From Boarding to Roam to Hoarding for Home; 5 Positive Perspectives of “Social Distancing” Designed for the Wanderluster
Published: March 27th, 2020
Author: Marie Elena
We can’t deny it. Our world has fallen on some pretty tough times. With the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent shut down of the entire planet, our entire economy, along with just about everything else, has taken a hit of unpredictable measures that only time will tell.
Everyday you diligently read those mobile news articles in the upper left hand corner of your phone that keep popping up, even though you swore you disabled this in your settings (your phone knows you better than you know yourself, as usual).
For weeks now, the ambient background noise that can be heard in all corners of your house at any given time consists of the 200th version of the same story spoken by the same alarmed-sounding news anchor, which has now become the familiar lullaby sung by your living room television.
You’ve got entire folders of information to reference during this “state of emergency” given to you by your employers titled “Covid-19.”
Actually, maybe you’re not even employed at all!
Due to all of the business closures, you now have a cavity that resembles that of a small crater, upon looking in the mirror you mistook yourself for Robin Williams when he first emerged from the Jumanji game and your fridge has been purged of its usual Styrofoam boxes of delicious leftover pizza from your night out last week and has been replaced with…gulp…Tupperwares of Weight Watchers meatloaf!
We won’t even go into what your kids OR your bank account have been doing on their days off (mainly because you don’t know and are afraid to look). Needless to say, this is a total disaster!
No matter where you sit on the “I’m ready to run a speakeasy and an undercover gym” or “I’m living out the remainder of my life huddled in the fetal position in the cleaning closet” seesaw, we’re all affected by the pandemic and hysteria in some way or another…or another…or another.
You’ve done it again, American politicians!
Point in case.
But I’m not here today to preach to you about making sure you participate in this new ritual known as “washing your hands.” I’m not here to tell you not to eat Chinese food or drink Corona beer (like…your health, your decision, right?!). I’m not here to make a report about the local supply, or lack there of, of toilet paper or pasta noodles (your cleaning closet roommate, the vacuum cleaner, is just going to have to go hungry) and I’m definitely not here to report on the “impending doom of the economy.”
But like…what else IS there to talk about then, you might be thinking?
Let’s talk about the big thing that no one seems to talk about.
Let’s talk about your mental health.
How have you been feeling lately? And I’m not asking you if you’ve had flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or sore throat for the 30th time today like everyone else. I’m asking you where you are emotionally. Have you suffered from boredom, stir craziness, loneliness or anxiety? How is that travel bug doing? Save some pasta noodles for it too!
Now…I get that many of you are introverted and claim you’re secretly loving these “social distancing,” which have quickly become “social isolation,” shenanigans. Heck, I’m introverted myself at times (1992 wasn’t that long ago). But humans are a social species and interpersonal interaction is a vital part of our existence…yes, even just that 10 second interval you spent arguing with your coworker about whose turn it was to make the coffee (luckily for you, your new coworker, Ms. Vacuum, is pregnant and cutting caffeine consumption).
Social interaction, on some level, is a basic need of ALL humans. We haven’t even touched upon the wanderlusters of the world, the adventure-hungry and the “non homebodies” (why don’t we have a designated term for us yet?)!
For some of us, our family members are questioning our sanity (as if that is something new) as they spot us nervously rocking on the edges of our living room couches, making laps around our dining room tables for exercise, finding a newfound tolerance to enduring the cold weather and taking on a sudden interest in the culinary arts (particularly if the dish requires a lot of ingredients we’re “out of”).
And FORGET wanderlusters. Those are just those “non homebodies!”
Nevermind those of us who have a hard time staying off an airplane or being jet lag-free for even 2 months! Let’s just refer to us as “roam bodies” for now. We’re the folks who thrive off of lack of sleep because we’re too excited about the day’s adventure ahead. We’re the ones who say yes to even the most unconventional opportunities and the individuals who need worldly experience and learning like our more “normal counterparts” need things like seat warmers and granite countertops.
So yes, we know about the negative impact of the virus on our economy, our finances and physical health. But let us not forget about the importance of our mental well-being also! And when travel, exploration and human interaction might as well be routine therapy sessions, well…those dining room table laps and dates with the five-page-long casserole recipes just aren’t cutting it! As someone with a degree and a background in psychology and speech-language pathology, I’m telling you that psychological health and communication are not to be diminished!
So what can we do? How can we simulate that which travel and adventure give us as we are confined within the 4 walls of our living quarters? How can we intrinsically refocus our energy and curiosity in a time physical travel isn’t feasible?
There were a few days there at the beginning of this mandatory shut down when I really wasn’t doing so hot (I think my temperature was down to like 96!)!
Actually, hour 5 was probably the peak of my “antisocial anxiety.”
OK, OK…minute 5.
But now, 12 days into the the mandatory hermit crab order, I am in a very different place. In fact, I had a bit of an epiphany right around day 6 of this, so much so that I put my in-progress post about Costa Rica on hold so that I could share my thoughts with everyone out there like me in hopes of potentially saving them from their next travel destination: the psych ward (if it’s open).
Here is what I realized:
I realized that it is not the exotic destination or the window seat view above the clouds with the coffee in hand but rather the rippling effect on the sense of self for years to come that ultimately we seek in our adventures around the world.
When you really stop to think about it, exploring the world and experiencing new places goes above and beyond “taking a vacation to get away from work.” It forces us to pause. It forces us to learn. It forces us out of our comfort zones in ways we could have never imagined. It brings out our true nature and not our true nurture. It gives us confidence, compassion and vital communication skills and it gives us excitement about possibilities we didn’t even see existed before!
Travel can ultimately actually rewire our brains and when we return home, we unpack a mental carry-on bag of subconscious souvenirs (and don’t worry. These ones won’t be spilling out of your bag or getting you an extra search at security).
What?! I like to bring home suspiciously large bottles of hot sauce and opened bags of coffee! Doesn’t everyone??
So during this time of social distancing, we can actually whip out that mental bag of stored souvenirs deep within our psyche like finding that unopened box of Tim Tam cookies from 2017’s venture to Australia and New Zealand (I’m sure they’re still good!)! It turns out that we have had the keys to surviving the Zombie apocalypse deep within ourselves this whole time!
Right now, even though we aren’t obtaining worldly understanding through direct experience, we are beginning to directly understand our worldly experiences.
In other words, first comes learning and later comes application in life when it is most needed.
Point in case.
So here I share with you the insight that I discovered wrapped up and stored in my overstuffed mental carry on, buried beneath the clutter of my conscious thoughts. Here is what you can try to remember and take away from all of your previous experiences as you share your Weight Watchers meatloaf with both your vacuum cleaner AND you travel bug closet roomies. Here are things to think about that will make you realize that everything is going to be OK because YOU are OK…at least…until your toilet paper supply runs out…then…well…it’s back to table laps!
1. A sudden change in routine and lifestyle may actually get you everything you sought to seek in your adventures after all!
Yes, remember when I talked about the benefits of travel? I think I said this:
” It forces us to pause. It forces us to learn. It forces us out of our comfort zones in ways we could have never imagined. It brings out our true nature and not our true nurture. It gives us confidence, compassion and vital communication skills and it gives us excitement about possibilities we didn’t even see existed before!”
Well, think about all of this in relation to this current time.
The pausing part is obvious. Just about NOTHING in your normal routine is happening right now and this might not be a bad thing! The pause button has been pushed down on the remote control for your life for the foreseeable future (kind of like that last time you got crumbs into the crevices of your ACTUAL remote and you had to stop your catch up episode of Game of Thrones and subsequently missed the sex scene!).
Let’s face it. Life is simpler right now. Fewer responsibilities, fewer commitments, less traffic, fewer aisles of COMPLEX carb options at the grocery store…OK, maybe I’m not totally sane yet after all! I’m getting there!
Let’s talk about being outside of our comfort zones. I mean, I think it’s pretty safe to say everyone is pretty uncomfortable with this current pandemic situation. Being out of our comfort zones pushes us to problem solve. It gives us uncertainty which ultimately leads to a learning experience later on.
I, for one, learned that I cannot substitute vanilla almond milk for coconut milk in a Thai curry dish. It was (almost) worth a shot (to my taste buds and stomach)!
Let’s talk about true nurture versus true nature. When we are removed from everyone and everything that influences us on a daily basis without all of the distractions and noise, we are left with ourselves and our natural tendencies. We listen to our own needs with more attention and our own thoughts are louder than the thoughts of that same coworker now griping about the spilled coffee grounds in the cupboard (that person obviously has never traveled with ME)!
Now let’s talk confidence, compassion and vital communication skills.
Confidence…When you endure things that are challenging, your confidence ultimately grows. Maybe you’re making ends meet for your family in creative ways. Maybe you just now have confidence in your ability to keep yourself entertained without external sources! Who would have known?! Seriously, how WOULD you know with how chaotic “normal” life can be?
But in all seriousness…thank goodness for TV and for the fact that those crumbs in your real remote are finally removed! May the after dark scenes flow!
Compassion…isn’t this the theme of the year? It’s hard NOT to have compassion for those who have lost their jobs or loved ones to the illness. On the last night we were allowed to go to a restaurant, our waitress told us that she would be spending her time volunteering at at the homeless shelter.
Point in case.
Now, I know what your’re thinking. What in the world does social isolation have to do with vital communication skills?! Well, how many of you have had interactions with friends and family via video chat since this all went down? Is anyone else experiencing a sudden surge of virtual arrangements to meet with friends you’ve been “making a date to get together with” for the past 3 years?! People are starting to come together now more than ever and it took a direct order from the government to isolate ourselves to get here! Isn’t this ironic?
Everything is what you make of it and how you look at it. You don’t need to travel to grow in these ways….at least not every time.
But maybe next time. Yes, definitely next time.
2. Rather than always looking forward, look back and have gratitude on your previous experiences.
The word “gratitude” has been a buzz word for awhile now. I always thought gratitude meant being thankful for things like having to do the laundry because I had clothes on my back or thankful for the ninth night in a row I’ve had to eat sausage for dinner because it meant there was food in my refrigerator. And of course, these are things we should ALWAYS be thankful for. I am always thankful for having necessities in life…especially when I happen to find an old 2011 box of rigatoni in the back of the pantry (talk about gratitude!).
But in all seriousness…I might have a little extra gratitude if I had someone interested in taking some of these mediocre meat links off my hand! Any takers??
But gratitude is so much more. Gratitude can be about anything. I realized this last night as my husband and I were casting pictures from our travels up to the TV. I had a sudden wave of thankfulness which came over me as I recounted detailed memories of my mind-altering hikes through Mount Cook Aoraki, New Zealand and even my roadside ditch encounters in San Jose, Costa Rica (more on that in my next post)! I’ve realized just how fulfilled my life has been and will continue to be just by taking the time out to reflect.
And then…it dawned on me. The reason I love to solo travel so much is BECAUSE of the time it gives me to reflect! All this time, one of the main importances of travel to me WAS to experience gratitude! And now, I am thankful there is no ban on being thankful!
So have gratitude for not just what you have now but also what you’ve always had. Don’t let your pictures accumulate dust in the corner or threaten to “cause some features on your phone to stop working properly” (whatever the heck that actually means) because you’re running low on space and never stopped to share highlights of your endeavors with your loved ones (or your future self, for that matter). Who says you have to live your adventures only once? I have a strong belief that travel is the only thing we buy that can make us richer.
Point in case.
3. This could be a turning point in your life.
This is an interesting point to make. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe that with every time you experience an “I can’t BELIEVE this” moment or a “That’s it! I’m DONE!” moment (cue horrible weird Taebo video in the basement story from yesterday) that something that secretly NEEDS to happen results. Maybe you’ll be kicking and screaming until you get there and maybe you won’t even see the reasoning for your debacles for years to come. Maybe you’ll never consciously see it at all! But it’s there.
So what is the reason for all of this? What is YOUR reason?
Maybe you’ve been wanting to start your own business or begin practicing meditation. Maybe you’d been desperately needing more quality time with your family or you just had a hard time separating your work life and personal life. Heck! Maybe you set a New Year’s resolution to go out less and keep your house cleaner (you over achievers, you!)!
But humans are quick to make excuses and indefinitely delay goals in the interest of comfort and familiar routine.
But the irony is that most of us actually MAKE the goals and resolutions to BREAK the routine. Don’t you see? Instead of using today to whine and count your loose change, go GRAB some wine and make your OWN change because you have nothing to lose!
Today could BE the day you start your own business. It could be the day you think about something other than the virus and make a viral YouTube video instead. Maybe you’ll write your first blog post or begin that novel you’ve been meaning to write that ultimately leads you to be the next Stephen King. Maybe you’ll call that friend you haven’t talked to for years and have a rekindled lifelong relationship or maybe you’ll FINALLY have time to plan out that vacation you’ve been meaning to take for the past 5 years.
Maybe today you’ll come up with a future famous recipe what turns you into a world-class chef after spending so much time cooking homemade noodle-less pasta!
Aha! The innovative idea to just put the sauce and cheese on bread crusts instead!
Today can be your turning point, no matter what it is.
Points in case.
Today, take the detour.
4. Get excited about what’s to come!
This isn’t going to last forever, no matter how it may feel. This is the time you have to plan what you want out of life. Think about where you want to go next, whether it be in your daily life or during that trip to Bora Bora! Take some time to sit with a cup of coffee (I guess it’s your turn to make it…again) and do some research on what you might need to do to get there.
Studies actually show that planning for something you really want in life can actually sometimes bring even more happiness than the event itself!
Think about the possibilities. There are no bans on travel books or travel maps. There is no ban on a sheet of paper or a pen, there is no ban on the internet and there is definitely no ban on your thoughts (sometimes unfortunately). So get creative and inspired! Do the logistic work now while things are calmer because soon enough, you’ll be back in your routine (or maybe you won’t!). Your future self and present self will both thank you along with the vacuum, whose style you’ve been cramping for far too long.
Point in case.
5. If there is ever a time to redefine what is truly important to you, this is it.
When we are stripped of all of the external noise of our routine and the business epidemic is replaced by an actual epidemic, we find ways to creatively meet our deepest needs.
For example, if physical exercise is important and the public fitness center is closed, you’ll find a way to continue your active lifestyle or you won’t! It may be “horrible weird Taebo videos in the basement” or bust, but at least the floor around the perimeter of the dining room table finally gets a rest!
If it’s creativity you value and you can’t go to your wine and paint night for the foreseeable future, maybe you’ll find time to do some creative writing or do finger paints with your kids.
Wait…isn’t that what wine and paint night IS?!
If helping others sails your boat, maybe you’ve found a way to continue your work virtually or you found a shelter or medical center to volunteer your services.
If spending time with your family is already your number one priority….well…it may not be for long (particularly when they are “roam bodies” exhibiting irrational behaviors in the kitchen, dining room or living room couch)!
My point is that we make choices and set priorities every day. This is nothing new. But when actions to meet our priorities are challenged, we will not find an excuse but rather a way.
Think about what you did today and notice that you managed to complete nearly everything that aligned with your deepest values and highest level of importance.
Point in case.
So go forth from today on and live your everyday life the way you do when you’re the happiest. For me, that is traveling the world, living an active lifestyle and creating and immersing myself in other cultures. For you, ultimate happiness may come from somewhere else. Look deep within yourself and take THIS opportunity to take the first steps towards getting to where you want to be in life.
But don’t forget to be thankful for where you’ve been, which has ultimately lead you to this point!
We may never experience another time like this in history, so now is the time. NOW is the time to think about when we are the best versions of ourselves. NOW is the time to think about what ultimately drives us in life.
NOW is the time to ask ourselves “when are we the happiest?”
And Now is the time to strive to make the answer to that question…well… “NOW!”
Soon enough, you’ll be back to a physical work location or you’ll be back at the gym. The noise and the chaos will return eventually. In the near future, your cleaning closet will return to its original state of solitude and familiar Styrofoam boxes will once again align the upper shelf of your refrigerator. Your dining room floor may always have a slight indentation, but you’ll eventually get used to it.
But something within you will have changed. YOU will have changed. Your perspectives will be different. Your outlook will be different and maybe your values and priorities will have even shifted.
At some point again, you’ll be ready to roam once more and you’ll be gearing up to board yet another flight overseas. You’re excited to have a rekindling with your good old buddy, Mr. Jet Lag. As you step foot into your home airport for the first time in months, you pull out your mental souvenir carry on bag, all ready to be refilled with new adventures and learning lessons.
But you gasp!
To your dismay, the bag is already full and there is no room in the overhead bin! I guess checking in with yourself during your time spent in solitude was worth the checked on bag! (oh well…that bag was coated with coffee and 3-year-old chocolate Tim Tam crumbs anyway and it was high time for a new one)!
As you make your way to foreign soil, you’ll be filled with newfound confidence, insight, gratitude, communication skills and a solid sense of true self. You might even be able to show off your new cooking skills to your local hostel kitchen mates (even though you’re still kind of skeptical about this whole pasta with noodles business)!
The best way to learn about life is to live it in ALL contexts. You don’t have to travel to develop your sense of self and and you don’t have to stay in the house to learn how to cook. Life is about balance and you know this BECAUSE you’ve experienced so much of the world. You can take the world into your home and you can take your home out into the world because both are within YOU.
I’d like to end this post with one of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite movie:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
So fill your bags with maps, a pen and paper, finger paints and a glass of wine, spilled coffee, hoarded pasta noodles, the world’s tiniest vacuum (yes this is real!), laughable exercise videos and a couple of Styrofoam boxes because you’re in for quite the journey ahead. Just check out the gallery on your barely functioning phone.
Point in case.