The past year (and then some) has left most people responsibly stuck at home, abiding by travel restrictions and doing their part not to spread the virus.

This has come with many challenges in the mental health realm that have made us realize just how important travel is for our wellbeing. It’s also come with a fair share of benefits, teaching us to become a little more comfortable with our me-time, find creative ways to stay busy, or have to dig deeper to stay positive. 

I have to confess, I’ve been one of the irresponsible ones. I left my home in Canada to live in Cape Town for the last six months. 

I’ve shared my reasons here on World Footprints before, but as a digital nomad, travel writer, and owner of a travel business, living abroad during this time was the best decision for me for every reason except for the part where I miss my family so much it hurts. But my business, mindset, and relationships have grown immensely from it, and that proves to me that basing myself in Cape Town was the right move for me.

But even living in my happy place, my spirit city, Cape Town, I still found myself hitting a wall sometimes. This hasn’t happened there in my three previous visits, but none of these had been longer than three months. This time around, I caught myself slipping into a few ruts where I felt an immediate pull to leave the city, escape the bubble I was living in, get a fresh perspective. There is a lot going on in my personal and professional life and sometimes it feels like a pressure cooker, even being in my favourite place.

So I would get out of town for a couple of days, rent myself an Airbnb by the sea, have some me-time. I’d walk on the beach, look out at the waves, go out for a glass of wine by myself, do yoga, FaceTime my mom and niece and nephew back home, do yoga, let myself binge watch some guilty pleasure TV. I’d go away for two nights and it would work like clockwork — I’d return back to Cape Town and dive back into my work and relationships and day-to-day routine, but with a new sense of clarity and positivity, feeling in the flow.

It’s natural to feel we have too many obligations — to work, to family, to social commitments, to our bank accounts — to get out of town. But getting out of your routine to gain a fresh perspective is fuel for the soul, it’s nothing to feel guilty about, and it absolutely should be made a priority. 

When we lose ourselves in things like work, habits, responsibilities, or other causes, we deprive our minds of fresh inspiration, ideas, and attitudes.

We see this if we work at an office job and sit at our desk for eight hours rather than stepping out for lunch and other small breaks.

Re-aligning the mind, body, and soul with yoga
Re-aligning the mind, body, and soul with yoga. Photo: Kellie Paxian

We see this if we sit staring at our phones and toggling through social media apps from the couch all Saturday. Have you ever deleted Instagram for a weekend? It’s exhilarating (take or leave the dramatic effect).

This might be an unusual parallel to draw, but hear me out. The same goes for advocating for human rights. This past year I, like many other people, got very invested in the Black Lives Matter movement. I felt like I was just opening up my eyes to the layers of systemic racism and my role in it as a privileged white person. I felt I needed to channel all my energy into advocating against racism, by using my voice, having conversations with friends and family, attending protests, and educating myself. I felt I had an obligation to — the onus shouldn’t lie on marginalized groups to stand up for their own rights, they didn’t ask for this.

But the emotional burn-out is real, and we must not allow ourselves to get so drained that we can no longer deliver value clearly and effectively. We can’t keep driving forward on an empty fuel tank. This is why it’s so important to give ourselves a break so that we can come back refreshed and as the best versions of ourselves.

Break - Soaking in the rainbow luck
Soaking in the rainbow luck. Photo: Kellie Paxian

Let’s take this back to any fight, challenge, or slump we’re facing.

Stepping out of our routines, away from our day-to-day problems, and out of our comfort zones opens up the door for a reset. It allows for new stimulations, new experiences, and new sources of inspiration to flow in. Switching up our environment is a great way to get out of a rut and re-focus on what’s important in life. This is why we travel, isn’t it?

Now, allow me to just back my privileged self up a little bit to acknowledge that we don’t all have the luxury to pop out of town for a few days. And of course, we especially don’t all have the privilege and flexibility to be able to live and work in Cape Town.

However, I do believe it is more possible than ever to live in a place that feeds your soul, just like Cape Town does for me. I live on a very tight budget here, probably about 1/4 of the monthly living costs I had in Vancouver, and I have put in a lot of effort and sacrifice to make this happen. COVID-19 has taught us that it is more feasible than ever to work online, and there are plenty of employers who might be a little more lenient to grant extended remote work opportunities for their employees to have a more flexible working environment. A few weeks, a few months, or however long you can get away with, will still deliver profound benefits.

There are plenty of ways to achieve this reset of the mind. Get out of town and camping for a night. Take a day off of social media. Take that lunch break. Meditate. Or, if possible, travel — always travel. The refresh in perspective is always worth it.

Travel -Shadow of Lion's Head in the clouds
Shadow of Lion’s Head in the clouds. Photo: Kellie Paxian