In December 2019 my husband and I quit jobs, sold our belongings and drove back across the country from Melbourne to our home state of Western Australia. We dropped off our remaining belongings and left again for our dream year travelling abroad. We had saved and sacrificed to bring this dream to life. We had missed events, birthdays, weekends away, trips home, and the ability to buy anything new for two years. Nothing was going to get in the way of this dream. This was our time.
Three months into this dream year and enter the C-word (you know the one I mean!). We were in Costa Rica when things started to get real. In my gut, I knew we needed to get out of there while options were still open, so we jumped on a plane and met my brother in nearby Grenada in the Caribbean. My gut instinct was right. The day after arriving, the borders closed in both Costa Rica and Grenada. It’s now been six weeks and I am not sure when we will be able to get home. At the time of writing we are on a boat, 29 days into full lockdown with no end in sight and no ability to go ashore. Until recently, we were unable to get fresh supplies (we were down to Spam and powdered potatoes), and I share a bedroom with a boat anchor (insert the constant smell of fish).
There are four of us on this boat – sharing 42 feet of floating space. Luckily for me, one of them is my twin brother. We shared a uterus, so 42 feet of space is a breeze! Instead of dwelling on the year that was supposed to be, the uncertainty of what the next few months will look like or when we may get home, I have taken a step back to reflect on my life and the lessons I’ve learnt from this experience.
You do not need much to lead a happy life
Showers are rationed to no more than once a week for 30 seconds. We have limited to no Wifi access – so no Netflix, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. We wash our clothes in a bucket with a toilet plunger and then dry them on the side of the boat. My life is now a far cry from daily smashed avocado and turmeric lattes! The change in lifestyle has shown how reliant I was on modern age addictions, and the negative traits they brought out in me. Getting frustrated if my Uber Eats order took too long. Throwing a tantrum if an internet page took more than seven seconds to load. We are without these modern luxuries right now and doing just fine. Being bound to this boat has taught me to slow down. To go back to the simple pleasures of life before the craziness of the internet took over. Reading, writing, meditating, journaling, swimming. Just being with my thoughts and breaking the habit of instinctively picking up my phone if I find myself without a distraction.
Routine is essential
Our days no longer have set plans, so it is easy to feel aimless. I’ve discovered that maintaining some level of routine in my day is essential for my mental health. For me, this is 20 minutes of meditation every morning, exercising for another 20, and then five minutes of full body stretching. This gives me some personal time in the day, and ensures I have purpose from the moment I get up. Even if the rest of my day feels directionless, I’ll know I have moved my body and nourished my mind.
Finding joy in small things is the key to peace
I have learnt the value of taking joy in small things that I previously would have done on auto-pilot (along with four other tasks simultaneously). Each day I sit and enjoy a coffee on the deck, soaking in the morning sunshine. Previously I would have skulled my morning coffee in the car as I took a call on the way to work. We have all found joy in making food and then sitting to enjoy the meal together. Eating slowly. Truly tasting the food and enjoying great conversation without distractions from social media or the television.
Daily gratitude is critical for mindset and perspective
I am only human and have down days like everyone, but I have realised the huge impact that gratitude has on your mindset. Every day, I look around and remind myself that I am healthy. I am with family. I am surrounded by beautiful water and blue skies. I have enough. When you remind yourself of all the things you do have instead of all of the things you don’t, it becomes much easier to move forward positively each day.
Grieve, Accept and then Lean In
I have learnt the power of acceptance. Truly accepting where you are right here, right now, and working out how you can make the most of it. It is completely normal to grieve a loss, but so often we only associate loss with that of a loved one. Yet, we grieve the loss of plans too. We grieve the loss of something we had worked and strived so hard for when we know that it will no longer happen. I’ve allowed myself to grieve. In doing so I have accepted the new reality and leant fully into it. Being half in the past of what can no longer be, and half in the new reality of what could be, means you are nowhere.
We are all human beings first and foremost
This pandemic has brought out the best and the worst in people. I’m far from perfect, but I have taken one major reminder out of this situation. Human beings come first. Not race, not religion, not nationality, not occupation. Human beings. In times of panic, it is easy for countries to look after their own and forget everyone else who isn’t “one of us”. It is easy to ostracise and blame others for the current situation. We have experienced first-hand the feeling of being ostracised by a nation that we don’t belong to. The majority of the cases here have been imported cases; hence locals are currently sceptical of anyone who isn’t “one of them”. I have always considered myself someone who holds no prejudice or judgement against any minority, but being on the other side of the fence right now has really reinforced to me the experience that some people endure every day. The stares. The subtle head shaking. We must do better. We must continue to remember that we are all human beings first and foremost. Nothing else matters.
We do not know when we will set foot on Australian soil again, and how long this will be our life for. But nonetheless, our journey continues. Our adventure soldiers on and we are making the most of each day. For me it seems this journey has turned into a journey of the soul, and perhaps that is the adventure I needed more. Perhaps that is the adventure that all of us need. Perhaps that is the real message this virus is sending us.
Claire Seeber is a Business Chicks Premium member, Professional Coach, Change driver and People and Culture Consultant. Claire’s mission is to help individuals and organisations get out of their own ways, and she has a passion for empowering women to curate their own definition of success. You can see more writing from Claire at www.eatingyourcaketoo.com.au or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.