Ever worked like a madman? For years I had a ridiculously manic work life, working 6 days a week in tourism and up to 12 hour days. At the end of my “paid work day” in an office, there was all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, socializing, emails, and hobbies (if there was any time for those!) like sports or reading/studying …whatever. You know, that stuff that is supposed to BALANCE your life. Guess what slipped to the bottom of the list…
Working in tourism, life does become a weird and wild merry-go-round that is hard to jump off. Unexpectedly, I got hurled off the merry-go-round when I lost my seasonal, bread’n’butter Swiss job earlier this year. I had worked there for 20 years (although I had been threatening to quite for about 15 years, so I wasn’t too concerned). At the time of receiving the news, I was in Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt, a little town on the Red Sea, surrounded by a backdrop of ochre-coloured mountains, a sun/star-filled sky overhead, living a simple and relatively cheap life.
Even in Dahab I always had plenty to do before my next Swiss season – marketing my travel company, learning Arabic, teaching English etc etc. Somehow the days were always filled, as I tried to cram in all the things that I had no time for in Switzerland – those things that had plummeted to the bottom of the priority list, like sports and hobbies.
There is this thing here they call the “Dahab Effect”: in Dahab, even if you have a list of only 5 things to do in a day, you never really get all 5 done. Something always gets in the way – you want to do emails and the internet is down, you want to take a shower and the water is off, you go to the shops and the shops are all closed because the cops are harassing shop owners, you walk out on the street and find an injured/abandoned animal and have to deal with it, or a goat having a baby and you have to help with the delivery…. – all sorts of weird and random stuff …or I might have an invasion of bored Bedouin kids in my house, looking for something to do, or random people dropping around for tea…or at times, it is just so damn hot that you literally can’t move except to drag yourself down to the beach to cool off!
So I’d be drinking my coffee in the morning, looking at my list of 5 or so things to do, planning my day….my mind telling me I WILL do all those things today! Yes, I will!! But, more often than not, it never turned out that way…. I would get 2 or 3 things done, and whatever I didn’t get done that day rolled over to the next….. it kind of felt like I was always climbing a mountain but never getting to the top. And there was always some level of subconscious guilt about not getting everything done. That was when I realized it was my “hard-work-ethic-Western mind” talking.
Then I lost my job and time seemed to take on a new dimension, and it has been very refreshing…Now there were no real deadlines to meet…fortunately, you can live relatively cheaply here, so the pressure of filling the work gap was not a huge, immediate burden, and I consider it a luxury to have the time to consider my next steps…
As the days go by, I have found inner calm and have learnt a few things about myself and the pressures of Western living along the way.
Here are a few of the changes:
-if I am walking down the street and bump into someone I know, I am no longer in a hurry to get anywhere to tick off my 5 things. I can stop and chat, there is no longer this “OH, hey, I gotta go! I have to get to….(someplace)”. People are more important than time. I spend as long as I want with anyone.
-it’s ok to do just a couple of things each day. The number two is fine. Let the rest of the day unfold.
-my life revolves around things to do rather than days of the week, since the Monday to Friday work thing has lost importance. Now it revolves around my appointments with friends, yoga, Arabic classes, hiking group….
-I live more in the moment, and there’s nothing better than the moment to be in. If it is hot, I go to the beach, if it’s windy I stay home and work.
-it is ok to achieve less – do 2 things in a day and not 5, it’s way healthier
-it’s ok to change your mindset and relax when you want to, and go with the flow
-I drink tea as often as I want with my Bedouin neighbors, who are also a very chilled lot and I have learnt a lot from them about patience and acceptance of the situation
-I live more spontaneously – if something is cancelled, I don’t get bummed, I accept it and move on
-it feels great to forget time – I don’t have to get up for anything (except to feed the 6 street cats knocking at my door at 6am), so I sleep when I want and get up when I want.
-I have more time for myself, for others and for little acts of kindness
So…if you want to take time out from life: make sure you can afford it, or move to somewhere cheap and sunny for a while, and do yourself a favour…take a little time out! I guarantee it will feel good 🙂