop what I’m doing mid-day, and start one. Thinking of what you are thankful for is the best pick-me-up on the planet. I can never find fear when I’m living in gratitude. Try it.
- STOP comparing yourself to others.
The minute I notice that my thoughts are veering down this path, I imagine the sound of an old fashioned record getting ripped by a needle: RRIIPPP!! And I stop. My path and my journey is just that. And I’m on a very unique one. I’m embracing my writing and my yoga teaching—both very creative and low-paying venues. But I decided a few years back that when I stopped doing these things and focussed solely on work that paid well with little flexibility, I wasn’t happy. So, I have to stop comparing myself to those who have more, do more, and maybe do what I want to do better than me. There will always be someone out there smarter, more flexible, more creative, etc. ENOUGH.
Since I’ve shut down my computer every evening, I’m clearly not on Facebook as much as I was. (This is really helpful.) Do I really need to know what my crush is doing, or not doing? Honestly. It’s not with me, so time to move on! I also don’t need to know how many ‘friends’ are traveling to far away places or going out on weekends that I can’t. I used to get so jealous of all my ‘single parent’ friends who could still get away or go out on weekends because their exes or parents took the kiddos. My life is very different from theirs and I just need to not think about it. This life of mine must have been chosen for a reason. I’m much stronger now than I’ve ever been. I have a novel that’s pretty awesome and nearly finished. I have totally wonderful boys. I live my life on my terms. I need to focus on the positive.
- STOP pining for the past or an unattainable future.
Enough said. Being present is a gift. There’s a reason why it’s called present. If I live in the past I can’t move forward. Ironically, if I focus on what’s ahead, I miss what’s right here; right now. Try to focus on what your children say. Try not to check email or text when with your children. Just try to be. As much as possible.
- Find ways to make your life work, just as it is.
A good friend and intuitive life coach, Louise Hauck, wrote in her book Streaming Consciousness, that one has to strive to make the present work, even if it isn’t exactly what you want, to open up space for something better. I’m paraphrasing, but Louise wrote about one situation in her book where she coached a woman who was miserable in her job. Louise suggested that she work hard at making things better in her current position before quitting. So, that meant, communicating better with co-workers who annoyed her. Trying to be more patient with those who offended her, etc. When she felt much better in her job, ironically, her dream job offer appeared. Making the here and now livable, workable, enjoyable, helps you to be grateful and then opens up space for something better. For me, that means, getting rid of junk in my garage. Organizing this small condo so it’s more functional for my boys. Clearing out closets, old toys and inboxes on my desk to Fung shui. Planning for fun excursions with the boys. All of this makes the here and now better. It helps me to be more appreciative and opens up space for whatever it is that I’m trying to manifest. As Louise taught me to say and/or think, “Lord, thank you for this wonderful life. This— OR—better, please!”