Balance

Wow, we have spent six weeks in Morocco already! It has been quite interesting living and working at a hostel for that time. I have met so many fascinating people.

Every day, new travelers walk through the door and each one has a story and something to offer.

It’s actually a bit overwhelming sometimes – the large volume of new people to meet daily. And then it becomes sad, because they all move on after a few days or a week – even the ones you become friends with. Everyone is on their own journey and has their own plans, places to go, and people to see. It’s all a part of life if you are traveling, but it’s still tough to say goodbye to people I connected with.

img_7097Sitting in the middle of a small river during a hike

Some of the travelers we’ve met are on a quick vacation from school or work in Europe (it’s very cheap to get to Morocco from many places in Europe), but there are also quite a few who have passports full of stamps from all over the world, and who are traveling indefinitely.

I truly didn’t know that there was an entire community of people who structure their lives around the goal of continuing to travel, but I have met a lot of them here.

These folks go somewhere well-paid and work hard for a few months or a year, then travel the world until the money runs out. Rinse, repeat.

It sounds pretty nice, and I’m awed by the number of places that they have seen, but I’m not sure I could do it. I am realizing that for me, having meaningful work to do is an important part of feeling happy and like my life is worthwhile. I am missing that in my current life.

At the same time, it is amazing to have a break right now. Such an incredible opportunity (that most people never get in their lives) to unplug from daily life in the states and recharge.

For the past six weeks, life has been very simple.

Despite the stresses of living as a woman in this culture that is less than friendly to women, on balance this trip has been been restful and rejuvenating. I feel so, so lucky.

img_7252-1Hiking in the mountains outside of town

I wake up each morning to fresh air and a breathtaking scene of the sun starting to creep over the two mountains that sit just a few hundred feet from the hostel. Most mornings, I throw on my sneakers and head out for a bit of trail-running before breakfast. Then I work the morning shift at the hostel reception desk, a simple job of checking people in and out, giving directions, and similar tasks. When I finish work, I cook lunch or go out to eat at one of the delicious restaurants around. The rest of the day is filled with walking around the blue city, hiking in the mountains, reading, writing, cooking, or chatting with new friends – sometimes in another language, which is excellent practice.

img_7192-1The whole city isn’t actually blue. This is just a cool-looking door.

It truly feels like I am cheating — how could this possibly be an approved adult life?

But I am trying to let go of the guilt I’m tempted to feel and embrace it as a “sabbatical,” which few are lucky enough to have. Being here has illuminated for me just how unhealthy my past life had become by the time I left. I allowed work to completely take over my life – not only in the sense that I worked a lot of hours (which I did) – but also because I allowed it to take up all of my mental and emotional energy. Even in my free time, I was thinking about work, worrying about our clients, checking on whether things were running smoothly at the warehouse or with our volunteers…work was all I did most of the time. It made me very good at my job, but it wasn’t healthy.

Here, with that weight lifted, I have energy to try everything I wanted to do at home, but somehow always ended up doing the opposite: read and learn instead of binge-watching TV; cook healthy meals instead of existing on chips, salsa and hard-boiled eggs; write for my own enjoyment instead of answering emails from morning to night; go for runs and do yoga instead of sitting at my computer all day; learn a language; practice guitar, etc, etc. I have already read eight books, lost a few pounds, learned to cook some new dishes, and learned some Arabic, in the first six weeks.

I see now that I was (still am) so passionate about the work I was doing that I neglected to set any boundaries for myself; I let it absorb me completely and my identity became intertwined with my work. It has taken four months and a change of continents for me to make my way out of feeling lost without my job.

There is surely a balance out there somewhere – between being completely absorbed by work and being completely self-indulgent…right?

One of the challenges for my life is going to be trying to find this balance. Because I did love my job and the years I spent working there. And there is also value in the lifestyle I see in the traveling community – chasing personal happiness, new experiences and human connection. Can a person have it all? Does anyone out there have the answer to living a balanced life?

3 thoughts on “Balance

  1. Absolutely, Christina, it is possible to live in the balance, but I know it is difficult. I have battled that balance most of my life, and my husband Bob is the one who keeps me from going overboard, ties my hands down from volunteering too much, so to speak. Interesting how you have now come to assess your life at HOPE. I saw myself how much of yourself, time, and energy you put into your work for the homeless, and how dedicated you were. No surprise that it became too much. I know you will find a way to leave the world a better place, as I think you have said in your writings, while at the same time not letting your own well run dry. Bob says it’s a life-long process, partly because some things we can control and some things we can’t. Bob says to look for the spiritual dimension too.
    Cheering you on from Longmont and loving your writing, Paula H

    1. Thank you, Paula! Great advice from you and Bob. I definitely have no regrets about my time at HOPE…I loved every minute of it! It’s only upon reflection that I think I’ll do it a little differently with my next job:) thank you so much for following along and for your thoughtful comments!

  2. Ah balance–the holy grail of my life! I do believe it is possible to achieve, though elusive at times. For my generation of women one of the biggest obstacles was the “superwoman” myth. We fought for the right to work, but many of us also wanted to be involved, hand-on parents and still did the lion’s share of the domestic work. We wanted so much to do it all right that we overloaded ourselves to exhaustion. For me, working part time and being self employed, especially when you were young, was a good answer and for the most part allowed me to achieve that balance. Whatever you are trying to balance, being clear about your priorities and understanding that perfection is not attainable, is helpful.

    Your insights will serve you well. Distance helps clarity and gives us perspective. Your passion for your amazing work is part of you and a gift to the world. You touch so many lives and will continue to do so. I trust that you will learn to balance your intensity for your work with a healthy respect for your own needs and desires. You will be happier and better at your work

    Be happy and stay safe.

    Love
    Mom

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