“Back to the real world tomorrow,” my friend Jen lamented. We’d spent the last ten days in Peru with a small group of friends, sampling the restaurants, art galleries, and nightclubs of Lima, and exploring the Amazonian jungle. We’d laughed and talked and been completely absorbed with our adventure. Wi-fi was almost impossible to access, and we’d been truly disconnected from our daily lives.
But if life at home with our jobs and laundry and email is the real world, then what is the world we’ve been in? And why do we resist leaving it?
On our bus ride back to the airport from our lodge in the rainforest, I had the great fortune of sitting next to one of our guides. Carlo, a bright, cheerful man in his mid-thirties, is an expert in the traditional herbal medicines of the jungle and had given us a tour of the lodge’s medicinal garden, deep in the rainforest. He’d shown us plants that cure a wide variety of ailments, from arthritis and cancer to headache and difficult childbirth. He had a sweetness that made listening to him a delight.
Carlo had pointed to a small square indent in the ground, about six feet on each side. He’d lived in a small structure on that spot for a year, he’d told us. His mentor had instructed him to do so as part of his training as a medicine man.
On the bus ride, I asked him to tell me more about his experience living alone in the jungle. He said he went to the lodge only for meals and stayed in the jungle the rest of the time. It had been a spiritual journey for him—a time to go inward and to come to terms with adulthood, with life, with himself. He learned to communicate with the plants as well, by living with them and observing them.
He left his jungle house the day a jaguar visited him, scratching at his thin walls.
“Did you enjoy your time alone in the jungle?” I asked him.
“Very much,” he said. “It was very spiritual and I learned many things.”
“Were you sad to leave?” I asked.
“Oh no,” he said. “The jaguar was a sign. It was time to go.”
For Carlo, there was no thought of “back to the real world.” He hadn’t resisted staying alone in the jungle, either. For him, each was simply the right time to move on to his next experience. He told me he’s now married and has two young children. He said he loves his life now as much as he loved his year in the jungle.
What if we could approach our experiences and transitions like Carlo, without resistance? What if the line between “the real world” and “vacation world” was not subdivided into drudgery and stress versus fun and freedom? What if, when our vacations are ending, we could see it as Carlo did when the jaguar arrived, as time to go?
I think that there’s a key element that, at least for me, allows an ease in transitions between adventures and “the real world”: gratitude.
Gratitude is the foundation that allows us to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of our lives. Gratitude for our adventures, gratitude for the opportunity for us to see beyond our routine experience, and equal gratitude for our daily lives. Gratitude for life itself and for all it brings.
I think Carlo would agree.