The trouble with traveling the world is that it doubles as a handy way to keep running away from your problems and yourself. As someone who moved every 3 months for my entire twenties, often across a country or to a different town or country altogether, I know this is true. The trouble with going somewhere is that you always have to take yourself with you. I love the title of the mindful meditation guru, Jon-Kabat Zinn’s book called Wherever You Go, There You Are.
With all this moving around I managed to meet new people, get new employment or education opportunities and in time, learn how to turn my life right back into the same debacle I managed to create for myself in the last place. My turn around time was fortunately the length of a school semester or a cooperative work term so the program I took in school helped me out a lot.
One of the criticisms I have heard about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love was that she was not dealing with her issues by traveling the world for a year. She was only distracting herself and being selfish with her journey. Yet others who read her book said that they would also like to take a year off from life to travel, but could not because of their responsibilities. So they read the book to live vicariously through her. Either way, her travels evoked a strong reaction in people. We seem to either be flight or fight types.
The subtitle to one of my favourite blogs is: What you can, where you are, with what you have (Theodore Roosevelt). Read it. She is an inspiration.
More and more I am meeting people who do not have passports, who have never been on an airplane, people that raise their children in the house they grew up in. These people have built their lives centered around their families and/or one community and reaped the benefits of staying in one place. Some will admit that staying in your home town can be limiting or leave you surrounded by a group of people you might rather have ran away from.
But knowing that there is no such thing as running away, that there is no escape as we will just re-create the same storyline wherever we go, we come to realize the futility of believing we can escape by going somewhere else. The only person we can change is ourselves. Happiness does not exist ‘out there’ somewhere. At least this has been my experience. It takes a change from within, regardless of where you go to do it. So you could just as well stay home.
Last spring a beaver would dam a culvert of ours which caused flooding in our lower fields. Every day we made it our business to head down to the culvert (around 500m from our house) and dig out the newly laid debris that the beaver had piled up. If we left it for more than a day, the water would rise and there would be a noticeable difference in the field. The job usually took a half hour. What is that definition of crazy? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Every day I would be surprised that the dam had been made again. Every day I would clear it out hoping for change. In the fall we looked into setting traps.
It was never within my comfort zone to kill that (or those) beaver(s). I much prefer to figure out a way to work together with those around me than try to displace or destroy them. But any landowner will know that it is especially difficult to tolerate a pesky beaver. You’d have to be mighty flexible with your land use needs (canoeing anyone?)
So we have not caught the beaver. But in a fit of resourcefulness we put together a tile-drain hose that runs through the culvert and built a cage around its opening. After checking the dam the day after setting up the new contraption, there was a massive pile of sticks and debris, but also running water whooshing away inside the cage. We had done it! We had outsmarted the beaver (for now anyway).
So here is a picture of our contraption. Send me a note if you want more details on how we did it.
There is no doubt that we will continue to run into problems with Mr. Beaver. Such is being a Canadian I suppose. But for now, I have tried a different way to solve the problem. I have opened my mind to the possibility that the thing I was trying wasn’t working.
This was the same thought I had when I surrendered to buying a piece of land and ‘settling down’ in one place. It was an odd move for me. But like that beaver, I have come to see the benefits in making repeated efforts to better the place that I live. Including the body I live in with all of its complex emotions and processes. What I can with where I am, with what I have.
The challenges are a-plenty. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.