Not everyone is meant to be in your future. Some people are just passing through to teach you lessons in life.

–Anonymous

I came across this quote a couple of days ago, and it hit me straight to the bone. My ten weeks in South-East Asia have come to an end, and I’m writing this while enjoying an iced latte outside a lovely little coffee shop in Perth. I arrived on Sunday, but I don’t think I’ve landed just yet.

You meet a lot of people when traveling, we all know that. Everyone has a story, whether they think it’s worth telling or not. Some are ordinary, but others are far from average; extraordinary, even. Some you connect with, others you don’t, but they all teach you something, whether it’s about yourself, other people or the world. It’s a place of growth, traveling.

I am currently in the midst of Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day meditation challenge. When I was still working back home, me and my colleagues were lucky to get the chance to participate in a ten-week mindfulness course offered by our employer. We’d meet up once a week and be introduced to a new topic, do some exercises and get homework for the next class, homework such as filling in a gratitude diary or doing different kinds of meditation exercises. Albeit being challenging, I enjoyed the course a lot, and could really feel the benefits of it. Afterwards, when looking for ways to keep up with my practice, our coach, Mari, sent me the link to the above meditation challenge. It had just started and was free of charge, so I decided to give it a try.

The daily practice did not take more than 20 minutes, which was divided into 10 minutes of what one might call theory, and a ten-minute meditation. The meditation practice itself was based on repeating a mantra, which, quite frankly, felt silly to say the least. I was far from convinced of it being worthwhile. What does this even mean, and how can it possibly have an effect on anything? Not surprisingly, I ended up giving up halfway through the program and skipping the second challenge that I was notified of through email a few months later (having signed up for the challenge once, you’ll receive emails about upcoming ones).

Once the course had ended, I tried to maintain my practice, but as time went by, it seemed increasingly difficult to find those extra 10 minutes per day. I’d even downloaded the Headspace app, but only after I’d stopped receiving those post-free-10-day-trial emails offering me a three-month discount if I got the app. In other words, I paid full price of it, which added up to a total of 100 euros (yes, I know!!!), and guess what? It’s been more than six months and I’ve never even used it. Ever. Not once.

WHAT. A. WASTE. OF. MONEY.

How difficult can it be to get up 10-15 minutes earlier in the morning, and take a seat and do nothing but focus on your breath? It is the simplest thing, unbelievably easy. Nevertheless, as silly as it sounds, the mere thought of it was too much for me, stressful, almost, and I was thinking to myself: I don’t have the time for this.

I don’t have the time for this.

As you might’ve guessed, this time around it’s a whole different story. I’m currently at day 12 of the challenge, and it’s been so good. Ever since leaving the yoga retreat two weeks ago, I’ve felt an urge not only to do yoga but to meditate, too, daily, and it’s been frustrating to not be able to do so. I was looking for a studio in both Pangkor and Kuala Lumpur, but either there was none (Pangkor) or then they were located way too far away for it to be worth for me to go (KL). Consequently, I had a two week break from yoga up until yesterday when I finally made it to a class here in Perth, and it was so good. It’s like I really need it now. Despite the chaos in my head during those five days on Koh Yao Noi it did me good, and I got hooked.

How, then, does all of this relate to the meditation challenge? Well, the timing of it could not have been better. Not only had I just finished the retreat when it was about to start, but this time around it is themed Creating Peace from the Inside Out: the Power of Connection. In other words it is focused on relationships, a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Relationships to friends and family, both in Finland and abroad; relationships I’ve built up during my travels; and, most importantly, the relationship to myself. Spot on!

As someone who’s always been relatively (very) close to friends and family, I find it challenging at times to be here all by myself. Whatever I do, it’s all up to me. There’s no second opinion on anything, no suggestions on what to do or where to go next. You have no one to share your stories with, no one with whom to reminisce those crazy nights out. It’s you, and you alone: your head and your heart and your adventure of a lifetime, and as much as you’d like to share it with people back home, they’ll never get it, they’ll never understand, because they’re not here. They can never fully relate to it, and that makes it your heartbreak as well.

For one who’s used to sharing pretty much everything with others, that’s quite a challenging place to be.

A few days ago the meditation was centered around the two types of relationships we have in our lives: static and dynamic relationships. Static relationships were described as ”the more comfortable and predictable connections we have”, whereas dynamic relationships refer to ”deeper, more meaningful, and also more challenging” connections. The way I interpret these in an everyday life setting is that dynamic relationships are those I have with the people who are the closest to me, while static relationships are those I have with good friends.

Here, however, it’s a different story. In my experience, most relationships (they are relationships, right, although shorter and more intense?) are static. You meet someone nice, one person or a group of people, and hang out with them for a few days before it’s time for you to move on and say goodbye to them. Let’s call them Facebook friends (and that’s by no means a bad thing, don’t get me wrong): you get along very well, message each other on Facebook to share recommendations and stuff, and might just end up crossing paths again somewhere if you’re lucky, and if you are, it’s just like meeting up with an old friend, which is always fun.

Among these there are a few diamonds, however, a few that shine brighter than the others. Every now and then you meet someone you really click with, someone with whom you connect at a deeper level. You vibe, so to speak, and it’s awesome; just like you’d have known each other forever. These people are tough to leave behind, because even though you trust the fact that you’ll see them again someday, you have no idea when that’s going to be. Saying goodbye to them sucks, because you’d love to keep traveling with them, but you can’t. They’ve got their plans and you’ve got yours, which means that eventually you’ll split ways and move on to look for the next best friend, while they do the same. And a tiny little piece of your heart is left somewhere along the way.

But that’s life, that’s traveling; the beauty and the curse of it. So many hellos, so many what’s-your-name-and-where-are-you-from(-blablabla)’s, but equally many goodbyes, some tougher than the others. People come and go, and the only thing that remains is you and all those new experiences of yours that will mold you into a new you, a changed you, because change is the only constant in life. You’re constantly evolving, constantly growing. Changing, day by day.

On a positive note, you’ve made friends for a lifetime, which makes your world just a little more exciting as you have yet another couch to surf if you ever happen to be in (their) town, and what’s lovelier than that?

So, what do you do? You have no choice but to say goodbye and move on with your travels accompanied by that overwhelming feeling of gratitude for everything you’ve been through, everything you’ve experienced, because it’s all left a mark in you and made you who you are. The people you meet, the places you go, the mistakes you make – they make you you. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be the person you are today, so there’s no point in having any regrets, because if whatever it is that shouldn’t have happened hadn’t happened, you might just not be here today. Maybe you would, but most likely you wouldn’t.

As for me, I would for sure not be here today had I not gotten on that plane to Dallas in 2008.

That being said, I hope you are in a place where you want to be, not just where you feel you should be. At the end of the day, all we have is this one life and it’s here and now, so we might as well make it count, don’t you think? Let’s!

I’ll round this slightly confusing post off with a beautiful quote by R.M. Drake, who, my fellow quote lovers, is definitely worth following!

Every hour,
every minute,
every second
we are transforming
into other people.
So maybe the next time
we meet
I’ll be someone else.
I’ll be better,
I’ll be different.
Maybe next time
I’ll be a spark,
and I’ll burn
this fucking world
to the ground.

–R.M. Drake

Peace and love (and a head full of thoughts),
Anna