The commitment I make to my hobbies and interests is pretty lackadaisical, and I like it that way. To me, hobbies and interests shouldn’t involve commitment, goals, or any aspiration of achievement. I read a great piece recently by author Elizabeth Gilbert on the difference between a career, a job, a hobby, and a vocation. (Interestingly, what led me to read it was that I thought it said “vacation,” and was going to be about work/life balance. But it turned out to be even better, since it’s really about the things we do that make life meaningful.)
I love her perspective on hobbies. She says: “A hobby is something that you do for pleasure, relaxation, distraction, or mild curiosity. A hobby is something that you do in your spare time. Hobbies can come and go in life — you might try out a hobby for a while, and then move on to something new.” This is how I feel about hobbies, too – they’re transient. I enjoy them until I’ve explored them to the limits of my interest, and then I move on to something new. As does she, apparently – her hobbies went from gardening to karaoke and collage-making in just a couple of years.
In my mind there’s an ever-changing list of things I might do someday. Notice I said might, not will. Tomorrow’s list could be very different than today’s, and that’s the beauty of it – there’s no sense of obligation attached. One of the items that’s been on my ever-changing list is the idea of visiting all 50 states in my lifetime. So far I’ve hit 18 (counting Washington DC). Actually I’ve been to more, but if I didn’t have some kind of memorable experience there, I don’t count it – trips when I was a little kid that I can’t remember don’t make the list. It’s not about setting foot in 50 states; rather, it’s about making a memory in each. There are also a few international destinations I’d like to go if I can someday afford it. But for now, my travel budget is very, very domestic.
So now that I have that loosely knit interest to make a memory in each state, where will I go next? My heart says Maine, but my budget would prefer someplace within a few hours’ drive. And who will I go with? When I was married, I always traveled with my husband. Sometimes that was great, and other times it was fraught with tension – we had different interests and operated at different paces, so every trip was filled with compromise. Now that I’m divorced, I have more choices – I can travel with a companion or friend, or I can travel alone.
Have you ever traveled alone? I’ve done it several times, sometimes for work and a handful of times for pleasure. At first, solo travel is a little daunting – but it has its advantages, too. Solo travel means no compromises. There’s no need to synchronize schedules or interests, no need to rush through the art museum so you can go drink dark beer you don’t enjoy. No one else’s moods and preferences and attitudes to attend to – simply time to accommodate your own. Solo travel can mean taking a vacation by yourself, but it can also mean taking a vacation to yourself.
I’m beginning 2016 with a new awareness of the importance of taking care of myself – more rest, more nutrient-dense food, and more gut-checking. More Reiki, more acupuncture, more meditation. This is not a resolution – just an awareness. Like a hobby, there is no sense of accountability for achieving it, only an obligation to myself to invest in what’s good for my body, mind, and spirit. And right now, those 50 states are calling my name! I’m thinking about a personal retreat of sorts – a MEtreat. A few days in Brown County, Indiana, staying in a B&B, strolling through shops, having a manicure, napping, reading books, and checking out the handmade wares in the artisans’ community there, and checking off another state from my to-go list. Just a few days to look inward and renew.