Almost three years ago – July 22, 2015 – I wrote a blog post called “Escaping the Maze.” I was in the first year of my nomadic life, and in the post I gave tips on how to push out of the well-carved ruts that tend to suck us into the same old patterns of life. At the time, I was still working to reduce the number of clothes I owned, and I used the idea of the Ten Item Wardrobe as a way to consider pushing yourself out of a comfort zone.
Oh, to have known how far out of my comfort zone I was actually about to push myself! I had indeed escaped the maze, but it was more like entering “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” than a simple TED Talk reference on minimalism. I had
crossed into another realm, one where so many things were unfamiliar and it was actually OK.
From seeing the Grand Canyon as a rut where rushing water cut a path after years and years of wear, now, tomorrow, I am visiting the “Grand Canyon” outside Chiang Mai in Thailand and jumping from the highest cliffs into the waters below. Just like I jumped into the freshwater ceyotes in Mexico. Just like I jumped off the starboard side of a sailboat into the Caribbean Sea. Just as I jumped out of an airplane over a glacier in New Zealand. Ruts aren’t things to escape now. They are things to play in and around.
How did this change occur? How do you turn from someone who is nervous and analytical, wondering if the plans are going to work out into someone who is confident that, when you strap everything you own to your back and walk out of an airport, you can find your way in a country you’ve never been?
I still have more than 10 items of clothing in my wardrobe, but not many more. How did I go from having checklists upon checklist in Operation Tighten Up to actually being tight? Faithful blog readers know you have to Do The Work, but there’s another component to change.
Enter the magical element of time. Patience.
Do you know the story of how I discovered patience? I love this story, so forgive me
if I already told you. It was about a year and a half ago, when I was living on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was teaching a wonderful yoga class in this tiny, breezy studio about 20 minutes from my little studio apartment, which I rented for a few months. I had locked up the studio doors after another heartwarming class and walked a few minutes down the busy road. On the island, you can wait at designated stops for public transportation called the “Safari.” These open-air trucks – I mention these in Looking for Same – don’t really operate on a time frame. They are independently operated vehicles that just come around when they come around, and you flag one down and pay either $1 or $2, depending on how far you go (and that is sometimes a matter of debate), and it gets you close enough to walk yourself home. In fact, there was a guy (another shout-out to Curtis!) who sold beers and bush rum shots from the back of his pickup truck, which was usually parked exactly at my Safari stop. It was a good system – most of the time.
This one day, I was waiting and waiting on the side of the road for the Safari to come. My friend texted me and said she got a table at the restaurant where we had planned to meet. I hadn’t even caught the bus yet! I was started to do some calculus in my head: Maybe I could hitch? Maybe I could call a taxi? I didn’t know many people with a car on the island at this point … just as I was really thinking I might as well start walking, the Safari came.
Now, it is custom in the Virgin Islands to greet everyone in the room or public vehicle with a “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “good night.” It was amazing how these people were able to identify when it was 12:01 p.m. to switch from “good morning” to “good afternoon.” Anyway, so when I hailed the Safari that day, I climbed in and looked around and everyone and said, “Good morning.”
The passengers, as is custom, returned the greeting to me. This included the Rastarian man who I happened to sit next to. He looked at me and continued the friendly conversation, again, as is custom:
“How are you today?” he asked.
“Well,” I started, trying to shake my frustration from my head as I was finally on the way to meet my friend. “I wasn’t sure the Safari was going to come! I was waiting for a really long time!”
The man turned slowly, looked at me and smiled. He uttered one word with that Jamaican, “I’m probably stoned” accent that I’ll never forget:
“Paaaaaaaatience,” he said, so slowly that it actually took patience to hear him say the word.
And that was it. Now, every time there’s a point where I can feel myself battling against Divine Timing, I take a breath and hear that man saying the word “patience” to me. And now I wait for the right time.
So, what does waiting for the right time have to do with the comfort zone? Because, the time has come to move out of mine! I’ve been living in Thailand for the last month, housesitting and caring for the cutest pup in all of Chiang Mai, and it’s an incredibly easy city to live in. There is a reason some of these places in the world are hotspots for digital nomads: It’s amazingly inexpensive. The weather is wonderful. The people are kind. I rented a motorbike for a month and scoot from free meditation session to vegan brunch to a quiet café to work, then back home to jog or swim in the pool, maybe head out to a $5 massage or $2 fish pedicure, grab dinner – maybe freshly made veggie pad Thai for $1 – and then connect with friends or chill. People smile at me. I smile at people. It’s a very comfortable place.
So why would I ever leave? For one, there’s the issue of visas, which involve the most minimal amount of hassle to extend. But my current visa only lasted 30 days. And because I heard the famous quote recently by IBM’s old CEO Ginni Rometty: “Growth and comfort don’t co-exist.” I’ve done a lot of growing since I wrote that blog three years ago. I’ve still got more room to grow!