4 min read

The art of slowing down

The art of slowing down
Sunsets in Vlore 

Usually, when I write a blog, it’s prompted by some epiphany; I encountered a problem and worked through it. This time it’s different as I’m still figuring this one out. I’m writing about something I have been struggling with for as long as I can remember. My mother used to say - and still does - 'niet te veel hooi op je vork nemen' which literally translates to don’t take too much hay on your fork, meaning don’t take on too much. Since I started horse riding again, which comes with horse girl chores, I can truely appreciate the literal meaning of this saying, or you might end up face down in a pile of horse shit.

Here in Vlore, Albania, this pattern of going on and on was put into the test. I’ve previously written about feeling worthy now that I don’t have a job, but this time, it was more about feeling restless. The last couple of months I’ve always been a busy bee; biking through Northern Europe,seeing everyone and doing fun things with family and friends in the month that I would be back home before leaving again and trying to write a book in between. When I got off the plane in Albania I jumped on my bike to a few days to be with Sebastiaan in Vlore. Sebastiaan would work and I would write, read and entertain myself. Vlore in autumn is a lovely easy going place where not much happens and days feel the same. All of sudden the running had been brought to an abrupt halt, no more to do’s, social gatherings, even clean sheets and ample toilet paper had been taken care of in our airbnb. It left me feeling restless.

Just go with the flow

This restlessness occasionally made me agitated and grumpy. Sebas would look at me and say ‘I don't understand you: when you travel you don’t want to plan ahead, but now you’re so restless without a plan. Just go with the flow and see what the day brings’. ‘Okay boss’ I replied, rolling my eyes, knowing that he was right. So I did just that. After  restlessness came fatigue and I decided to give in and listen to my body. I slowed down, took naps in between, read books, soaked up the sun (it’s been a while since I was this tanned) and cuddle with the stray dogs. And you know what, with this came more clarity, morning dips in the sea, writing and meditating. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I found myself appreciating the routine of visiting the same coffee place after lunch, where we didn't even have to place an order; and are greeted with a cappuccino and a frappe, just the way we liked it.

As I write this, I realise that maybe, just maybe, I am making progress on this issue after all. Let's see what happens when the next challenge arises.

So, what have I learned from this experience?

  1. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. Give yourself some slack once in a while. Take a nap when you're not feeling at your best, go for a walk in nature, or treat yourself to a massage even when there are so many things on your to do list.
  2. At the same time, I always cringe when I hear people say this. I know I should listen to my body, but it’s like she speaks Chinese, or maybe I'm just not a good listener. So I’m giving myself another bit of advise; plan your rest moments of rest until you figure out how to listen to your body. What a contradiction right? Plan a day with absolutely no plans and do whatever you please. (Thanks Sebas this one is on you!)
  3. Don’t run away from uncomfortable feelings. Try to understand them and ask yourself what is this feeling telling me? I could have easily continued to stay busy, and yes, slowing down made me grumpy at first, but now I feel rested and relaxed again. I feel ready again to take on my next mountain; literally a passage of a 1000 meters is waiting for me and I’m ready to rumble again. Because after rest comes fireworks.