Blog Autor: Emilia Wheaton
Blog Editor: Kristen Kennedy Smith
Less than a year ago, I resettled back to life in the United States after a three year hiatus in South America then Southeast Asia. I had accepted a volunteer opportunity with the Peace Corps--the chance to live and work in a rural Peruvian Andean community. When I left the US the summer after graduating from college, I anticipated a massive, earth shattering adjustment as I learned how to live without my American comforts: brunch on the weekends with friends, hot yoga with my favorite instructor, treating myself to a bath bomb and a glass of champagne (or really just even a hot shower), mornings spent perusing the shelves of the local bookstore, a cone of Ben and Jerry’s on a humid Vermont summer day. With all the excitement for my new adventure and lifestyle, I dreaded giving up the habits and items that made me feel comfortable and even greatly influenced my happiness (as I’d thought…)
Fast forward four years, and I now long for my days in Peru as a volunteer. Life was simple. Early mornings held plenty of time for a wake-up yoga flow and a hot cup of coffee (beans I’d roasted and ground myself). I changed from my pajamas into one of three or four outfits I rotated between and slipped on the same pair of sandals I wore every day. My possessions were minimal; I traded books with other volunteers in place of purchasing new copies, I went through about two bottles of shampoo and conditioner in two years (and zero bath bombs) only bathing once per week with lukewarm water I poured over my head from a plastic cup. Before the sun had fully stretched its morning rays over the community, my host family and I gathered grass to feed the guinea pigs and rabbits, stoked the wood burning stove to life, and had a pot of oatmeal rolling to a boil. Gathering around the wooden table in the thatched roof, dirt floor kitchen was as close as I was getting to Sunday brunch with the gals. And it was perfect. It’s not to say I didn’t wish sometimes that the oatmeal I ate five times per week weren’t eggs benedict with a mimosa on the side, but I came to accept the simplicity of my life, of their lives, and truly became accustomed to this bucolic lifestyle. Everything was simple and slow, noises were natural and soft, we moved without haste through our days and took it all in as we went.
I believe that the changes and challenges of our lives serve to teach us lessons, to allow us time to practice the new behaviors and traits we wish to see in ourselves. It has been the challenge of my current chapter to duplicate the sense of inner peace that came so easily in Peru back her in the US. As mellow and laid-back was the lifestyle in Peru, I am finding the American lifestyle oppositely and equally hectic and frantic. When I stepped off the plane in the US last year, I returned with different lenses over my eyes and a reduced tolerance to the stimulus of the environment. My first challenge was to accept reality and not to resent it, not to constantly wish I were back in the place I had left, but to acknowledge the differences of then and now. I am now focusing on incorporating the simplistic aspects of my Peruvian life that had allowed me to focus on my self-development, inner peace and present-mindedness.
What are those simplistic aspects, exactly? And how do I modify them for my current lifestyle?
These techniques are imperative for me to stay not only sane but happy, productive and grateful for my life. Keeping it simple allows me to level up: to walk onward with a clear head, to push aside unwelcome stimuli and to focus on who and where I want to be. Keep it simple, folks.
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