Finding My Place

Do you love where you live? Why or why not? What circumstances led you there? Did you choose it?

With all that has been going on in the world these past months, resulting in the need to stay home with travel plans thwarted, I’ve been reflecting on this topic. How has self-isolation influenced your feelings about your city of residence? Has it been a positive experience or a heavy one? Do you wish you were somewhere else?

My answers to these questions would have been very different 6 months ago.

A snapshot of the place I now call home…I am always happiest by the water!

I moved away from home when I was 17 to attend university in another city; I stayed after graduating, feeling I had outgrown my hometown but not knowing where else to go. I wanted to remain where my new social connections were and for a long time, I do feel I was happy there. However, as the years progressed I found myself travelling regularly- feeling an intense need to escape to places I found more beautiful, more inspirational and more vibrant. As soon as I returned from one trip I would start planning the next, fighting desperately to avoid the feeling of discontent that seemed to plague me.

Searching for inspiration in the fjords and quaint towns of Norway

Last spring while planning and embarking on a bucket list trip to Scandinavia, I was feeling unsettled in my career, my living environment, my external environment, my habits and routine, all of it. I was searching for a spark of insight into how I could make a meaningful change to a life that I had come to accept blindly. I treated this particular trip as an exploration of new possibilities and an opportunity to clarify my values. I wanted to find ‘my place’ in the world, a place that truly felt like home.

Admiring the focus on outdoor living and the stunning array of colours in Copenhagen’s Nyhavn harbour

I began to take note (literally and figuratively) of the qualities I was drawn to in the places I kept travelling to. Would it not make sense to surround myself with those aspects on a more permanent basis? It seemed so simple once I focused my attention on it. There were many elements that inspired me both on that trip and during past travels that became clearly identifiable in terms of what I was looking for in a forever home:

  1. Living by the ocean or the sea
    • The presence of water, especially salt water, fills me with a peace and level of calm that I cannot find in any other environment. The feeling of being connected to a body of water that spreads so vastly across the Earth is lifeblood for me, connecting me to the great unknown and invigorating me with a zest for life. The smell, the tang of salt on your tongue and traces of it clinging to your hair, the abundance of ocean life…it truly cannot be replicated.
The magic of the sea off the east coast of Denmark
  1. Embracing the great outdoors
    • Living in the middle of a land-locked city, I never felt a true connection to nature. There were parks in and around town of course, but nothing to really spark excitement; I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of outdoor living that I so admired, particularly as exemplified in Scandinavian countries. Nature has a way of soothing my often restless mind and fostering a sense of presence and mindfulness that improves my quality of life immensely.
Pristine nature and reflections seen during a train journey across Norway
  1. A small-town feel
    • While I’ve enjoyed having access to the many different opportunities and events that big cities can offer, I feel so much happier in small towns and villages, with a cozy vibe and slower pace of life. As a previous victim of the ‘grind’ culture, I have stressed myself out to the point of illness in previous corporate and management roles. I am grateful for the lesson this has taught me in terms of focusing more on inner peace as a measure of success and I find this easier to embody when away from big-city life.
A quiet and cozy cafe in the village of Flåm
  1. Being close to the mountains
    • The sight of mountains, whether near or far, invokes a passionate and almost emotional response in the core of my being. I find them to be the ultimate grounding presence. Jagged rock rising from the depths of the earth, snow-capped peaks and the way light, shadow, cloud and fog will play and dance off of these features is mesmerizing to me. Any place I have travelled to with this varying terrain has called to me and is a far cry from the flat landscape of the city in which I previously lived.
Towering peaks of a mountain range in western Norway

Upon returning home from this journey, having clarified what I knew I needed to thrive, going on with life as I knew it was inconceivable. Plans quickly unfolded for a life-changing move across my country of Canada from the interior to the place I now call home: the wild and wonderful Pacific Northwest. I live in a small and utterly charming city, bounded by ocean to the west and mountains to the east, both within view out my windows. There is a plethora of glorious nature to explore and a palpable, relaxed feel. To exist where the natural elements support my wellness has set the foundation for positive shifts in many other aspects of my life. With every fiber of my being I can finally say I have found my place, my forever home- made all the more meaningful by the fact that I consciously chose it.

What are your favourite elements of the place you call home? Is there anything you would change about it if you could? I would love to know!

My new backyard view that fills my soul with gratitude!

Travelling as an Introvert

The beautiful and sometimes complex idiosyncrasies of the introverted personality type can be magnified while travelling. The unfamiliar environments, changes in routine and potential crowds that often infiltrate the exploration of foreign lands create specific challenges for introverts. Here are some of the most beneficial strategies that I have utilized to improve my travel experience while honouring my need for calm and keeping my sensitive spirit intact:

  • Allow for sufficient down time

It is so important while travelling as an introvert to not over-plan your time away; by doing so, you will feel exhausted and depleted within a few days. Make a list of the most important things that you would like to do or see, and then allow for flexibility in your schedule to just peacefully stroll, explore and get lost in your own thoughts. It can be tempting, especially if you have a limited amount of time in a destination, to pack in as much as possible but some of the greatest memories I have from my travels are the days where I just wandered at my own pace and stumbled across hidden treasures. This will help you to maintain energy levels from day-to-day.

A slow and peaceful day spent wandering the streets of Rome
  • Travel in the shoulder/off season

In addition to saving you some money, travelling in the off-season can be a dream for an introvert- fewer crowds, less chaos, shorter lines and in many cases a more unique and intimate experience. While summer is often the most tempting time of year to travel, nothing is more off-putting to this introvert than overly crowded tourist attractions mixed with suffocating heat. Autumn has become my preferred season for travel and I highly recommend planning your next trip during this magical and serene time of year.

The beauty of Autumn in Paris
  • Stay at an Airbnb vs. a Hotel

Last year I travelled to Iceland with a friend (and fellow introvert) who prefers using the Airbnb service to hotels. We searched for a whole home or apartment for rent- as opposed to booking rooms in a shared space- with the cozy, minimalist, Nordic aesthetic that we were drawn to. Arriving at our Airbnb, we felt an immediate sense of belonging and sanctuary. We were able to purchase groceries and make some meals at ‘home’ after a day of sightseeing or to linger over breakfast with no time constraints before venturing out. We could retreat to our own separate bedrooms every night and have ample quiet, peaceful time to process our experiences. In addition- our local host provided a wealth of insider knowledge and recommendations for exploration in our destination.

Our cozy home in the heart of Reykjavik
  • Travel solo

Given the amount of alone time I need to recharge, I have learned to genuinely love and enjoy my own company and travelling alone as an introvert can be incredibly liberating. Need an early night? Go for it. Want to ditch that planned museum visit and find a restful spot to people-watch all afternoon? Done. Nothing is more freeing than having every day to yourself to follow your unique rhythm, without having to worry or stress about the desires of others or how your wants and decisions may affect them. The first solo trip I ever took felt like a languid dream compared to the large group tour through Europe I had previously been on.

Taking in the charming skyline of Prague on a solo venture
  • Spend more time in one location if possible

The discomfort that is unearthed from the unfamiliarity of foreign countries can become magnified for an introvert as we are often very married to our routines and home environments. I have found that the more time I spend in one specific destination the more comfortable I feel and I begin to establish a regimen of my own that allows me to open myself up to a new city or country in a way that is not possible if I am constantly on the move.

Feeling right at home on the banks of the Seine
  • Create intimate opportunities for connection

Just because you are an introvert, does not mean that you don’t want to interact and connect with others while travelling. The important consideration is to ensure that opportunities for socialization are specific to your unique interests and in small groups. While in Paris solo, I attended several cooking classes which allowed me to connect with fellow travellers in an intimate environment while bonding over a shared interest. Themed walking tours are also a great option and spending a little bit extra for tours that are designated as ‘small-group’ is absolutely well worth it. I found that balancing these types of activities with ample solo exploration created the perfect travel experience.

The heavenly (although a bit misshapen) outcome of a baking class at La Cuisine Paris

What lights you up?

Sunset on Lake Erie

I first caught a case of wanderlust back in high school when I joined the travel club and went overseas with a group of classmates- it opened my eyes to the inspiring experience of exploring the history, culture and wonders that exist in the world. At the time, I did not even consider the possibility of a career in travel as I felt that if it were part of my job, it might take the fun out of it. Thus, I never pursued it. Fast forward over a decade and I now have a successful career in healthcare; however, I have never felt quite settled or content- often moving jobs every couple of years when restlessness inevitably creeps in. I tend to always be yearning for more from life- even if I don’t know exactly what that ‘more’ consists of. All I can do is make space in my life for the things that bring me the most joy and travelling is what I always turn to for a spirit and energy refresh. I have taken many trips over the years and am always dreaming about my next desired destination.

Exploring Paris- one of my favourite cities

Often this simply means exploring my own backyard. My home province of Ontario, Canada has many hidden treasures, enchanting small towns, vibrant cities, beautiful lakes and beaches, stunning hikes and endless other opportunities for adventure. A long weekend getaway every once in awhile to explore places close to home can be just as rejuvenating and restorative as a far away jaunt (not knocking Italy of course- it is magical). Travelling, however far away, simply makes me feel alive and as long as I am able I will continue to dream and plan and travel as often as I can.

What lights you up?