Travel is change. When you travel your location changes, your routine changes, and often your original plan changes- a lot. In order for Tom and me to sell everything and downsize for a life of travel we had to learn to accept change as a natural part of our lives. Accepting change helps us to cope with the ups and downs of full time travel. In this way, embracing impermanence allows our life of travel.
How do you define impermanence?
As humans we naturally perceive our lives and environment as permanent- our homes, jobs, and relationships feel static. However, the reality is that nothing is forever, the most fundamental force in our lives is change. Our bodies change as we age, our finances change as we receive and spend money, our environment changes as the days, months, and years move forward. This inevitable, constant change is impermanence.
Why does embracing impermanence improve your quality of life?
So much of the stress and anxiety we experience in our modern lives stems from our resistance to impermanence. We fight impermanence by trying to control our environment, our partners, and even our body’s natural aging.
By embracing impermanence we can more easily and gracefully accept the difficulties that life throws our way. Even the most painful life experiences, like the death of a friend or family member, are easier to face when we can accept that profound changes are a natural part of life.
Once I began to embrace impermanence as reality (rather than seeing everything as “forever”) I found myself liberated to take more healthy risks and to live more fully. When nothing is permanent I feel free to trust my gut and blaze my own unique path forward.
How does embracing impermanence help you live more fully?
Embracing impermanence has made me more courageous, more emotionally even-keeled, and more mindful of the present. When opportunities present themselves I take them, because they may disappear if I don’t seize the moment.
Embracing impermanence also reminds me that I have much less control over my life than I think I do. What I CAN control is the moment I am presently living. The past is gone, the future is unknown, but this moment is tangible, real, and under my control. I’ve found that seeing my life in these terms motivates me to make the most of the present, rather than waiting for things to manifest in the future.
Since embracing impermanence Tom and I have traveled over 15,000 miles throughout North America. We have made ourselves open to trying new things- like teaching at an outdoor school, swimming with stingrays, and learning to standup paddle board. We say yes as much as possible because we know that these experiences may not present themselves again. We often joke that we live like kings, but what we really mean is that we are living fully.
How can you start to embrace the impermanence of life?
The first step to embracing impermanence in your own life is to become more conscious of the present. Pay attention to your surroundings at this moment, right now. Pay attention to your mind and body. What do you see, feel, hear? Try to do this exercise as often as possible! You will start to notice the constant shift occurring in your environment, in your mind, and in your body. When you pay attention to the present, impermanence is easier to see.
If, over time, you find yourself frequently unhappy with the present moment than you know that you need to make a change. The added benefit of this exercise is that making big changes will feel easier. Big change takes courage, and embracing impermanence can help you find your own inner bravery.