Travel feeds the soul.

When we come to a crossroads in our life we have choices.  But as well as the choice of which direction we choose to take, we also have the choice of how we will make that decision. 

We may question ourselves, procrastinate or even come to a complete standstill if our thoughts overwhelm us.  We may make the decision yet go on to live with a gnawing doubt about whether it was the right decision.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!

I want to share with you how my life has changed in the last few years and how I have been dealing with the decision making that I have faced.

When a virus closed down the world.

To set the scene I have to go back to the beginning of 2020 when I was in the Malaysian jungle and living a nomadic life.  I had just completed a ten day Vipassana silent retreat at the time that the western world was making noises about what we already knew to be very real in Asia; there was a deadly virus taking hold.  Entering the retreat, none of us were too sure what we would face when we came out as all communications were banned once inside, but as we now know, it wasn’t to be too long before, for the majority of us, travel came to an abrupt stop.

I have always advocated that travel feeds the soul.  It can open the door to new opportunities and it can change our perspective of life but there in March 2020 I was having to contemplate that my lifestyle might be about to be influenced by something huge and outside of my control.  It’s a cliche to say that the silent retreat changed my perspective on life but no matter what rumblings of bad news were being broadcast, I needed to take some time to process what I had experienced.

Tense times

Looking back as I write this now, those few weeks seemed surreal.  It was like living in a film that was set in a dystopian world.  After leaving the retreat I decided to follow my initial plan and I went and I spent a couple of weeks in the remote Taman Negara National Park in central Malaysia. 

I would phone my family and friends from the terrace of my hostel surrounded by lush green trees where monkeys would sit chattering away.  Getting the latest news from the west I felt detached from it all.  In this small jungle village life was moving on at its normal slow pace matching the sluggish brown path that the river cut through the community.  Simple meals were taken on board the river boats by candlelight but nobody could deny that world events were making us all a bit jittery.  

After a week, I decided to head back to Kuala Lumpur and the Sunshine Bedz hostel where I had always felt welcomed.  There was the usual oasis of calm inside the doors, but this time there was a nervousness outside on the busy streets.  People were certainly giving each other wider berths than usual and whilst mask wearing wasn’t so strange in Asia, it became strange when everybody adopted the practice, urged on by the public service advertisments that were being broadcast on the stations of the sky train system.

 And then the government announced that Malaysia would shut down.  Overnight the streets outside became deserted.  The traffic lights continued to summon invisible pedestrians across the huge intersections and Patrick, the owner of the hostel announced that as he wasn’t permitted to remain open as a hostel, he could at least offer a safe haven to any travellers that were unable to travel onwards for any reason and I would be very welcome to stay.

There was quite a gathering at this stage of people who had been displaced from China, who having left for a vacation over the Chinese New Year were now unable to get back to their possessions, friends or families and I have to say that this offer to stay was tempting.  

Most of us spent our evenings sourcing flight options when two girls tearfully announced that they had thirty six hours to get back to their home country of Bolivia before it closed its borders to its own citizens.  The only plane flying in that direction had just a two hour window to touch down on the tarmac and was charging exhorbitant prices – and their panic began to affect us all.  These were becoming real problems as we could face the danger of being displaced and living in a sort of limbo as some countries closed their borders whilst others vowed to remove foreigners.

It was at this point that I made a decision to fly out and try to get back to Spain where I had recently been granted residency.  I didn’t want the uncertainty any more and I was travelling solo.  Had I been travelling with someone else I am sure that I would have stayed and weathered the storm but I wasn’t brave enough.

Booking that flight was frustrating because prices were going up and flights removed from the laptop screen even as I was entering my details and trying to pay.  Eventually I struck gold with Emirates airline who were proud to be getting most of their flights through to where they needed to go, and less than twenty four hours later I was in a taxi on an empty highway speeding to the airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Questioning life

I will save story of the drama of my travel back home for another day, but suffice to say that everybody on the plane cheered with relief when we finally touched down in Barcelona. 

It seemed like it was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as I had to go into isolation for a couple of weeks and then Spain imposed some of the strictest lockdown rules of any country, yet at the back of my mind was the knowledge that I would eventually be able to pick up my nomadic lifestyle once again.  I am generally a ‘glass half full’ sort of a person and I decided to continue with the lessons learnt at my retreat and to observe and ‘be’.

As we were slowly allowed to resume some semblence of normality, my connections with previous friends in Spain grew deeper and closer.  It was those connections with people that had, over the previous nine years, led me to return time and again to Malaysia and then back to Spain each summer and I was enjoying this stage of my life.

After nearly a year and as restrictions began to ease, my life swung onto a totally unexpected path when I moved in with my new partner.  In the beginning neither of us knew what the future held because my nomadic lifestyle wasn’t something that I had contemplated stopping before; although I have always said that no matter where I am in the world it has been the connections with people rather than possessions that have held me in place.  We had known each other for years, but now we were both thinking very differently about our futures.

As we navigated our new relationship and began sharing a home together, I focused on my life coaching business and I continued to study in order to help and to support others.  I loved the variety that working with my clients gave me and especially the work that I was doing with survivors of abusive relationships, but every so often I would feel the call of the open road, a yearning for sponteneity and the challenges of travelling solo again.

So I practiced what I teach as a life coach and I went deep into myself to pick apart what I was missing and to understand why.  I used my knowledge of Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I meditated, I upped my yoga practice and I even challenged myself to run 5K (kilometers) on a regular basis by using the Couch to 5K app.

Putting my coaching work into practice.

I more or less worked out why I occasionally still felt the itch to move and then I worked out how to bring balance back into my life.  It was important to actively regain this balance and to neither ignore the drive to travel nor to react against any feelings of being trapped in one place and make a dash for a distant tropical beach.

Many solutions to our problems can be found through positivity and an understanding of self and one’s capabilities.  Engaging with and living mindfully in the moment is massive, as is having self belief and knowing what triggers form the basis of our emotional state; all of which I teach others to understand.

It sounds poetic to tell you that I found myself standing at a crossroads in my life, but the reality is that every minute that we live will present us with choices.  The trick is to tune into and listen to your gut instincts based on clarity and an understanding of what forms your unique identity.

I did some deep focus work, I inspected my triggers and I questioned why I had not been able to settle down any time before this point in my life.  I followed my intuition and my instincts and more importantly I was very clear on what I did not want to allow back into my life.

Making a decision - and being happy with it

There were lots and lots of late night conversations with my partner who was incredibly patient and supportive with me.  He understood how travel had shaped me and how I was a free spirit and whilst he admired that, he also hoped (as did I) that we would have a future together.

So I thought long and deep,  I looked inside, I knew what I certainly didn’t want in my life but I couldn’t be sure what I did want – so I decided to relax and trust in the process.  I decided to continue to focus on my life coaching clients and to help more survivors of domestic abuse to move on from their negative beliefs.  I also wanted to help perpetrators of domestic abuse with anger management as well as helping couples who were finding it difficult to connect with each other. I knew that I certainly wanted to spend more time with this man and I was excited to explore how we might grow as a couple.  I decided to run workshops and retreats that help people to understand mindfulness and I also made the decision to pick up my pen again and get back to my travel writing –  because as I said at the start of this article I firmly believe that travel feeds the soul. 

And whilst this might sound counter-intuitive, you don’t necessarily need to travel in order to get the benefits that travel can give you, and this is what I hope to demonstrate to you in the future.

So, tell me what you would most like to read here or over on my travel blog pages at Scarlet Jones Travels (my writing space).  Would you prefer articles with information about places, itinereries and maps or would you like to read about people and how they have overcome or cope with adversity?  Do you have a specific problem (either travel focused or a life problem) that you would like some support with, or do you want to learn more about the cultural background of a place?

I intend to begin writing again about all of the above but I also want to engage with you and create specific content that is both useful and entertaining.  Scarlet Jones Travels is once again out and about but with a twist.  Sign up to each of my websites so that you don’t miss any articles and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest.  There will be a crossover between Scarlet Jones Travels and Jane Clements Life Coach so why not add both to your mailing list and make sure that you don’t miss out.  I would also love to hear your story and find out what you have learnt from travel and life so far.

Trust and believe in yourself.  You know you best of all.

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