Tag Archives: Travel

Befriend Yourself

When planning my gap year for grown-ups, I made a conscious decision to put myself in the way of as much beauty as possible. Paris. Florence. London. Edinburgh. Museums + galleries. Epic walks along historic rivers. Plays + play. Live music. Talks by writers. The luxury of time to write and think and create.

The thing I could not have predicted is how very much I’m also putting myself in the way of new challenges. And how much I’m growing.

As I shared in our Sunday Reader a month ago, I’m an anxious sort of bear. Regardless of how together I seem from the outside, it takes a lot of effort and courage for me to travel on my own, to learn new neighbourhoods, to navigate the metro and to fly solo.
Please know that I’m not complaining. I signed up for this and it is mostly glorious… but some of it is not. Actually, that seems like a pretty good description of life. Mostly glorious. Sometimes not.

Yesterday was a bit of a day, travel-wise. I flew from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to London Heathrow (neither of which are famously wonderful transportation hubs) and everywhere there was a line, it was long and filled with really angry travellers. At CDG, the wait at Customs was epic but I knew it would be so I had left myself lots of time. The people around me, however, were furious. The woman directly behind me was in a terrible hurry and, every time we took a step forward, she bumped into me with her suitcase. A man at the front of the line yelled at an airport employee who took a traveller in a wheelchair before him. I felt overwhelmed but there was nothing I could do. As I peeled off my sweater, I realized that I was starting to panic even though I knew I had lots of time to make my flight.

The first thing I did was to breathe. {Sometimes we forget.} I inhaled deeply through my nose and held that breath for about three seconds. Then I exhaled slowly through my mouth and relaxed my neck and shoulders. I breathed deeply, in this way, for a few minutes. Then I found a spot on the floor about ten feet away from me and just rested my gaze there. Gently. I continued to breathe and emptied my mind as much as I could. Of course, random thoughts popped up, and the sounds of Charles de Gaulle intruded from time, but I just let the thoughts and noises come and then go and I went on breathing. I meditated in the best way I could in the middle of the line at Customs.

After ten minutes, I felt calm. I was able to think more kindly about this woman behind me who might be feeling panicked about missing a flight and the man who lost his cool at the front of the line. It’s not like I gave them a hug or anything that dramatic, I just changed the way I was thinking. A few minutes later, I noticed that the woman behind me had stopped bumping into me.

I shit you not. It was magic.

By befriending myself first and then extending that circle of calm, I was able to make a situation that felt tough and jagged a bit better. Softer. Adopting an attitude of love and patience created more space in that line. {I love the word “spaciousness.”} It certainly felt like magic to me.

How could you befriend yourself today to create a little magic for yourself and the people in your life?
How would it feel to speak to yourself a little more gently? The next time you feel tempted to criticize yourself (I’m so stupid! | I never learn | How could I have forgotten this? | I’m so disorganized | This is all my fault), try to breathe and say something kind to yourself.

Try something like: “I know you’re feeling really frustrated right now. You are really doing your best though, aren’t you? And you love your family so much and you always want to do your very best for them. What do you need right now? Shall we sit for a minute? Shall we have a cup of tea?”

Have a cup of tea. Breathe. Befriend yourself. You can call it self compassion or kindness or even magic, if you wish. I promise it will help.
 
 
*This post was originally published as a Sunday Reader. To receive my love letters directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.
 

Believe

McD

I enrolled in grad school in China.
After I moved into residence
but before new student orientation
my mother came to visit.
I took her to McDonalds.
It was the custom
to take a nap
after your meal
and the seats and tables
folded into beds
so we slept.
While we were sleeping
the staff collected our clothing
and hung it in a large closet.
After a long nap we awoke
but could not find our clothes.
A purple sequinned tank top
had been placed at the foot of the bed.
A woman held up the top,
pulled it over her head and walked away.
I wrapped myself in a fuzzy brown blanket
and followed the crowd to the closet where people
grabbed clothes and stuffed them into their bags.
I said, “Hey, people are stealing clothes in here.”
No matter how hard I tried
I couldn’t find my yoga pants.

*This was a dream I have not embellished.
If you want to be a Counselor, you must be ready to say, “Yes of course. I believe you completely.”
This is equally true if you plan to travel.
 

What we’re really talking about when we talk about missed plane connections

MissedConnection

This post is part of a weekly series about designing your life.

When we talk about
missed plane connections,
we’re not talking about planes.

The details of that particular voyage
are of no consequence
even though we’re convinced
that’s the story we’re telling.

We’re compelled to share
the number of minutes spent on the tarmac
and how close we came to missing the flight
because they provide a shape,
a socially presentable container,
for all our messy emotions.

Anxiety. Panic. Frustration.

We’re annoyed
when we feel
our time has
been wasted.

And we’re scared
of being stranded,
of the unknown,
of things beyond our control.

We don’t like to admit this.

On Saturday morning
the line up for my flight
from Malaga to Paris
was epic.
The computer system
was down (Who knew this
could happen in an airport)
and each passenger
was checked in
by a staff member
on the phone
with an employee
in another city.
So let’s say
things

proceeded

slowly.

There was no way
our 6:50 am flight
would leave on time
and that looked bad for
my connection in Paris.

At a little cafe
near the gate
I ate a bocadillo with
Iberico ham
and a cafe latte
and tried to create
a new story
for this journey.

Needed: a new paradigm.

I asked myself
“What would Damien do?”

He would survey the situation.

What’s real here?
I’m safe.
I’m having a lovely meal.
The plane is at the gate
so this flight will
eventually depart.
If I miss my flight to Tokyo
I’ll spend the day in Paris.

Even before the plane
took off
I was asleep.

When I awoke
people were moving
to the front of the plane
with their knapsacks and luggage.
Those with tight connections.
I would have 40 minutes
to get a boarding pass,
clear passport control
and catch a bus
to the M gates.

Not probable
but possible.

Relax. You’re okay.

When I scanned my passport
at a machine, a message said:
“You do not have enough time to board.”

I asked for help.

An Air France employee
whom I stopped in the hall
directed me to a desk
that would issue my boarding pass.
A Canadian woman living in Spain
asked if I’d like to go ahead of her.
She had plenty of time
she said.
I cried at her kindness
but just a little.

Ran through the airport
forsaking a day in Paris.

Home.
Si es possible.
If it is possible.
If the universe desires.

I boarded Air France 272
during the final boarding call
red-faced from running.

The rest unfolded
as it always does.
12 hours in the sky:
Movies, brie cheese, sleep.

My bag arrived a day later,
delivered to my door.

None of this was the end of the world.

The feeling
I chose to have
on my journey
was not one of
fear
or anxiety
even though
I’m especially gifted
at both.

I chose adventure.
{Let’s see what happens. Run!}

I chose creativity
and wrote four poems.

I chose gratitude
for finding
a balance
between
letting go
and
helping myself
and to the women and men
of Air France who got me
and my luggage
home.

I changed my story.

An inconvenience
is not
a catastrophe
unless we think it is.

The self who missed
the flight
is sitting on a green metal chair
in the Tuileries Garden
on a sunny day in late May
deciding where to eat
roast chicken for dinner.

Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage

When I was a girl
travellers wore their best clothes
on airplanes.
Family and friends
wished them
“Bon Voyage!”

Have a good trip.

Passengers now board planes
in sweatpants
and flip flops.
We send them off with
“Travel safely.”

Fashion
is the very least
of what’s been lost.
 

Paris. {Always a good idea.}

red umbrella

The first time I visited Paris
we lived in Mexico.
From Mexico to Paris
is not just a flight
it’s a different freaking star system.
They give you a new brain,
a chic wardrobe
and as much cafe au lait
as you’d like
but only for breakfast.

I’d been reading for months,
learning the rules:
1. Always say “Bonjour Madame or Monsieur” when entering a shop.
2. Do not pick up items in stores. {This includes everything from sweaters to oranges.}
3. Move quickly and in the correct direction in the Metro.
4. Be aware of scams and thieves.
5. Dress nicely for the butcher. {That means everyone.}

You see, I’d never been to Europe.
I wanted to be
an expert.
Later, rule number four would prove useful
in Barcelona. And in Japan,
all these rules have proved helpful
except number four
which is simply
not relevant.

In the onyx light of early morning
our taxi sped from Charles de Gaulle
to the 7th Arrondissement
{a word that has taken me a decade to master}.
As the squat houses of the suburbs clicked over
we travelled back in time. I awoke
outside our hotel, surrounded by six-storey Haussmann.
I cried.
DP said, “It’s okay. You’re just tired.”
But it wasn’t that.
It was the beauty.

From the window of our room,
the street told a story
like a movie.
A woman in a red peacoat
and black rubber boots
carried a brown paper bag
filled with long loaves of bread.

A green wooden box of red geraniums
hung below our window.

As we descended the stairs
into the metro at Ecole Militaire,
I reached for DPs hand.
People hurried in both directions
and the tile-covered walls pulsed
like a heart.
Light yellow tiles
like lemonade
or butter on toast.

At a cafe, a small girl with excellent posture
and a green velvet jacket sat with her mother
and two aunts frosted in silk scarves
and impeccable ponytails.
They let her pour the hot chocolate
into their white porcelain cups.

The Mona Lisa was not smaller than I imagined.
{I’d done my research.}
I was not fully prepared for her smile,
the pull of it, how I’d seek her out
again
in that too-warm room
where the guards kept
an eye
on our attachment.

Under the lights of the Eiffel Tower
we ate chocolate crepes
and took photos
of the carousel blur,
cotton candy pink horses
and their small riders.

The airport shuttle showed up
on time
sleek + white + alien.
We drove around the city
plucking other travellers
out of their dreams
and vacations.
We crossed a bridge.
It was raining.
I cried.

Paris, I think,
is a woman’s city.

train-people (with exceptions)

traingirlThe Japanese are train-people
dog-people,
cautious-people,
well-dressed people.

These things are true-ish.
Except when they’re not.
(There are always exceptions.)

tableAt lunch
the young people
at the table beside me
are as loud as
school kids in the hall.
The man-boy snorts
when he laughs.
Our waitress smiles
at the sound.

tokyo towerBelow Tokyo Tower,
young Japanese man
on a motorbike
sings opera
at the top of his lungs.

On the train
three boys in small navy shorts
form a triangle,
two seated
one standing.
They terrorize each other
quietly.

train no headDoors open.
Sun boards the train.

Three school girls
in navy uniforms
and small bowler hats
stand in the centre of the car.
Two with hands-ful
of pink and purple yarn
and small nimble fingers.
Spiders-webs of play.

train apartments2Transferring trains
I think about the Tokyo people
who live
above,
beside
the tracks
for whom the sound of trains
is constant
as breath.

The boy beside me sleeps
his phone in one hand
a book in the other.

An elderly man
rushes off the train
to return a purple umbrella
to a sweet-faced woman
while the empathy
of passengers
holds the doors
for his return.

A guy in headphones
and a brown puffy jacket
checks his seat twice
leaving the train.

Outside Family Mart
a woman walks on shoes
like skyscrapers.

I’m almost home
when two bulldogs
in matching
red Adidas sweatshirts
nod konichiwa
with the courtesy
we
outsiders
(with exceptions)
learn living in Japan.

Live every day like you travel: 4 lessons from the road

Welcome! If you have just arrived here from my guest post at Tiny Buddha, please make yourself at home. Don’t feel shy about looking around… my blog-house is your blog-house!

If you are a regular around these parts, click here to read “Live every day like you travel: 4 lessons from the road.”

Cheers,
Monna