Holidays truly are fantastic- I always return from a break away from the city feeling renewed and regenerated and refreshed. With good reason too- escaping the city, getting back to nature and to the sea and opening my mind and eyes to new places and people is an amazing thing.
I’ve written before about the importance of taking time out and undertaking a digital detox every now and then so that you can really properly unplug and de-stress and this was a really big part of my trip last week to the Togean Islands in Sulawesi.
Before taking this week away from the urban jungle of Jakarta I was feeling pretty strung up and overwhelmed and I was really looking forward to being able to not think about social media and to not be behind my computer for a few days.
Little did I know that the islands we would be visiting are so remote that I would be taking part in an enforced digital detox- the Togean Islands are mostly all off the grid- no phone connections and definitely no internet.
It is actually pretty difficult these days to find someplace to go to be off the grid. It took us two days to get to Waleakodi from Jakarta, but it was totally worth it, not just for the possibility of a truly getting away from it all, but for the absolutely stunning scenery.
This was a magical holiday in an untouched piece of paradise. Not only did I unplug, relax and rejuvenate, but I also learned a few quirky lessons too.
- 1. Life doesn’t end if I don’t check social media
Shock! Horror! The world’s events, the happenings in people’s everyday lives, life as we know it from the media and social media….just keeps on going on, even when I don’t check my phone/tablet/laptop a million times a day.
Ok, so this is kinda obvious. BUT, it actually took me being removed completely from any phone or internet access for a week (and to go through a very small withdrawal), to come to terms with the knowledge that there is a real life to live, experience and enjoy every day. And just being present in my own life and not caring twit for what is happening in everyone else’s is very freeing. I have this terrible Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) if I don’t keep up with things. But guess what? Nobody cares, I didn’t miss out on anything (as far as I can tell), and my brain got a chance to switch off for a week, which was very necessary. And I had more time for enjoying simple pleasures such as fresh coconut (soooo fresh, as in, a guy climbed the tree, chopped the coconut off, then opened it for me to drink right away!).
- 2. Always appreciate the little things in life (like vegetables)
I LOVE vegetables. Like, REALLY, really love them and need them in my life every day. In Jakarta, I can always enjoy eating a variety of fresh, organic vegetables whenever I want to and this makes me HAPPY.
On remote island paradises which are hours away from the nearest port, vegetables are hard to come by. The staple foods are (white) rice and fish. Condiments can be used to add extra flavour.
Being a vegan on the Togean Islands was really hard. I don’t like eating (simple carb) white rice. I don’t eat fish. After a week of eating white rice and getting a few vegetables such as cabbage, I just wanted to eat green vegetables so badly. I will forever more be grateful every time I can eat some yummy fresh vegetables with every meal after my week of being denied them.
There were other things too which I appreciate more than ever now. Such as electricity, fresh running water, and hot showers (which I always have appreciated, to be honest!). How easy it is to flick a switch to get light or power in the city. At remote island paradise, electricity only happens by generator, fresh water is hard to come by, and there are certainly no hot showers!
- 3. There is such a thing as magic
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. I took lessons from real magicians and even held my own magic show. But being a magician is actually just having good slight of hand and being able to trick people. I knew this (as a budding magician) and I think I have always liked the idea of there being magic in the world, but never truly believing in its existence.
Until now. Picture this: standing on soft golden sand one night, under a sea of stars so close and bright it felt like you could touch them if you reached far enough. Just a sliver of moon, the Milky Way willowing through the sky, and stars falling to make wishes on. Looking out at the ocean, it twinkled and sparkled with its own stars, caused by the phospherescent phytoplankton filling the water. A tree, also blinking with lights from hundreds of fireflies. It seriously felt like I was Alice in Wonderland.
There is no other word to describe that moment, than pure magic. So blessed to have had that magical moment.
- 4. Feeding your passions is a really good thing
I’m passionate about many things. Of course I love sharing about healthy living and I love to write and photograph, I always have.
My other passion in life, which is completely unrelated to this work that I do as a health coach (but actually, not that unrelated as you will see in the next point) is scuba diving. I got certified to dive in 2006 and instantly loved it. This activity became a more frequent hobby when I moved to Indonesia ion 2009 when I could take diving trips really easily.
I became hooked after doing about 15 dives, and most of my holidays get planned around diving new sites in tropical waters, learning about fish and marine life and meeting others who share my passion.
I now understand just how healthy it is to have passions to pursue that are different from the rest of your life. Passions provide purpose, and make us feel fulfilled and accomplished. Pursue your passions with gusto and you will reap many rewards (such as new friends, new and exciting experiences and things to look forward to). I just completed my 150th dive last week, and I can’t wait to do 150 more! I love that I have this interest to fulfil me in ways that my other passions can’t.
- 5. Scuba diving IS a form of meditation
I wrote a blog post a while ago sharing alternative ways to meditate. I truly believe that we don’t have to be sitting in silence in the lotus position to experience the benefits of meditating. Without a doubt, scuba diving is a form of meditating. I am so present in the moment when I’m underwater, all I am focussing on is what is around me and my breath. Every dive leaves me feeling energised and clear headed and relaxed. No wonder it is so addictive!
- 6. Patience and flexibility are virtues to develop
I’m one of the most impatient people I know. Like seriously, I want everything to be done yesterday, pronto, instantly and without delay.
But when you are going off the grid (which seriously takes at least 2 days to achieve!), and relying on various modes of transport from planes, to cars, to various-sized boats and ferries, one needs to have patience and flexibility- big time. The more patience you can muster in travelling from one place to the next, the more enjoyable the experience will be. Patience makes space for pleasure and presence and a bunch of other good things.
Getting frustrated and annoyed and trying to rush things that are simply impossible to do any quicker just leads to anxiety and stress and not-much-fun-on-holidays.
At first it freaked me out that I couldn’t check my emails on my phone to kill time, or surf the net while waiting. But then I decided if I couldn’t beat ’em, I’d join ’em. I read my book, talked to people, looked out at the scenery, took pictures and just made the most of the moment which made for a very pleasurable holiday.
- 7. Holidays cultivate intimacy
Don’t we all crave intimacy with our partners and our friends? There is no better way to cultivate this than by travelling together. Especially to a remote destination. You have to rely on one another, keep each other company, look out for each other and go through a shared experience and adventure together.
What a great way to build intimacy through shared memories and experiences. I have really missed not having my handsome husband around this week since being back in Jakarta. I got used to his presence and support, having him to share a hammock with, make plans with and enjoy a sense of solidarity with as we went on our adventure. Travelling with your loved one is a very beautiful thing to do often, I believe.
- So that’s it, my lessons learned while on holidays. I’d love to hear from you! Where did you go on your last holiday and were there any unexpected lessons that you learned while there? Please share in the comments below.