I met a guy at a sober yet beautifully random gathering in Byron Bay. Let’s call him Paul (he was a bit freaked out that he might feature on my blog, so let’s cloud him in a pseudonym and all will be well). I asked Paul where he was from. ‘I’m from….,’ and then he stopped. ‘You know, it doesn’t really matter’, he said, ‘I’m here. I’m interested in the now, not the past. It’s so long ago. Who cares?’
I looked at Paul. With his long, curly hair and tight, bright blue leggings, he cut an intriguing figure. He had a rock musician’s face, one that placed him anywhere between twenty and thirty. He was fascinating and elusive with an air of experience, and now here he was, waxing lyrical about being in the now.
Strangely enough, a few days earlier I had finished a book – To Kill a Mockingbird (I’m keen to finally catch up on some cults and classics) – and my friend gave me two follow up options: Einstein for Beginners or The Power of Now. Neither offered fictional escapism or elegant discourse, but maybe, as when Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist made an appearance a few months back, these options turned up at precisely the right time in my journey. I started on the Power of Now.
When you’re travelling, you could argue that you have nothing but the now: new friends, new experiences, new places, often on a daily basis. Life is full and varied; last week feels like an eon ago. It’s easy to forget ‘back home’, easy to lose contact with people who matter, not because you don’t care but because you are living in the here and now, drinking up these new experiences.
But I had stopped for a little while, stepped off of the backpacker trail, taken a month out of travelling, so to speak. I was staying a five minute walk away from a stunning stretch of beach. I was meeting some lovely people, and finding time to write and relax and look for work. I was attempting something similar to normal life again, but then my mind started to play tricks on me.
Wouldn’t my friends in England be hanging out together at cosy open-mic nights around the licking flames of a pub fire? Ah, wouldn’t it be nice to do that again. I missed them. Didn’t I meet some fantastic people in South America? What are they doing now? I missed some of them too. Maybe I could meet up with them again? I thought about the point of my own journey. What shall I do next? I wanted to plan something, to get excited about the next step, because stopping felt strange. I would look over photos from my sister’s wedding, from my travels, of times with my ex, and I would think: yeah, they were some good times. Past, future, past, future.
And then it was time to re-enter the now. Paul and Eckhart Tolle showed me the way. I had tickets lined up for my next travels, so let that be. I had people to potentially meet up with in the next few months, so let that be too. Unlike Paul, I do care about my past. People and experiences have helped me to grow and become who I am today. Similarly, I do care about the future. To me, the future is about hope and potential. But now it was time to shift focus. Time to enjoy my surroundings and the hot, sticky Australian heat with the sweet relief of regular heavy rainfall. Time to smile and talk and laugh and dance with strangers who may or may not become friends. Time to run on the beach and surf in warm waters and ride a bike with the wind in my hair. Time to just be. The time is now.