By: Reihaneh Mozaffari, Humanitarian Architect & Unsettled: Bali & Sailing alum
This summer I started my 6-month break from work with a 3-month Europe tour, traveling by train through Austria, Poland, Germany, UK, France, Spain and Portugal with the intention to revisit old friends, digest my professional life of the past 5 years, take stock of my life, and think of next steps.
In the past I had observed that despite suffering horribly and extensively from jet lag after long intercontinental flights, I found such long flights very meditative and insightful for me. I had noticed that on such flights after getting bored of watching movies or reading my books, in the middle of nowhere, who knows how many feet above the ground, I had taken the time to make life changing decisions. Like the time I flew from from Austria to Colombia in 2012. It was there where I had decided that despite having invested lots of time, money, and energy studying architecture, and despite the fact that I loved design and architecture, I admitted to myself that I didn’t find working in traditional architecture offices and designing houses for rich people for the rest of my life fulfilling at all. I clearly remember the exact moment I decided that I was willing to take the risk and the necessary steps of following a less traveled path, of using my educational background and professional skills to serve the disadvantaged. That decision is one which I have followed through in the last 5 years by making a successful career working as an architect in the humanitarian shelter and settlement sector.
So this summer I set out to recreate that experience and hoped that my train trip through Europe would be just as meditative and insightful. It proved to be all that and some more. I processed the past, assessed my present, and made decisions for the direction I would like my personal and professional life to head in for the next 5 years. The only thing was that I was not prepared for was the shock on my friends and on strangers faces when I told them that I was traveling by train by choice, sometimes taking the whole day to get from one city to the other. They seemed to not get the value of commuting 9 hours and changing trains 3 times to reach London from Berlin. As I reached my friend’s apartment’s door in West London with my not-so-light luggage and definitely tired, she said that I was crazy for not saving time and money by taking a two-hour flight instead. I was taken aback and simply answered that I liked the journey. But when similar instances happened a few more times, I got to thinking about how much undue value we put on traveling ‘faster’ and ‘cheaper’ even while on vacation.
I am not saying we should take the bus or train everywhere, flying is definitely the fastest and disturbingly cheaper mode of transportation these days. I am saying if you, like me, are not yet so good at maintaining a daily meditation practice, you could instead cram it all in and plan such trips once in a while for a gigantic much-needed meditation session, where you set out to intentionally ‘waste’ time and money (on purpose) and enjoy the journey and the in between places.
I promise you will be happy you did. Just make sure you are not watching a TV series on your phone the whole time, that would definitely defeat the purpose. In my experience insights come only after staring out of a window for a good one to two hours. Enjoy!!!
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