This is the final guest post for slow travel week. I think you’ll appreciate Ash’s thoughts.
I had walked past the book several times in the bookstore, eyeing its red cover up and down, but ultimately couldn’t convince my minimalist-inclined heart to add yet another book to my already full bookshelf. The book I am talking about is This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick. It had been on my mind for weeks before I finally decided I couldn’t go any longer without reading it, so I renewed my library card and checked out the first book I had taken out of the library in years.
I read it within a week, and to my surprise, the lessons I took away from Melody’s “Love Where You Live” experiments can be applied to so much more than just where you live; they could be applied to my relationships, my home, my city, my workplace and heck, even my province!
They can all reap the rewards from the one simple lesson Melody reminded me of:
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.
When I came across it, I had what I like to call a ‘light bulb’ moment. Often times when I’m not overly happy with something, I disengage, I put up walls, I pull away (who’s with me?!). But what if me pulling away is what was causing my dislike in the first place? What if my lack of engagement and investment with and in my city/home/partner/friend/workplace is what was causing me to dislike it?
The key to liking something more, according to Warnick, is to become more invested, to dig deeper and to grow more substantial roots. During and after reading the book, I have begun to become more invested in my city, my home, my workplace, my relationship and even my province, and I am surprised by how much more enjoyment I get from each one of them.
I started with small baby steps, as I knew I couldn’t change my entire world in one day (or even one month). I also knew that if I took things slow, and made little changes along the way, I’d have better success in the long run. One of those baby steps came in the form of shopping at my local farmers market instead of the big box grocery store I usually go to. Sometimes shopping at the market can be difficult because it is only open on Saturdays and is usually very crowded and noisy. Trying to squeeze in between people to grab a head of lettuce, or having the lady working at the stall ask you what you want to buy while you stare at her blankly because you can’t think over the noise is commonplace for me when I go there.
But there is something different about the market. The atmosphere and aura of the place is so much more authentic than that of the grocery stores I usually visit. There are people laughing and talking. There are musicians busking and playing their hearts out. There is the smell of breakfast cooking at the various food stalls. There is dirt under the vendors nails and a sparkle in their eye, as they grab you a few of their locally grown tomatoes and tell you how they are grown and when they were harvested. I quickly realized that this little market was a staple of our small city, offering us something no grocery store can: a sense of identity and a sense of community.
I didn’t stop there. Other baby steps included visiting the public library for the first time in years, purchasing simple things like greeting cards from a local vendor (they also happen to be locally made from recycled paper), making a list of events in my city that I wanted to be a part of, and making my city a better place through volunteering, picking up litter, and submitting some of my ‘shower thoughts’ to city council (the worst they can say is ‘no thank you’!).
Once I realized the impact ‘digging deep’ was having on my feelings towards my city, I wanted to invest more in other areas of my life too and see what would happen. Something I have always struggled with is having to do chores around my house. I mean, who enjoys having to clean the toilets and pull weeds from the lawn? Not me! But again, letting my small baby steps lead the way, I decided to get knee deep in chores when they need to be done instead of avoiding them. As time has gone on I have felt a shift in my perspective: instead of viewing chores as another nagging item on my to-do-list, I have started to view them as another way to make my house a home, to invest a little more love into the place that keeps me safe.
Feeling more engaged with my city and my home led me to look a little further afield and I wondered if I could feel more connected to my province? Was that even possible? I have lived in Ontario for over a decade now, but never really felt a sense of connection to the place I called home. There was only one way to find out, and that meant putting my discomforts and anxiety aside, and putting myself out there—literally.
With my baby steps in mind, I suggested some day trips to my husband Ryan, which he was very quick to jump on board with. The day trips were a lot of fun and soon turned into overnight trips that took us a little further from home. In the past year, we have been on more adventures than we have in our entire 9-year relationship without having set foot over the province line and we have made some of my best memories to date.
One moment in particular that still stands out to me was when my husband and I were driving down a country road and we had music playing on the radio. Sam Smith came on and I hadn’t really paid too much attention to which song it was until I heard him sing, “Why are you looking down all the wrong roads?” It just seemed like a very poignant moment with all the changes I had made since reading Melody’s book.
Melody has reminded me that you have to give to get. And the more I give to these aspects of my life, the more I seem to be rewarded by them. That being said, the experience of digging deep and becoming more engaged hasn’t been perfect or rosy. There have been times when it was difficult, or I wanted to give up. Times when I just felt too tired to dig deep, and the guilt that followed when I realized I could have given more. But as with every journey, it starts with a single step—in this case a single baby step—and as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually end up where you are meant to be.
Ultimately, this journey of self-growth and digging deep, while simultaneously pushing my own boundaries, has led me to feel for the first time in a very, very long time that this is where I belong: right here, right now, in this moment.
Ash is a nature and animal lover who enjoys writing and drawing. You can find her writing about minimalism and self-growth over at her blog Merriment & Mirth.