Your Tool Kit for Life’s Journey A Compassionate Kit Bag is a place to put reminders for your compassionate self, so you can use your resources to nourish you along life’s journey.
You can use any bag or box or other container. If you are feeling challenged by your journey, you have these self-nurturing items with you help you connect to your strength. Collect together items that are meaningful, or those you know will be helpful.
You might find these items inspiring, empowering, calming, soothing, motivating, bringing confidence, strength, calm composure and wisdom. Some items you might choose may have some sadness attached by their association with an event or person. You will need to decide if it is right to include this item.
If you physically cannot put the item in the bag or box, then perhaps use a reminder of the item, for example, a picture of an iPod, mp3 player.
You may have some items that you immediately know would fit in this compassionate kit bag. As a traveller you don’t want big items, choose a few important items that make you feel good about yourself perhaps they bring up a positive memory, or represent something that is important, inspiring, motivating or gives you a boost in some way.
A talking book, self help or calming mp3
Smells – oils, favourite perfume or a sachet of coffee
Reminder of compassionate image (self or other)
Book, poem, quotes
Letter or cards from family or friends
Objects with meaning
Hobby e.g. drawing, photography
Reminders of your strengths
Grounding or soothing objects – soft woolly socks or blanket, hand or foot lotion, massage oil, warm bubble bath, nail varnish, make-up, bracelet
Fruity snack or treat
Keep your compassionate kit bag nearby, maybe next to your bed to remind yourself every day how strong and loved you are. It will help you ground yourself and connect with your inner strength. You will bounce back up and feel empowered.
Travel can be challenging. It doesn’t always go to plan. You’re in an ever-changing environment with new people all the time. It can be an onslaught to the senses, a culture-shock at times, which pushes you out of your comfort zone. Don’t be ******* yourself if one morning, one afternoon or one evening you feel a bit deflated or overwhelmed by it all. It’s perfectly normal.
It’s normal, but it isn’t something you want to indulge in. Notice how you feel. Have a think about it, why is this happening? What has knocked you out of your stride? A quiet moment journaling can help you get to the bottom of the issue, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. This clarity may be all you need to move through it. Think about it in this way – open the front door, let the feeling in, understand it accept it and then open the back door and let it out. No inviting it in for a cup of tea, to sit down and make itself at home. You don’t want or need that negativity in your life.
First things first. Why is it happening? Why are you feeling down? Is there any physical reason?
Have you drunk enough water? Are you dehydrated?
Have you eaten? Has your blood-sugar crashed?
Did you get enough sleep? Are you tired and grumpy?
Are you too hot or too cold?
Malsow’s Hierarchy of needs makes its clear that we need to take care of the basics first.
Think about the questions above and write the answers below. This is just checking-in with yourself. It’s basic self-care. You need to be kind, like you would to a small child and see if there’s something that needs fixing at the first level.
Is there any physiological reason for you feeling bad?
Things you can do to address the imbalance:
This basic self-care needs to be a priority in life, all the time. It stops things before they start becoming a problem. They keep you in your equilibrium, your happy rested and energized state, ready to take on the world.
Sleep, Safety and Security
If you aren’t getting good sleep, you will be tired, and it will affect your awareness and ability to make good decisions. Sleep is so important. Think about where you are staying. Is it the best place for you now?
Are you getting a good night’s sleep?
Is it too noisy?
Do you feel safe?
Do your belongings feel safe?
If any of these questions help you pinpoint a problem, it’s helpful. Now you need to decide what you want to do about it.
Do you want to move or stay?
When you are tired, and it all feels overwhelming the last thing you want to do is pack your backs and put yourself out on the street. So, let’s take this one step at a time.
I’m going to share a story with you. I went to Cuzco in Peru. I was booked on the Inca trail trek and I had a couple of days before the trek to acclimatise and do a bit of sightseeing. I booked myself into a hostel close to the center. I got there, booked a trip that left at 4.30am the following day, packed my kit ready and went to bed. There were doors slamming and people putting the light on and banging their kit about through the night. I had booked into the party hostel! We had different aspirations.
After my day trip, I looked for a different hostel, moved 50m down the hill and got a nice bed in a quiet hostel with great food and showers. It was a great upgrade!
What do you want at your new accommodation?
You now have a checklist of key criteria for your search of the local area. If you have stayed in the town/city for a night, you will be learning where the noisy streets are with traffic and people. You can either head towards the noise and action or head away from it depending on what you want to do with your time.
If you want a quiet sociable place to stay, look for a quiet hostel or a family run guesthouse. Guidebooks also give details of popular hotels. I’ve done my homework and found places locally that might be good, but I’ll go down and ask at reception for a recommendation. Other travelers have heard me asking and invited me to join them, as they were just heading that way.
If you want to be on your own a hotel may be best. You can hide in your room on your own or be sociable in the communal spaces if you choose.
Sometimes we just need our own space, time to hide from the constant change and just do a bit of self-nurturing. This is a time to be quiet and calm yourself. Ground yourself so you feel whole a stable rather that in a busy whirlwind that’s pulling you all out of shape.
If you keep a travel journal, writing up the last few days may be a good way to acknowledge all the things you have been doing. How busy you have been, what you have achieved. It is a step towards understanding how much you are putting yourself through. When you are at home you aren’t doing different things every 24 hours, there are some familiar routines, space to unwind.
Travel journal can be mini-scrapbooks, full of your tickets, postcards, pictures from leaflets and your own drawings. Having a quiet, creative, reflective few hours can be all you need to get you back on track. You’ll feel proud of who you are, what you are doing. Acknowledging all the feelings you’re experiencing as you explore this new land is also important. Sometimes we are awed by the beauty and brought to tears, sometimes devastated by the poverty and squalor. Not being able to do anything about it makes us feel helpless and possibly angry.
You may not be able to change the world, but you are responsible for how you choose to act. Treating people with loving kindness always is a choice. If you decide you want to do something to solve a problem you have seen, you can choose to do so. It’s your life and you need to do what’s right for you.
Get out into Nature
You can always choose to do something different. Being in a busy city may not be the best environment for you. It could make you feel lonely and overwhelmed. Maybe it was a great when you were planning, but now you’re there, it’s just not right. Sometimes being in nature is the best place. It helps us feel grounded and calm. Being on a tropical beach or staying in a bungalow in the forest where you can admire the Milkway at night can be humbling and enriching.
I suggest you meditate to calm your mind and get clarity. Below is a guide on accessing your inner quiet space. This will allow you to relax and settle yourself.
Accessing your inner quiet space
There’s lots about meditation and mindfulness now. Whether you have your own practice or not, I offer this meditation to you. This is to help you access your inner stillness and your intuition.
Find yourself and quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your feet on the floor, hands in your lap or lie down. Take three slow deep breathes in to the bottom of your belly, to help you relax. Feel the contact of your body, where it meets the chair or bed. Feel the support and allow yourself to relax deeper.
Now breathe in slowly and as you breathe out, I want you to drop down a layer in your consciousness. It’s just like dropping through a trapdoor and floating to the next layer below. Don’t rush this just go one layer at a time. To be honest your mind will probably try to distract you with chatter, just stay at that layer until you quieten your mind, then, breather in and as you breathe out float down to the next layer. You will go down several layers and, in the end, you will find yourself in a dark and quiet space. It’s like finding the ground. This is your quiet space. When you are ready you can come back up.
You can access this any time you want. It is very grounding and centering. It gets easier and quicker to access the more you practice. This meditation reminds you that you are more than just the chatter in your head. There is an inner quiet space that you can access. You may want to take a few moments and write about your experience in your journal.
Understand your feelings
Human have had to survive all sorts of different environments and different dangers. You will have heard of Fight or Flight. This is our inbuilt system that looks out for dangers and acts to keep us safe. We get a spike of adrenaline that will allow us run away or fight our way from the danger. Previously, dangers were simply Wooly Mammoths. Now in our complex world many things can seem to be a dangerous, the internet, the traffic and strangers.
Not all strangers mean us harm, in fact the majority are very friendly and are willing to help. The situation isn’t always dangerous. You may have a lot of false alarms going off. Feeling anxious because you are stressed, and think you are under attack it’s a sustainable situation. You need time to relax your body. Let it know you’re safe, so it can turn off all the alarms and rest properly. Doing some deep breathing exercises to connect with your body and the meditation above will make a real difference.
You need to calm yourself. Let your brain know that not everything is dangerous. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. Going out into the world and experiencing something new can be stressful at first as you see in the graph below. But the more you do it, the more normal it seems, and you no longer feel stressed.
When I travel, I take a few specific things with me to make me feel special, connected, comforted and enable me to be creative, as I’ve explained with the Travel Journal.
These are my self-soothing tools.
If it’s my birthday or Christmas while I’m away, I’ll take a few cards and a little present to open. I make sure I have my own room, I make a fuss of myself, putting my cards up and opening a present. I might have bought myself a gift, such as a bracelet I can wear. I have energising music playing (I like dance music and electro-swing). I do something creative or go out somewhere special. This is a great time to do exactly what you want.
If I need to calm myself, I need space to nurture myself. Breathing exercises make me focus on breathing down into my body. This focuses my mind and gets me in touch with how my body feels. I have a Chill-out playlist that I listen to or I can use a guided meditation.
Using nice bath products and moisturisers makes me feel special. I carry a little pot of nail varnish on long trip and paint my toenails. I have a bit of perfume to make me feel feminine.
How can you self-nurture as you travel? List items you can take:
Make sure you make self-care a priority and put together your own compassionate kit bag. I have detailed what you could include below. This isn’t an afterthought; this is core to making sure you can flex with whatever comes your way.
My friend doesn’t do ‘outdoors’, she likes to sleep in five-star hotels. “Why would you give up the comfort and the warmth of a nice bed to be outside?” she asks me. To be honest if you’ve never done it then, you won’t know. Wild camping isn’t for everyone. It is for those of us that like to feel free, alive and the vastness of the world. Wild camping allows you to connect – connect with yourself and the world on a deep level. The distractions and nonsense have been stripped away, no tv, no hair dryer, no smart phones (if you’re somewhere without a signal). It’s back to just you and nature.
Wild camping with friends is special, you don’t have to be alone. Finding like-minded individuals that enjoy nature and the inner glow you get when you’re a self-reliant team, means you can share your adventures. Stepping off the rat-race, away from the media, the noise and back to the calm of nature. You can slow down from the hub-bub of life. Leave the challenges and step back into the very simplicity of existence – finding or making a shelter, making food and keeping warm. What you choose to use to fulfil these basics will depend on where you go and the conditions. In the UK we have lush green countryside, which denotes the fact that we often need a waterproof shelter.
After cooking a simple meal on my stove out of the wind, at Cow Green Reservoir I stepped outside into the darkness. There’s no light pollution, not a house or street light for miles, just the darkness that wraps you in her blanket. Venus and Mars glowed large and pink, low in the sky near the horizon. When I looked up I could see the Milky Way. The stars were in three dimensions. The big familiar constellations we often see in the sky, vast numbers of medium-sized stars and everywhere millions and millions of tiny stars that you never usually see, making the night sky into clouds of tiny twinkling stars. This view was sublime, its complexity was awe-inspiring. Our little worries and grumbles disappear as our brains try to comprehend the scale and magnitude of our universe and comprehend our emotions as we investigate infinity. Nature puts things in perspective, we feel small and our problems feel small. Wild camping moments like these are why I go. I feel part of something bigger than myself that is infinitely beautiful. Quiet time for contemplation is so important. It helps me listen to who I am and find my way in this complex world.
If you like being outdoors, enjoy being independent and you’ve been camping at a campsite before, then make a small step and go camping without showers and the toilet. There’s a leave no trace principle, so take all litter home, yours and anyone else’s. Follow the rules and camp where it’s legal. The rewards are huge, you feel better, calmer and more relaxed. You’ll also be able to relax and enjoy some of the best views at sunrise and sunset. Do you want to feel truly free? Is it time for you to Go Wild? Ideas and advice can be found on the Wild Camping UK .
If you already go wild camping leave a comment and share why you love it.
I wanted to understand the history while exploring South Africa, so I took a tour to Robben Island. The maximum security prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 Years of 27years in prison is here. We saw the tiny cells, the blinding white rock they had to quarry all day and talked to tour guides, who were political prisoners there. It makes you think, what would you stand up against? What beliefs would you go to prison for?
Our tour guide explained that even though they had done 12 hours of hard labour in the quarry, in the evening they would come back and spend time in lessons. Some would teach, others would learn to read and write. Now that is incredible, they may have been in an external prison, but they were free to choose what to do with their minds. They were civilised and spent time improving themselves from the inside out. How honourable! Remember this story when you are struggling with a difficult situation and you feel you have no choice. You always have choice, a choice in how you react. If they can do it, then you too can act with dignity and come out of it a better person.