Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 4:29 PM
Ann Timmons

Mindful unwinding

I'm back from a lovely trip to Terre-du-Haut on the îles des Saintes archipelago in Guadeloupe. Ah--a warm beach vacation! Just the antidote to my first New York winter. And it's always fun to get away: traveling gives me a chance to get out of myself, to experience new things, to see the world through a different lens.

If you live in a tourist destination, it's useful to view things from that different perspective from time to time. Tourist season never really ends in NYC and I must admit that some days I find it exasperating getting from point A to point B, wending my way through a crowd of strolling sightseers. But my recent experience of communicating haltingly in French and showing up late to grocery stores that close at noon reminded me how challenging it can be to venture outside my everyday world. Which is something I conveniently forget, until I step off the boat and arrive on foreign shores for a week or so. Then I need to get up to speed, stat!

It's also instructive to see how different people handle this transition. Many tourists I saw on our little island were doing basic Box-Ticking Travel, going where their guides or guidebooks led them. They seemed to be having a wonderful time taking pictures of themselves in these exotic surroundings, but I wondered if they were experiencing anything, or just recording future memories. Now, as readers of my newsletter know,  I believe in the importance of being in the moment. Always. Even on vacation. Last time I went to the Caribbean that lesson was reinforced by a long climb up a mountain. This time I was positively luxuriating in the moment on every beach we visited in Les Saintes!

On the plane home, though, I got to thinking about how heedlessly I sometimes go through daily life. I've been in Brooklyn seven months now, so I'm getting used to my neighborhood, my routine. But New York is a pretty happenin' place; I'm not sure I could ever get too comfortable. Still, I need to remind myself to find something new to savor each day, wonderful or grotesque. I need to seek these out if I want to keep filling my creative well. If you need to top your own well off, I can think of no better advice than to live life mindfully, and with empathy for those who are new to your world. Photos are great memory jogs, but no substitute for actual experience you can feel. 

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