If I had unlimited funding and if life didn’t require my regular presence in one place, I’d travel on vacation at least once a month. Maybe go away for a few months each year, and definitely take sabbaticals at least every 5 years. Aside from the beauty of travelling itself and the thrill of new places and experiences, coming home from a trip feels like a new beginning, an opportunity to move ahead with regular life as a slightly different person than I was before.
Sometimes this renewal is small, like the addition of a new dish from my adventure to my regular cooking repertoire (Dominican mangú is one of my favourites). Sometimes it’s big, like the decision to make a major lifestyle change.
But given that most of us can’t travel on a very regular basis, can we still find that sense of renewal in our lives when we need it? I think there are ways to do it inwardly, without having to physically leave, though I hadn’t really considered it until I felt it recently.
It happened quite by accident. In looking for a new Netflix series, we started watching Outlander. And oh man, I got totally sucked into the story of a time travelling nurse who finds herself in the Scottish highlands in the mid-1700s. I couldn’t wait for the show to tell the story, so I started reading the book series by Diana Gabaldon on which the show is based. To date, there are 8 books. And they’re really long. I read all 8 in the last few months. Every spare moment I could grab in the day, devouring.
And when I finished, it really felt like I had come back from a long vacation. I even had a bit of what felt like jet lag (probably from late nights of reading). But then I got that particular sense of renewal and a desire to refocus. This also coincided with the end of a time-consuming freelance contract, allowing me space to find greater balance. With those combination of factors–a “return” and a freeing up of some time–I feel ready to move forward. To start again, recommit, refocus, get organized.
I’m not sure exactly why it works this way. Part of it for me as a writer is consuming work I admire, and feeling inspired to create something myself. But I know there’s also an element of taking a break from my “normal” life, just like we do on vacation, and coming back with new eyes that allow me to assess things differently. And I suppose when the book is so absorbing, that feeling of submersion is sufficient enough to create a new viewpoint even though I’m still going about daily life at the time of reading. While my daily life seems to go on autopilot, my inner world is so full of lives and events outside of myself in such a way that when I “return,” I feel different.
(or maybe this is just me and I’m a little crazy…?)
Anyhow, I appreciate this effect. I’m not sure how possible it would be to orchestrate it. It’s hard to know before reading if a book will suck you in so completely. And this time around, there were definitely multiple elements that converged to give me this sense of renewal (and I’m sure it helped that the series offered somewhere around 6,500 pages in which to lose myself). But perhaps being aware of it will help me in the future to seize these moments and use them to their maximum advantage.
Do you do this? Have you ever had a book, or books, give you this feeling? Or are you able to find it in other ways?