This feels so familiar.
The first time I “ran away from home” was when I was in my mid-twenties. Struggling to make my way in the world and carve out an identity for myself, I gave very little thought to the move before I packed my things and took up residence in downtown Toronto.
I had one friend in a house of six others, all roughly my age. It took me two years to settle into a routine and I remember well, the sensation of loneliness and boredom while I wandered the city looking for work and purpose. I lived solely on credit for a long time, but I didn’t care because I was young and I was doing it on my terms.
At the two year mark I wasn’t working at anything fulfilling but, I had found yoga, and it was breathing new life into me.
In all, I stayed in Toronto for 8 years before moving to Montreal.
I followed a boy there, but that didn’t work out. Actually we had already split up but I moved anyway, because I committed to an apartment, and was ready to leave the big city.
Montreal welcomed me warmly. My yoga experience allowed me entrance into the city’s largest studios, and I soon gained a tiny following of students. I loved the slower pace of the city and would spend hours each week in cafes, writing in my journal between classes or thai massage clients. But I was lonely.
I co-facilitated my first yoga retreat that year in Costa Rica and absolutely fell in love with the country. I was desperately searching for meaning and connection in my life, but I seemed to keep missing the mark. Sometime after that trip, I made the bold decision to take six months off and travel for three months on either side of the next retreat.
I left on December 15th which was no accident. This time I was not only running away from home, but I was doing it intentionally and without excuse, which made me very unpopular with certain members of my family.
There is so much I could write about that time but it all really comes down to the solitude of travel in a foreign land. I am an introvert who delights in the vast spaces of social withdrawal. But this was extreme!
I did not feel safe to be out after dark, and dark came quickly. Unlike Canada’s long, picturesque sunsets where the sun lingers on the horizon for hours, a Costa Rican sunset is over in seconds. There are beaches all along the west coast of the country, where communities gather to witness the few minutes of dusk at the end of each day. By 6:05 the night sky would have me locked in my room.
There would be times I had travel companions or Spanish classes to keep me busy, but much of the time I was on my own.
Days would be filled with the details of running errands, mapping out my next destination, meals, laundry. It was so dull, I can barely recall passing the time. I did a lot of writing and self-examination. It was intense in all directions and I learned quickly that I could run away from home, but my inner turmoil would constantly be nipping at my heels.
Internet was a treat if it could be found, but everything was slow to load, and I felt farther away from home when I checked in with friends. Introspection had put more distance between us because I was supposed to be having the time of my life, not going deep into my cells to excavate the dark mysteries within. I longed for the distraction of technology.
I wasn’t doing yoga because, by it’s very nature, it is designed to illuminate the internal environment, which I was trying to avoid. I would go weeks at a time without moving mindfully, in fear of stirring the beast.
When I would settle in one place for an extended period, I could allow routine to prop me up. In one town, the monkeys would move through the canopy just once a week, and I could busy myself for hours watching them. I counted down to the day each week.
In an indigenous village, I assisted with washing the laundry in the river, smacking the fabric against the rocks to release both the water and dirt. The physicality of it was refreshing. I made friends with two porcupines in a wildlife sanctuary, where feeding them gave me purpose.
It was half a year of monotony and boredom, sprinkled with tiny revelations from my soul. I was forever changed by those six months. I learned that it didn’t take a lot of doing to fill a day; that the spaces in between were where the magic happened. I learned to taste my food and prepare it anticipation of flavour, rather than hunger. I placed greater value on being spaciously present with other human beings…
It was hard, but so far, it’s cured me of my need to run away.