The contrast was stunning when I returned from my last trip. The constant drone of radio, internet and activity was oddly jarring. I hadn’t realized that even a few days away from the usual rituals would create this new space. Such is often the case for the returning traveler.

I felt calm and centered. In part it was the rest, the sea, the company and diving but I think it was also the separation. There had been no separation anxiety when we launched for a few days sailing in the British Virgin Islands, only anticipation. When you’re following the wind you become very focused on the present. The rest falls away.

A month later the buzz is back but I wonder, what would it take to create that quiet and centered calm on a daily basis? There’s mental discipline – to remind oneself to shift away from the habits of radio, news and noise:  to choose to walk without the iPod; to stop my hand from pressing the radio button first thing in the morning; to get out of bed before checking email and the phone; to leave space in the day for wonder; to step outside when the sun is high, turn my face to the sky and let the sunlight bathe my closed eyes as I breathe in the great joy of being a returning traveler in this life.

The Returning Traveler has company

I spoke with a few who had ditched all the noise to live the expat life as dive masters, tour guides and resort operators. They found a different kind of noise to fill their days, but it didn’t overpower them. They missed distant friends and family but the trade offs were worth it.

There are seasons in life too that need to be acknowledged. For many of us there are family concerns with kids, elderly parents, mortgages and job demands but they shift with time. There are transition points and choices that could change everything, opening your life up to unexpected boons and connections if only we’d let them in. I’m watching for the signs and searching my dreams for signals.

Someday I’ll venture out and away not to return for a long, long while. Until then it’s a new meditation – to settle deep and listen for the nourishing silence several times each day before I launch into the next demand.

What do you do to remain calm in the midst of a crazy busy life?