Whenever we go away on holiday, we take time to notice the locals and their lifestyles. Sitting sipping coffee in the morning we watched many locals drive to work across the blue bay in front of our Barbados hotel. It looked like such a relaxing way to commute to work, and compared with the congested drive in near darkness which I returned home to, it seemed like heaven. The soft morning sun warmed their bodies and the fresh sea air swept through their hair as they steered their way through the waves and around the reefs of this beautiful ocean.
Some were so relaxed they even had on board coffee to sip, waking up into the day, surrounded by nature and all her beauty. It got me thinking about the lifestyles we chose in order to live the lives we dream of. Many of us move out of crowded cities looking for a more relaxed life closer to nature and open green spaces filled with fresh clean air. Yet a frequent irony is that in order to work and live in these greener places, there is often a daily commute. Commuting has been shown to decrease all sorts of well being measures, and the longer the commute the less well we feel about ourselves and our lives. Commuting has also been shown to increase stress levels and all the negative health effects that brings. The longer the commute the more negative the impact on our well being. However looking at these guys commuting across the water each morning I felt that rather than reducing happiness, this sort of commuting might actually be life enhancing.
Sitting just below our window was a little speed boat which would take us wherever we wanted, and so one morning we left early and joined the island commuters, heading across the blue water, out towards the deep blue sea hoping to see some of the famous flying fish. The skipper helped us aboard, and as we moved away from the sand fringed coast he spread his arms in a wide sweep and said “welcome to my office”. He talked about the life he had given up back in Britain where he had studied and worked for several years, and about the relaxed way he was now living. Working outside, surrounded by natures beauty each day, governed by the weather and the tides, he felt utterly content. It was a great example of a life enhancing lifestyle choice. He had looked at his world and at himself and had understood what made him happy, what left him feeling fulfilled at the end of each day. Then he had acted to bring his life into line with his real needs.
Speeding over the sparkling waves with the sun warming my skin, I mulled over some of the changes I had made to my working life. Recently I had been questioning my choice to work only three days, wondering if I was just being lazy. It was as though the norms and expectations of society had slipped unnoticed back into my thinking. Here on the blue sea I came to know again that my own wisdom had been right. Getting the balance between life and work right is hard, commuting only to the point where it doesn’t impact negatively on well being is a challenge, but I knew that they were struggles worth making. This happy Barbados commuter had helped me come back to my own wisdom……
Learning to make the time to be mindful of ourselves can feel difficult, but it will be the best spent moments of your day, helping you steer your life from your own heart.