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The Cotswolds: A lesson in growing

When narrowing down places to visit in England, I was told to make sure I saw the "proper British countryside." And then I read that that meant a cottage in the Cotswolds. Before you ask, no, I did not switch places with a convivial Brit and fall in love with her good-looking brother à la everyone's favorite Christmas masterpiece. I did, however, rent the beautiful cottage, visit the local co-op for enough groceries to last me three days, and sleep until 10:00 each morning (a far cry from my usual 6:30 am reveille).

If you could do me a favor and pretend that the cottage pictured above was the one I rented, that’d be great. If it helps, they are all generally built in the same style. Alas, I did not get any photos of the one I stayed in since I was too busy curled up with a blanket and The Crown except for one afternoon when I walked to the Batsford Arboretum. I was perusing the cottage guestbook and noticed it mentioned in a lot of the entries. When the rain cleared, I mapped a four-mile route, and headed out with my camera. There was only the one path on the side of the road, the occasional passing car, and a lot of open skies, green pastures, and gold and orange trees.

That was my one day out. The remaining days slipped quickly away in a haze of equal parts glorious inactivity and regretful idleness. Overall, the country weekend I had planned, while wonderful, didn't play out exactly as I hoped. I had the gorgeous digs, I made the tea, I Skyped the friends, I took the photos, but I had a whole list of things I wanted to do and didn't. It's a problem I grappled with even before I left: too often adopting a passive role by allowing myself to operate on autopilot. Even though logically I knew it wouldn't happen, I always hoped anyway that when I uprooted my life and took to the road, this problem would sort out itself. Go on, roll your eyes. Obviously, it doesn't work like that. It's a cliché for a reason: you can't run from your matter how expensive the plane ticket.

This is what reflecting on something as simple as a weekend away has done for me. Looking back on it has a different power than does extrapolating on it in the moment. When we get comfortable in our daily routine, it's easy to push the pause button on learning about ourselves because what is there to learn from a pattern that never changes? This is why they say you never truly know someone until you've traveled with them. And sometimes the "someone" is yourself. New situations challenge our norm; they shake the snow globe and force us to look at ourselves from a different angle once the glitter settles. Nomadism is like someone playing catch with that snow globe every day. That said, we mustn't forget even daily upheaval can become normal, and it's back to routine we go.

For me, routine becomes dangerous when it manifests itself in a lack of mindfulness and overabundance of carelessness in the way I spend my time. The bath, face mask, reading, starting a fire, reading by that fire, catching up on blog posts, editing photos, and journaling that I wanted to do on this trip simply did not happen because I let myself switch into autopilot, and my time in Moreton-in-Marsh slipped through my fingers.

When I look at where I want to be and how to get there, working on holding myself accountable, even to do the things I want to do, is pretty high on the list. But it’s a process – an important one, albeit slow and sometimes grueling. It’s what I meant when I said this lifestyle has been better and worse than I expected. How frustrating it can be to be reminded of when clichés become truth. How fortunate I am to realize an opportunity for growth.

Whatever I didn't do in the Cotswolds, I did go for a walk and stop for as long as I needed until the road cleared of cars and I could get the shot. I did set my camera on self-timer and attempt a few photos of me "frolicking" that will never see the light of day. I did cook relaxed breakfasts and perfect a cup of tea. I did explore the arboretum without music or podcasts, but with my own thoughts and epiphanies that I soon forgot thereafter. I did return home tired and hungry and a little pink around the ears from the crisp fall wind. I can acknowledge what I did do and simultaneously feel a sliver of longing for having done a bit more. That’s today’s lesson in adulting.

One thing's for sure, when I win the lottery, I'm definitely buying a fall home in the Cotswolds.

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