Stop. If you haven't read my previous post, may I suggest you do that first? Not that the title of this post needs a ton of context, but in case I happen to reference things from there, you won't be all confused. K? Good. On the off chance that your'e a complete rebel and are thinking 'Um, no. I do what I want.' then here's the short recap: we left our kids for 10 days and went gallivanting around England and Paris, and it was the best idea ever. And now I give you 5 more things that I learned on our trip...
6. Refreshing your soul should be a daily thing. We, as a culture, tend to live by the work hard, play hard motto. We work until we can't work anymore, then we "rest" by still DOING: working out, going out with friends, watching TV, going to concerts, staying out late, going to a movie, mindlessly surfing the web (guilty!). The problem with these isn't that they are inherently bad choices, but they certainly aren't as restful as we wish them to be. Why? All of them are still giving us a constant sense of input! input! input! Sights, sounds, tastes, distractions...our brains don't quite know how to be still. Yes, we're resting from our work maybe, but we're not actually resting.
In Paris, we would just sit at a cafe with a glass of wine and people watch. Sometimes we would chat, sometimes we wouldn't. In London, it was almost comical how many businessmen we saw on their breaks, just laying in the sun on the lawn next to their office. When we were tired, we sat and enjoyed some food or drink, or we went back to our room and napped. In Boscastle, a small fishing village, we stopped for afternoon tea and scones before spending the rest of the afternoon hiking. Yes, we were on vacation so things like naps and afternoon tea were a lot easier to come by. However, I think we can just as easily choose true rest here at home...little moments where we stop the input and just be for a bit. A up of tea. A short snooze on the couch. A walk for pure enjoyment's sake and not just to work off that scone we ate. Sitting on the porch in the morning and listening to the world wake up.
Our brains need rest, a full stop. It's definitely not an easy thing to do (especially with tiny humans around), but it's something I am trying to be much more intentional about. Something we're trying to make a habit (it's slow in coming...) is having an afternoon Le Goûter, or tea time. Maybe we don't always drink tea, but it's a purposeful time where I actually sit down with the boys after afternoon rest time and we have a small treat and just enjoy one another. The days we actually do this, the afternoons are much more peaceful. Win-win!
7. Living with less really is freeing! I know I've talked a good bit about my love of capsule wardrobes and simplifying our lifestyle...but we took it to a whole new level on this trip. Knowing how much traveling around we planned to do, the last thing we wanted was loads of luggage to pack up and lug from place to place. So, with a lot of careful planning (see point 2 in my first post!) we each carried a hiking backpack, and I had a small cross body purse. That was it. My dad still can't believe it...I used to be the girl with 3 suitcases for a long weekend away.
Was it a little annoying when we needed to hand wash and hang dry a few things? Sure. Did I miss having some more options some days? Yes. (especially when it was cooler than we it had predicted and I had more short sleeved shirts than long sleeved.) But overall, it was...lighter. It was nice to not sort through a giant suitcase everyday just to get ready. It was fun to see how I could wear things a little differently and make a new outfit. And it reaffirmed my belief in buying quality pieces that you enjoy wearing...they hold up so much better. I've already gone through another small purge since we've been home, and the more I get into our storage space, I assure you more is coming!
8. We can learn a lot from other cultures...vacation doesn't just need to be at the beach. Don't get me wrong, I love the beach. Once summer comes, I am counting down the days until we can get our toes in the sand! Growing up in the MidWest, we only had lake beaches, and well...they're not exactly the ocean. That being said, this trip reminded me that I want our kids to see so much more than just the beach. I want them to see how other people live, what they eat, how they conduct their lives. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, (which I'm actually kind of OK with...but that's a soapbox for another time) America is an amazing country...but it's not the only one. And it's not always the best. I think it's widely known that our overall health as a nation isn't exactly stellar; the vast majority of people we encountered seemed not only healthier physically, but also in the sense of a work-life balance.
We also were able to see how people lived in different areas of the same country: in a large city; in farming country; in a fishing village. We learned new words, ate new foods, and grew quite fond of some new customs. We were able to come home and tell the boys about all of the amazing things we were able to see and do, and now Graham asks about once a week when he gets to go to London and Paris. And my answer? When you're older, you will! Because that's something, Lord-willing, we plan to do - as a family.
9. Mothering becomes much more clear and basic...and dare I say...easier. Mothering utterly exhausts me. It's true. Especially mothering of the stay-at-home variety. I do work very part-time as of this month, and I volunteer as well, but overall, the main bulk of my time is spent centered around our home. And while it does indeed exhaust me, this is out of preference. I know these little years are so fast, and I truly want to be here for all of the good, bad and really, really ugly. But, just as with anything you spend a lot of time doing, it becomes so easy to get wrapped up in it, to overanalyze, to question yourself and your judgment and rehash things at the end of the day. But distance...ah, distance. I don't know if it makes the heart grow fonder but it does give some dang good perspective.
Apart from my kids and just the everyday grind of life (especially when you don't know anyone except your husband and have no real responsibilities) I was better reminded of myself. My quirks, my tendencies, my likes, my dislikes, what I'm really good at, and what I need help with. And there, in another country with no one to really compare to, no one to subconsciously try to impress, no one demanding every second of my time with a 'MOMMY LOOK!'...I was completely OK with myself. Recognizing my flaws and areas that need work, and appreciating my gifts and talents and my unique personality. I was OK with the fact that I don't enjoy playing with my kids. That I function better when I have time away from them for a bit (#introvertsunite).
But then I came home. And I have an extremely extroverted child. And all the responsibilities of a house and kids. And toddlers who get sick and don't sleep. And then I question all of it again. I waffle between this idea of 'should' and the reality of 'am'. But when I stop myself and remember what I know to be true...there's a whole lot less pressure and a lot more enjoying.
10. You can function - and actually function much BETTER - without constant access to media, technology and all the people, all the time. This. Whew. We didn't get a special plan or even track phones for our trip. We just used the WiFi when we had access, made the most of it, and that was it. That usually meant that if we found the pub we were at had access, we were sitting at our table for 10 minutes before our food was ready frantically trying to text or upload a picture. We had really good WiFi in about half the places we stayed; the other half not so much. So we would spend a little bit of time before bed or midday while resting, catching up on anything we needed to or Face-timing the boys...or uploading more pictures.
The thing was though, that was it. There were designated times we could be on social media, or even just on the phone, and we made the most of those little bursts, and the was IT. No spacing off checking Instagram 'just for a second'. No scrolling through Facebook feeds when I was tired or bored or wanted to check out. No constant inundation of media and articles about Trump or Hillary or Gary Johnson not knowing the answer to a question. And you know what? I felt better. Yes, I had slept more than I have in 5 years, there's that. But my mind wasn't as crammed full of STUFF. I was present in the present, and utilized my online time wisely.
Fastforward to being home for a couple months and I'm back into old habits again. Mindlessly checking Instagram. Scrolling Facebook. Reading every political article known to man. And I've been more...blah. Tired, not as able to focus, more easily distracted or irritable. There's a direct correlation and I am definitely over it. I've been establishing some limits on my personal online time, and while old habits are hard to break - I'm determined to break them. Because I've seen the other side...and it's beautiful. This is a case of the grass really IS greener; probably because they actually spent time watering it and not googling how to do so.
Well, that's it. 10 things I learned in 10 days. I highly recommend taking a trip like this when you are able...if we all learn 10 different things and share them with each other, we would be so smart! Better yet, I'll just take a 15 or 20 day trip next time...the possibilities are endless.