Returning home from a break is often a challenge. If it is, then that is because we are returning to ‘the person we are in ordinary life and withdrawing from the person we essentially are’.
However, it does not have to be like that. Both the process of preparing to travel and the journey itself can have a remarkable impact on our lives when we return home.
In the first place, if we have done our preparation well, we should come back to a clear desk. This is important, especially if our journey has been more in the nature of a retreat or transformation rather than a straightforward holiday. It means, when we get back, we should have time to actually consider and act on what we have done. There should be time to write up notes, prepare plans for change, reinforce new connections and generally consolidate what we have just learnt. Even if it was a straightforward jolly one still has space for reflection and consolidation.
Secondly, there is a period of time, before routines kick in, where we remain our essential self rather than our ordinary self. We are energised, self-aware, unconstrained and free from the shackles of the routines, procedures, conventions that will quickly ensnare us again, like a fly in a spider’s web. However, we are back in our own environment and so in a good position to make the changes we considered before we set out on our journey. This is especially so if we have cleared the decks before departure.
A Damascene moment
It is during this short period of time when we have the power and freedom to consolidate, even if only in part, being our essential rather than our ordinary selves. This happened to me a few years ago, and even now I recall the shock and awe of discovering I had the power to transform and could use it to start to live the true me.
It happened when we were ski-ing in Italy one New Year (I do other things beside ski-ing by the way). New Year’s Day was our last day and the snow was good. In spite of a very lively and late New Year’s Eve party I was determined to make the most of this final day on the slopes. I was up and out in good time on New Year’s Day although my friends and most of the rest of the town were less enthusiastic that morning. As a result I was the only person on the long lift up the mountain, a beautiful journey in bright sunlight through a landscape of snow and trees and mountains and a peaceful and quiet journey which must have enabled me to open my heart to my essential self and realise in few seconds that my life and my job were totally ordinary, unworthy of me and that I was doing myself no favours.
That brief period of quiet in a very special place crystallised a range of thoughts that had probably been going through my head for some time and became my Damascene moment.
Seize the day
I returned to London and immediately handed in my notice to my employer. I put my flat on the market and found a room to rent. I spent some time working out what to do and although I did not know it at the time, this was my first step on a long and difficult journey towards my current entrepreneurial lifestyle.
When I look back on this episode I see how much my revelatory moment on the slopes – and the discovery I had the power to become essential rather than ordinary – actually transformed my life. It led me to set up my own financial planning business and apply a radical and unique approach to the profession. It led to me meeting my wife – she was my ‘landlady’ and we married less than a year after we met. Both these led to a relocation away from London (which, in truth, was never my city) back to my native Yorkshire and the birth of our son. And probably most importantly, it started the process of getting me out of the rut I was in and transformed my life in ways I would never have dreamed of.
This is the last part of a four part post considering the importance of travel in our plans. I have consistently argued that the main purpose of financial life planning is not to become financially wealthy. Rather it is to become wealthy in mind, body and spirit (which some would call happiness). Travel, as I argue in subsequent posts and elsewhere (particularly in Chapter 8 of Right Money, Right Place, Right Time), is fundamental to personal growth. And so when we come to the ‘Utilisation of Resources’ phase of the financial life planning process it is important to find the resources, both time and money, to make this happen. If we plan our lives then we can finance the journeys that will transform us from our ordinary selves to our essential selves.
Its not the money that’s important; its what we do with it that really matters.