It’s 2021 and just about one year into Covid. When the new era all started in March 2020, I decided to stay in Australia as to wait out the situation. As described in my previous post, I ended up staying in Melbourne which turned out to be in the only Australian state that imposed a strict lockdown lasting until October, with an ongoing story of interstate-border restrictions.
In this post, I want to share what I’ve been up to and what I’ve learned from being confined to one place for eight months, especially after having been on the road for two years straight.
It’s All In Your Head
What do you do when you can’t move around for eight months? Many people I’m talking to and friends I’ve made in Melbourne say it was the worst time ever. I guess when you have a business that struggles or when you are generally extroverted and get your energy from meeting and interacting with people, it can be tough. It must be hard to not be able to leave the house at all. It can be an overwhelming feeling of being at the mercy of a larger system that you can’t seem to influence. I guess what helped me here is to have sort of a ‘Plan B’. With a foreign license plate and without a registered address, I felt free to move out of the city if things would’ve felt all too depressing. And worst case, I could have returned to Germany (fair enough, into another lockdown, as it should show). What I’m trying to say is whatever your story is, try to create some space by thinking of a Plan B, even if you don’t redeem it.
Having a Plan B might ring true, but it might not change anything about how we feel about the situation we’re in. When it is the mind that has gotten us into such a situation, maybe any argument on a mind level won’t get us out of there. In that sense, rather than further identifying with our mind, I think it makes sense to look into immediate experience.
Mindfulness, perhaps. Look around you. On a visual level and in the very presence, the way life feels hasn’t changed much. The air we breathe is the same, our apartment looks the same, nature looks the same. On a general level we’re still talking to each other, and even physically, there’s people around us. I think that much of our overall happiness and distress is happening on a pure fictional level (and linked to expectations). In that sense, things are very much happening in your head. In order to break free of too-much-mind every now and then, you might want to engage in anything that makes you feel more present, without harming you in the long run.
Have A Project
I was lucky to have found a motorcycle garage where I could work some hours and spare my bike a much-needed overhaul. I ended up taking the engine apart, finding that some parts had seen better days. I checked all of the moving parts, replaced them if needed, and had my cylinder heads rebuilt. With a refreshed engine, the R now feels ready for some more adventure (within Australia for the time being).
In between work, there was plenty of time to hone into photography, shooting some video (which I hope to be publishing more of soon), and read books that I wouldn’t have made time for otherwise. I probably could have gotten a bit more into writing, but isn’t that just how it is for all of our endeavours.
Deep down, keeping engaged with something that gave me a feeling of progress might have been the crucial part. I guess sometimes we need to be mindful and sometimes we just need to keep the mind busy. And maybe one day we can be mindful even with a busy mind.
Understand Your Emotions
(Or don’t.) For many months, my days consisted of spending time at the workshop and going for river hikes in the park. It almost was like a laboratory kind of environment with a low variation in framework conditions, if you will, perfect for a bit of a psychological study. And interestingly enough, I found myself having great days, perfectly at ease, with everything going right. Cool. And then the next day, nothing had changed on the outside, but I might have had a bad day where I felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything. That’s fine too. I think we tend to look for that outside culprit that made us feel that way. Bad sleep, a soar back, the weather, whatever. But sometimes, that outside factor just isn’t there. (And how come last time we were in a good mood despite that grumpy colleague?)
If there is one single thing I have to pick for what I’ve learned in 2020, it would be that there has to be no reason for our emotions. They just come and go. And they affect us less if we’re seeing them for what they are: impermanent.
More obviously than ever, we are at the mercy of global workings and it has become a bit of a pointless practice to make plans for the future especially when they involve some mobility or when they are about traveling. How frustrating could it be to have one’s travel plans continuously postponed? I need to remind myself that there is only so much I can do. Even if one doesn’t approve of their current circumstances, the only way to work from there is to embrace the situation for what it is and work from there.
Throughout my journey, I have found that managing expectations is key. I thought of traveling to other continents after this one before eventually closing the journey but even in 2021, this remains very much uncertain. Hadn’t it been for Covid, I would most likely have left Australia and would’ve kept traveling, elsewhere. I don’t want to be a lockdown glorifier, I couldn’t be, seeing what the reason for it is and what it has done to the world. But I appreciate it has a silver lining, I do see that this past year has taught me more about the mind (and a bit about motorcycle maintenance too) than what traveling could possibly have taught me.
Right now, I am finding myself further up the Australian East Coast during summer, working (as I still haven’t won the lottery) and really enjoying the sun mostly. It truly is a situation I can’t complain about and it seems that one plan that hasn’t worked out has been superseded with a new, maybe even better reality.
“Happiness equals reality minus expectations.”Tom Magliozzi
It may be as simple as that. Drop your expectations. Keep holding your intentions. And trust the Universe.