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September 6, 2013

Traveling the World Taught Me to Sit Still. ~ Camille Willemain

My unhappiness spiraled so recklessly I knew I had to make a change; so I ran away.

The word stillness never used to be part of my vocabulary.

When I was a child, teachers consistently offered the same feedback on my report card: “Will not sit still in class.”

“Do you need Ritalin?” people often asked.

“Slow down turbo!” my high school boyfriend would shout as I trudged ahead.

In adulthood I constantly picked, fidgeted and shook. I adjusted my furniture and my outfit in dissatisfaction. I scheduled my days with work, projects and events.

I desperately longed to quiet my mind and rest my body.

Yet somehow in my restlessness, I became stagnant—trapped by my discontentment. From never sitting quietly with introspection, I never offered myself release. Past pains and relationships that did not serve me stayed stuck in my tissue like roadblocks. The thought of change positively terrified me.

That is until two years ago when my unhappiness spiraled so recklessly I knew that I had to make a change.

So I ran away.

With a smile that overtook my face, I hopped a plane to Costa Rica leaving behind the belongings I obsessed over, the career that never made me happy and the relationship that in all of its unfulfilling glory, I could not let go of.

Happiness was inevitable in paradise, I thought.

Boy was I wrong.

In a remote town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, without the distraction of my routine, my friends and my work, I understood the adage “wherever you go, there you are.”

And let me tell you, it was hard.

With no transportation but my own feet, I walked for two hours to use the ATM in a town that does not accept plastic.I carried enormous jugs of purified water for miles to my modest jungle cabin. I ran through intermittent downpours. I sat in the dark without a television, the internet or a phone.

I had no idea what to do with myself.

So I started to listen and observe.

Where I once felt trapped I began to open myself to possibility. Choosing to stay in this uncomfortable place allowed me to appreciate what was already around me: my best friend, the ocean and the freedom to grow and change.

What more could I need?

I gave up on reliable internet. I waited patiently for two hours for a fruit salad. I accepted being wet and sandy most of the time. I stopped fighting the inevitability of my circumstances and instead, began to embrace them.

I learned the beautiful art of surrender because I had no other choice.

It made me happier than I had ever been.

Camille Willemain

Since then my feet have taken me to Portuguese castles overlooking the sea, to sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, below sea level in the green Caribbean ocean, along trails deep in the jungle with wild predators, to the tops of volcanoes in Nicaragua, to sleepy Colombian fishing villages, to deserted islands with no plumbing or electricity and many times, to my haven in the Costa Rican Caribbean.

What I have learned is invaluable.

Flights can be delayed for days. Restaurant service is hardly ever prompt. Islands lose electricity often. Street food nearly always makes me sick. People are imperfect and can hurt one another at times with apparent ease.

Living with these realities can be a constant struggle or an empowering practice in letting go.

I choose the latter.

While I still have an active body, a chatty mouth, and a swirling mind, I sit and stare in silence at the sunset while the waves drown my thoughts. I configure my limbs into uncomfortable positions and focus on my breath. I feel content allowing my body to rest in one place acknowledging that, even in stillness, it always has the freedom to move.

 

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Assistant Ed.: Stephanie Sefton / Ed.: Catherine Monkman

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