Two plane rides. A bus. 3 nights in a hotel. 4 Nasi Goreng (rice with veg) 3 thali (Indian curries with rice). 2 pineapples. Another bus. Another plane ride. A short trip in a car. 1 night in a hotel. A breakfast buffet where I stuffed myself with as much melon and coffee as I could. 3 client calls. 47 emails. A long car ride. A small dog vomiting in the back of the car. And I arrived at my current destination.
Within moments I was devastated. This was not, absolutely not in any circumstances, what I wanted.
Weeks ago, when Julien and I first decided to leave New Zealand 3 months early, we made a compromise. That Julien would arrange for us to spend time at, and work for, various volunteering projects along the way, which would be good for his career and his interest in conservation. I wholeheartedly agreed. Travel is so much more fulfilling and meaningful, when you can channel what you are experiencing and learning into something valuable. I get to do it, every day, with the work that I do.
So he went ahead, and arranged for the first volunteer position. An orangutan conservation centre on the Malaysian side of the 3rd biggest island in the world: Borneo. They needed someone to baby-sit a beach resort they are building, a project designed to support the conservation centre, while the main caretaker is on holidays. It sounded idyllic and ideal.
Arriving, I was miserable to discover what we had stepped into.
The building, floors and rooms we sleep in were covered in concrete dust. The beds are springy, old steel frames covered in sheets that have holes in them. I found a flea in one of them. The bathroom and kitchen were overflowing with filthy water. The beach was covered in plastic rubbish. There was dust and dirt and sand everywhere. Building and construction trash sits in almost every room, and around every single edge of the unfinished concrete buildings.
There was no love. There was no beauty. There was no cleanliness. The place was a mess. It felt like a refugee war camp.
I hated it.
I came out onto the beach. Julien was swimming in the water. “I love it here!” he says. I look at him stunned. “Really?!!!”
I explain to him that this is a far cry from the reality I am intentionally creating for myself. I honour myself by holding certain boundaries and standards in place. A few years ago, I learned what it takes for me to feel good, to care for myself and give the best of myself to the world. When I don’t uphold what feels good to me, my energy levels feel depleted, I cannot show up fully, my creativity wanes, and I get frustrated, annoyed and resentful more easily.
As an act of self-love I choose to spend time in places that resonate beauty, spaces that are filled with love, projects that are fuelled with grace and abundance. It’s better for me, and for those around me. This place screams lack, limitation and leaves a bitter after-taste of forlornness. It is in no way aligned with the direction I am moving in, in my life.
This current life experience is a reflection of several factors.
- A partner who doesn’t uphold the same standards that I do. Not all people are as sensitive as I am, to their environment. Not everyone is doing the same kind of deep soul-work that requires a safe, beautiful container to flourish in. Not everyone has learned the powerful impact that choosing to live life at your highest level has. I know and understand this. He attracts experiences that are at a different level of vibration than I do. I’ve seen this happen in the past, and I am aware of it.
- The residue of my boundless enthusiasm to embrace all experiences. I hold such strong boundaries in my life now, in response to not having had any at all in the past. I spent most of my twenties exploring the darkest depths of life. I cared not for taking care of myself. I cared only for adventure. And adventure I got. But it came at a cost. A cost that I now appreciate as life lessons, and have transformed into the magic of upholding boundaries. I see now, however, that there are still some energy leaks in my precious container. I still have things to learn around upholding my values and boundaries. I am grateful for the reminder.
This is where ‘going with the flow’ and ‘intentionally creating your life’ find a way to live side by side.
Intentionally creating your life is about the vision you hold for yourself now, and into the future. It’s the dreams, the values, the desires, the beliefs and the intentions you have. These elements create the roadmap for how you want life to feel and look like. They invite your manifestations and determine the direction you will move.
Flow is the natural movement that your life takes in response to your beliefs, choices, visions, dreams and circumstances. Some may call it karma. Others might call it life lessons. Most of our current experiences are a response to intentions and manifestations that were set, often subconsciously, in the past. Our current life is an indicator of what we once believed was true and possible for ourselves. It is the best compass for showing us, where we need to grow, expand, heal and make new choices.
In every moment, you are intentionally creating your life, with your thoughts and focus, and living the flow-on effect of that. The flow then gives us indicators on how we want to adjust our sails to experience the level of life that we desire for ourselves.
I believe everything in life is exactly as it is supposed to be. And that sometimes, when life gives you a circumstance that doesn’t align with your vision, the best thing you can do is surrender and open up to the lesson.
Returning to the beach that day, with Julien in the water, he asked me if I was going to be miserable. He noted my disappointment and feared that I would resent him for the choices that led us to where we are now.
“I’m going to do what I always do.” I replied. “I am going to make it the best experience that I can.”
We swept the concrete building that we are living in. Twice. I mopped the floors of our rooms. Three times. We places buckets of water at entry ways to wash away the sand. We cleaned the kitchen and dried out the floors. Julien built me a bamboo cabana to sit on, in the sand. I created a little office space with a space mat and a chair as a desk in an empty room.
I get up to watch the sunrise every day, and enjoy the simple stillness. I collect fresh, ripe fallen mangoes from the surrounding trees for breakfast every morning. I swim in the warm, salty blue ocean. I work, as much as I can. And I surrender.
This experience wasn’t what I wanted. It is not aligned with my vision and the life I am intentionally creating for myself. If I was on my own, I wouldn’t have chosen it.
But I am being given many gifts here.
The opportunity to share my vision, beliefs and boundaries with the one I love, at a deeper level. This conflict in interest became an invitation to open up a deeper conversation around self-worth, values and boundaries.
Tremendous space and time to simply be in stillness. Nothing inspires my creative mind more than complete and utter acceptance and stillness. And while it’s still at its tender intangible stages, this space that I find myself in, has become fuel for creating something bigger in life and work. It’s exciting.
And a reminder to let go, and focus on the little things. Appreciating the little things, is all that really matters.
Every experience holds a precious lesson in it. When you find it, you discover that you are always exactly where you are meant to be.