TDM,  Thoughts

[Thoughts] #1: Living in the Present Moment

I decided to open a new category on the blog, which will gather all the thoughts I have during the trip. It’s very “personal development” oriented. One of my favorite topics. And these articles also answer the question I’m often asked: What do you get out of travelling around the world? Because if JB travels to escape the routine and discover new countries, I travel to discover myself.


To give you a bit of context, before the world tour, despite an exciting job, a nice apartment, financial comfort and a lovely cat, I was completely stressed and unhappy. My body was letting me know, making me sick summer and winter, I had a cold all the time. I developed strange symptoms that the doctors couldn’t explain. I also felt guilty about having a dream life, but I felt like an idiot. By doing a mini-balance sheet of my life, I knew that changing country, city, profession, friends, apartment… wasn’t enough, I always found something wrong. I had to change.

After this realization, it took me several months to put in place an action plan.

JB and I would often go to the movies, and we would linger at the bookstore next door while waiting for the show to start. That’s when I discovered several books that suited me, even though it took me several years and reading to fully understand their content (we’ll talk about that in another article). Then, I made several encounters, by chance, that oriented me towards resources or reflections that helped me a lot.

With my company, I was able to attend a training session called “how to be Zen” or something like that, with about ten colleagues. There were several topics covered, but I especially retained this conversation:

Instructor: Suppose you have just had a customer appointment. It didn’t go well, you’re not happy about it, why?
We will: If the customer isn’t happy, we risk losing him/her
Trainer: So what? How does it affect you?
We will: Well, we might get fired
Trainer: So what?
We will: We’ll have to find work, if we can find it.
Trainer: So what?
We will: Isn’t it bad enough as it is?
Trainer: And again?
We will: We’re going to sleep under the bridge
Trainer: So what?
We: uh…
Trainer: Let’s face it, we are afraid… of dying! No resources, no roof, no food, no this, no that… In fact, we’re just afraid to die. So, between a client appointment that went badly and activating our fear of dying, isn’t that a bit exaggerated?

After this conversation, I realized that what kept me from being happy was fear of the future. That it would be terrible, that it would be atrocious, that it would be unhappy.

By constantly projecting myself into the future, I am wasting every present moment that deserves to be lived to the fullest.

But how do you live in the moment?

It’s not decided like that, from one day to the next, to live in the present moment. Even if I wanted to, I never knew how to do it, I never knew what it felt like to be 100% in the moment. I was advised to do meditation but it didn’t suit me too much.

Until the day we went around the world, in South Africa. First destination. We went to the Kruger Park for a car safari. The “game” in question was to see the Big 5: elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and rhinos. On the first day, we wandered around the park in “come what may” mode and we witnessed an incredible scene, surrounded by elephants etc. It was magical, and then we met buffaloes (about a hundred, which is very rare), lions (a big family with cubs playing in front of our eyes), rhinos (very very close). Despite all these magical experiences, I had only one goal in mind: to see the last big 5, a leopard! And it worked so much, but so much, that the following days, I bought a map of the park, read all the places where we could see one, opted for a paying tour… I wanted to plan my meeting with a leopard in bulk. Of course, I didn’t see one. I was not happy. I only had one thing in mind: I came all the way here and I didn’t see a leopard. But I’ve been through much more extraordinary things than that.

After this experience, the frustration that didn’t leave me for days made me open my eyes. If I didn’t see a leopard, it was for a reason. As long as I am not living in the moment, I will always be frustrated by this or that goal that has not been reached. And as soon as I reach the goal, I will take it for granted and be frustrated again by something else I haven’t yet achieved. I replayed in my head the list of the extraordinary things I experienced in Kruger Park, I looked at it objectively. Was it extraordinary? YES was it that important to see the leopard? NO.

After the first 1.5 months of touring the world where I planned every day and visit in advance, came the time when nothing was planned anymore.

That’s how it started. Step by step.

For Nepal, I knew in advance which cities I wanted to visit and in what order.
For Burma, I knew in advance the cities I wanted to visit, but not the order
For Thailand, I didn’t even know which cities I wanted to visit.
For South America, I didn’t even know which countries I wanted to visit:D We landed in Chile and we built our itinerary as we went along

There, the letting go was gradual, it took time.

Every time I let go and everything is still going well, I say to myself “ah, don’t stress about it”, or “it’s a good thing I didn’t plan this in detail, otherwise I would have had less flexibility to change my program”.

When I*t*rde, and it happens sometimes, instead of blaming me and telling me that if I was less lame, less tired, less xyz, we would have paid less, we would have made a better itinerary, we would have been this or that … i think back to my grandmother’s closet.

During the years of war in Vietnam, we had a kind of ration book per family to buy food, textiles, or kitchen utensils. Every year, each family was allowed xxx meters of fabric, of horrible quality with ugly patterns. But hey, no choice. During this period, a kind of black market appeared where people could buy whatever they wanted, at a golden price. Having been in a rich family, which suddenly became very poor, my grandmother said to herself: we have to keep all this, we don’t know what the future holds. So, for years, she set aside these xxx meters of fabric per year, instead of using them to make clothes. And then, the war ended, the American embargo ended… and in her wardrobe there remained, and to this day, hundreds of meters of fabric, which would have been worth so much money and happiness, if they had been used at that time, to dress her family.

Why wait so long? Why plan for a hypothetical event that may (or may not) happen, when we can enjoy it, right now? Why think that we will be happy when we get xyz, why don’t we enjoy our life, right now, now?

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