In Transit … bliss

15 Aug

I got back from Europe 2 weeks ago. In that time I’ve answered the inevitable “So, what was the best part of your trip?” query variously, depending on who asked:

To my mom, it was: Meeting little Rocco and Mario and touring the Prosecco region with Frish!

To my foodie friends, it was: Visiting Camembert, Livarot, and the Italian Malgas!

To my cycling friends, it was: Poaching my way into the VIP stands at the 250m mark for the TdF Stage 21 finish and then doing a shot of vodka with Katyusha afterwards!

To my coach, it was: Conquering Alpe d’Huez!

To my Manatt friends, it was: Getting to hang with Q in London on his birthday!

For most JustAdventure readers, the majority of these responses are likely meaningless: Rocco, Mario, Frish, Livarot, Malga, TdF Stage 21, Katyusha, Alpe d’Huez, and Q all = Short-hand for different kinds of “obviously” awesome outings and outcomes — no further explanation required (at least for the question asker).

These 1-sentence responses satisfied my question askers and absolved me from having to dig more deeply to explain what really was the best part of the trip. It’s taken me 2 full weeks to sort that out and I think I can answer the query truthfully and fully for you, now.

What was the best part of my trip?

Being in transit.

And by “transit,” I mean the ~100 hours I spent on mass-transit planes, trains, busses, boats, and subways — NOT time spent traveling by bike or as a passenger in a taxi or private vehicle (although these also offered unique joys).

When I left for the trip and shared my itinerary, several people opined that my plans seemed “grueling.” Lots of country hopping, little down-time; how and when would I relax and enjoy myself?

Pshaw!, I thought to myself — I don’t need no stinkin’ downtime! I’m a hard-charging, badass, always-moving kind of gal. Vacations aren’t for relaxing, they’re for revving!

Or so I thought — because that was the kind of vacation that I loved, needed, and thoroughly enjoyed before my brain bashing.

This would be my first “real” vacation since the accident (Iceland didn’t count because it was only 4 days and Belgium/Luxembourg didn’t count because I had zero say in how to structure my time on that trip). I approached my Paris-London-Aviano journey in the same manner I’d always taken when planning a vacation: Go, go, go and go some more! If anything, I viewed all the transit hours as being annoying disruptions to my let’s explore and dominate these territories plan.

No matter, I would make the most of those transit hours. My iPad was loaded with all kinds of travel guides, nueroscience texts, and FB-friend-recommended novels. My only worry was that I might not have stocked enough stuff to keep me occupied.

My first flight (LAX to EWR) proved that worry to be well-founded (I devoured the entire Paris guidebook, half of the London book, and 3/4 of This is Where I Leave You) and also served to completely derail my overall “transit-based time-amplification” plans when I realized, as I ran to catch my connecting flight, that I’d left my iPad charger plugged into the space between seats 9A and B. Gargh! Stupid brain damage!!

With just a 2-minute connection though, there’d be no time to buy a replacement.

Nine hours from Newark to Milan with nothing to occupy my time.

The “old” me would’ve been a highly annoyed, agitated, agro mess. Brain-bashed me, however, was like: Oh well. Shit happens. Can’t change it. No sense in worrying about it. Might as well just accept it and try to relax.

I didn’t intend for my Newark-Milan flight to serve as a Buddhist-like meditation practice chamber, but that’s what it became. Instead of thinking about all the things I’d have to do once we landed, I just chilled. With my Bose headphones on, but not connected to any inputs, I simply sat there and observed, letting my mind wander where it may.

And you know what? It was really lovely. I felt very “in the moment.”

We’re so often planning for (or worrying about) the future, or dwelling on the past, or pretending to connect with the present by tapping along on our little devices. With my devices rendered effectively useless and my choosing not to fret about how or when (or whether) I could manage to re-engage with them, I had no choice but to just relax and think about what I was experiencing and assess whether I could adjust my experience in any way. I became attuned to my body’s need to shift position, or take on water or nutrients, or to drift into a light sleep.

Would it’ve been nice to enjoy a deep sleep? Maybe. But that light, plane-induced-and-disrupted sleep placed me into a nicely altered state where I could tap into my creative thinking zone. I can’t remember any of the (assuredly brilliant!) insights that came to me, but I loved how I felt after spending time in that bizarro twightlight zone. It was almost like going to the spa!

So, I decided to approach all remaining transit experiences in that same manner: Just sit calmly, breathe deeply, observe passively, and remain focused on the internal feelings evoked by these external inputs.

Ahhhh!

Even now, as I think back on those calming-yet-invigorating transit-based meditations, I find myself taking a deep breath, sighing, stretching, rolling my head back onto the top of my comfy chair, eyes closed to touch-type this passage from the depths of my opaque consciousness.

Yes. Transit time was definitely the best part of my trip.

Parting Thought: Nowhere is there a more idyllic spot, a vacation home more private and peaceful, than in one’s own mind, especially when it is furnished in such a way that the merest inward glance induces ease. ~Marcus Aurelius

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