|I like wearing my penguin Kigu|
I may have mentioned before that a few years ago I spent six weeks in Thailand with two friends; exploring, sunbathing, trekking and generally soaking up as much of the country as we could in the time we were there. As you can imagine, it was a life-changing experience - not only because of all of the amazing things we saw, and did, but because it really gave me an opportunity to get to know myself. I am a great believer in giving yourself space, and closure when making difficult decisions, and, the other side of the world... well, that's about as much space as you can get from anything that might be on your mind back home.
One of the things I realised about myself, around the third or fourth week of being away, is that as much as I love travelling and experiencing new things - the thrill of an amazing view, being amongst the hustle and bustle of a different culture, the freedom of living out of a backpack - I also really love home. As silly as it sounds, this was kind of a scary realisation for me, and one that I felt afraid to admit. When you're a certain age, travelling is 'the' thing to do isn't it? Your circles of friends fluctuate and change shape as people disappear off to faraway places, then return, months later, with a dark tan and woven bracelets around their wrists and ankles. They go off to teach English in other countries, to live in huts in the jungle, to do charity work in the third world or tour countries in Asia. So, I felt pretty stupid returning from Thailand having been struck with an epiphany than I am not a 'sling a load of clothes in your backpack and slum it for six weeks' kind of traveller, but more of a 'visit somewhere you really want to go and spend two weeks exploring' kind of traveller. But it gets worse. You see, whilst I was away in Thailand, I started making a mental list of all the things I missed from back home. On this list were things like; long phone calls with my Mum, bubble baths, fleece-y pajamas, fish and chips, strawberries and cream, duvet days, 90's film marathons and curling up with a good book. Not things like crazy drunken nights out, big parties, adrenaline fuelled weekends or going out every night of the week. No-siree Bob. For a long time I tried to shy away from this. When we got back I'd still go out at the weekends, curse the hangovers (that seemed to get worse and worse) and the money I'd poured down the drain on cider and chips in pitta with cheese.
And then one day, about a year ago, I was invited to a house party where I knew almost no-one going. It was about an hour's drive away and would mean finding a small area of carpet where I could lay my head and driving back in the morning. Whilst frustratedly considering what to wear and typing postcodes into Google Maps it suddenly hit me. "I'm 25. I don't have to do stuff I don't want to anymore." So I didn't go. And it was great. Since then, I've fully embraced this new philosophy on life that is very complicated, hard to grasp and difficult to get your head around... [not really!] ... DO STUFF BECAUSE YOU ENJOY IT, OR DON'T DO IT. Don't like busy nightclubs full of people spilling their drinks over you and trying to pull each other? Don't go. Spend house parties sitting on the stairs pretending to text people and wondering when it's acceptable to leave? Don't bother going at all! Of course, there are times when you have to sacrifice what you want to do and put other people first; to be there for friends or family, or to make someone else happy. But don't do things just because you feel you have to; there are not enough hours in the day for that approach to life.
These days, I make lots of time for things I know make me happy. Nothing is more important than doing that. Here are some things topping my list at the moment.
+ cuddles on the sofa with the dog
+ long bubble baths with Lush goodies
+ seeing my Mum and Dad
+ getting home in time to walk the dog and watch the sun go down
+ having friends round for yummy dinners
+ going to bed an hour early and getting cosy under the bedspread with my Kindle
+ packing my camera and going for an adventure in the forest with the boyfriend
+ going for weekends away in the camper van
+ growing seeds and pottering in the garden
+ big mugs of peppermint tea
+ dedicating an hour to sitting and reading all my favourite blogs
+ my favourite fleece-y Primark pajamas
+ sending and receiving post
+ writing lists
+ watching TV box sets [currently watching: dexter, cougar town, the wire]
Whenever I'm having a stressful week at work or all of the things on my to do list are getting on top of me, I take a deep breath, clear the schedule and make time to do these things. It makes everything better. What's on your list of things that make you happy?