A traveler's perspective on being present

Traveling for nearly three weeks has not been without its challenges. Making this trip was something we wanted to do. But just because you want to do something does not mean it's easy or without struggle.

At regular intervals in the last three weeks I have consciously stopped myself from thinking, "I can't wait till I get home and no longer have to deal with heat, humidity, mud, traffic, fill-in-the-blank".

I don't particularly like any of those things and I'm used to a daily existence that doesn't involve a lot heat, humidity, or traffic (I am used to mud).

I'm used to a daily existence with certain routines and comforts. My French press coffee, my afternoon tea time, the morning quiet. Reading time after lunch and the way the light moves through the house. I'm used to the sound of the river and the birds at the feeder. These are the comforts of my home.

And in stressful moments while we've traveled (because it hasn't been all roses) I've been tempted to wish myself there.

But as soon as I start wishing myself somewhere else I miss out on the present experience. And there have been so many experiences to be present for on this trip.

This is a real change I notice in myself. Whereas before I might have wished myself home, this trip I have purposefully, and with some effort, stayed where I am. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

I have stayed on that Pennsylvania field sweating in the heat, under the shade of our tarp. I have tramped through the mud with tens of thousands of other festival goers and used stinky porta-potties for four days.

I have backpacked through the worst swarm of mosquitos I have yet encountered. I have driven (or navigated) through New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. I have paid the full toll because we never got the ticket; somehow we missed the ticket dispenser all together.

I have hiked up the most summited peak in the North America (or so they say) on one of the hottest days of the summer. I even ate at McDonalds and shopped at Wal-Mart in moments of desperation.

These trip "inconveniences" were minor in the scheme of things. There were no vehicle accidents or emergency room trips.

"Regular" life at home is not without discomfort and worry. And neither is an extended road trip.

We drive home tomorrow. I'm ready to sleep in my bed (though where I sleep doesn't matter much to me) and work in my kitchen (I don't miss the work but I miss my tools). I'm ready to write in the mornings and walk along our river and start running again. I have not been able to keep a regular writing or exercise routine while traveling.

But I have done my best to not wish these routines and rhythms back into my life in the midst of stressful traveling moments.

By wishing myself somewhere else I miss out on the fullness of the present experience - the difficult and the good.

I miss out on breakfast on the top of the mountain, afternoon swimming at secret and not-so-secret swimming holes. I miss out on Emily's farm cooking. I miss out on new connections with friends and strangers, seeing Switchfoot live, and experiencing the joy of my kids' first music festival.

I miss out of meeting Jen and taking the kids to Times Square. I miss out on hiking with John and Caleb and coming home to Renée's homemade sorbet. I miss out on spending time with Brienne's dear friend and getting to know Alan.

There are too many good things in life you miss out on when you wish yourself somewhere else; specifically when you have the opportunity to go somewhere and share life with other people and you long for your familiar.

Life is too short, be present where you are.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Lori

    Lori on July 9, 2013, 11:48 a.m.

    We were expecting a big road trip this July that couldn't happen.  I have been reminding myself to not wish myself away out of my July reality.  There are things to be noticed and appreciated here at home, as well as projects I can catch up on.  So my experience is the opposite of yours, but your point works no matter where we are!

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    • renee

      renee on July 9, 2013, 1:33 p.m.

      Aboslutely Lori. I was thinking of writing this post that way but thought I'd stick to my own experiences these past three weeks; write what I know. This is a practice I am trying to cultivate in my life no matter where I am - home, traveling, hiking etc - wherever I am, be here. Easier said than done (smile).

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  • Lee

    Lee on July 9, 2013, 2:08 p.m.

    Whew - I hear you!  We just returned from camping in the Swiss Alps.  I know!  Doesn't that sound fabulous?  Except that it rained every day, and went down in the 30's at night, colder than my sleeping bag was rated.  I struggled everyday to find the bright spots and to enjoy what was still there to be enjoyed.  I found that taking pictures helped me look for the goodness all around (and using my giant IKEA umbrella, totally uncool but kept me dry).  And now that I am home I can remember all the good parts, while the cold nights and days on end without showers are starting to fade.

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    • renee

      renee on July 9, 2013, 2:23 p.m.

      Photography does that for me also - helping me focus on bright spots and beauty. Welcome home (smile).

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  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on July 9, 2013, 2:31 p.m.

    "By wishing myself somewhere else I miss out on the fullness of the present experience - the difficult and the good." - love this, Renee. I love how this theme keeps popping up in my life and your thoughts are a welcome reminder to be present in every circumstance. Prayers for your safe journey home...

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  • Nicole

    Nicole on July 9, 2013, 4:09 p.m.

    I LOVE this post!  It is so timely for me, in a different sense.  Last summer we got to travel a lot - 3 backpacking trips, camping in Lassen Volcanic National Park, whitewater rafting, days at the beach; the summer before was an incredible 2 week road trip to Tetons and Yellowstone... but life is different now and we are staycationing, as Dear Hubby only has Mondays off. (Running your own brick and mortar business has some cons!) 

    My story differs from yours in that I do not like where I live!  I love to get out and away!  But, I need to remember the pros of where I live - family is here, I can drive to the beach or to Yosemite in 2 1/2 hours, our winters are mild (would love to try living in the snow sometime!), constant access to fresh produce year round, and when I make the effort I can bike or run on the 2 trails we do have here.  When I focus on the pollution, the crime, the expensive cost-of-living, lack of woods right out my back door I can really get down, and like you say I miss the present, "the difficult and the good".

    Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Sometimes I have to pray this during the day so that I can remember that I am where I am now, in this season, for a purpsose, and I don't want to waste the days longing for something different, or I will miss out.  But it's hard to do sometimes!  Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts, and sorry for the long comment. :)

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    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2013, 2:24 a.m.

      Nicole, no apologies necessary. I love long comments and getting a peek into other people's lives and circumstances. 

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  • Jessie

    Jessie on July 10, 2013, 1:47 a.m.

    Wow- I definitely needed this today. "just because you want to do something does not mean it is easy or without struggle." Amen to that.

     My husband and I are moving to southeast Asia in 6 weeks with our 2 year old and 4 month old.  And even though I have lived overseas before, I did so with 2 bags and only myself to take care of. Doing a move like this with small children often makes me wish for my situation to be different, even though we have been waiting for and working towards this move for years.  I understand this struggle to be present.  Reading your writing about it inspires me to to work on my presence in the everyday hard things, especially during this trying transition time of moving internationally with little ones.
    

    I appreciate all that you share through your blog and love following your journey! Blessings.

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  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on July 10, 2013, 3:24 a.m.

    Isn't interesting how hard it can be to sit with discomfort? You know I am struggling with being where I am right now, but it is a common theme for many of us. It always seems like it will be better once we are somewhere else... and we keep longing for something else that isn't NOW. We can only strive to be present with discomfort and know that it is a life-long journey.

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  • Launa

    Launa on July 10, 2013, 4:53 a.m.

    Thank you, Renee. Thank you for sharing your words whether you are up or down. Thank you for your honesty. I often come to your page and find that you have expressed many of the difficulties I am also encountering at that same time. This and the previous post for sure! Your insights are often inspiring, but sometimes your honest words are all I need to know that I am not alone. 

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  • CathyT

    CathyT on July 10, 2013, 11:26 a.m.

    Loved this post and how true it is to stay in the present and enjoy where you are instead of looking to the future or the past for comforts.... We love Mt. monadnock and when I saw the photo I thought if that mountain at once. Our family climbs it every year that we can, and I did the same while growing up!

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    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2013, 11:41 a.m.

      CathyT, This was our first time hiking that mountain. It was such a busy trail. I've never hiked with so many other people on the trail. It's a popular trail but a great hike!

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  • Kelsi

    Kelsi on July 10, 2013, 10:31 p.m.

    Great insight.

    God is always challenging to be quiet, to be still and just live with my discomfort rather that trying  throwing it off by distracting myself, hiding in my routines, ignoring it, etc. I don't want to embrace my discomfort, but I work to acknowledge it and find ways to cope as well.

    That said, I love travel. And one of my favorite things is coming home. But, you know, you have to leave before you can actual come home.

    Your family is awesome.

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  • Tonya

    Tonya on July 11, 2013, 3:13 p.m.

    Yes Renee! That is just what I did constantly over my weekend trip to see my Mom and step-dad - reminded myself that this is where I am and these are the only moments I have - the now... Yes, I did often think of home, but I kept turning those thoughts back to where I was. Love your writing and sharing.

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  • Johanna Hanson

    Johanna Hanson on July 11, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

    Oh, oh, oh! This was so good! We are living in transition and while it has been a good transition it isn't without its inconveniences. I have really been trying to intentionally enjoy the present, but this was another great reminder. Thanks, Renee!

    reply

  • Heather Caliri

    Heather Caliri on July 12, 2013, 12:07 a.m.

    This was my struggle back in Argentina--I was ready to go home earlier than I wanted, and I struggled each day to be present. 

    After I got home, I thought through why, and realized I hadn't really given myself permission to feel the hardness of where we were, the dryness I was experiencing. It's hard to be present if you're trying to resist the emotions in your chest.

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  • beth

    beth on July 13, 2013, 10:19 a.m.

    I can agree with you all the way. I love to go places and we go to Myrtle Beach SC every year for a couple of weeks (we stay in our camper so it is a little bit more like home with all my stuff) but is always HOT and I can't wait to go and can't wait to get home and get back into the swing of things at home. But I wish I lived somewhere like you do how I long for the woods and country lifestyle. But I'm thankful for what I have also. Right now it is where I need to be. My son is going to Canada ( we are in VA) in 2 weeks for a 100 mile canoe can't wait to see his pictures that is if he takes some he is 15 so well see I got him a cheap waterproff camera just hope he will use it some. Thanks for  sharing your blog.

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  • Merrielle

    Merrielle on July 16, 2013, 1:45 a.m.

    This post is so great...and actually I haven't read my favorite blogs in awhile (yours is my absolute fave) because I found that I was comparing myself to my blogger buds and wishing my life was more like their lives.

    I felt a Little Whisper inside that told me to just be who I am and live out all the creativity and joy and love and longing for relationship. Its ok to check in for ideas, but I need to be present where I am.

    Its really affirming to be...affirmed.

    Happy Summer!

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