“Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be” – Eckhart Tolle
In my early twenties I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now – a book that had a prodigious influence on me. Tolle explores the idea that the key to leading a fulfilling life is to become deeply conscious of the present moment. He explains how most of us spend our lives thinking of the past and the future as opposed to focusing on the here and now. But the past is gone, so why are we dwelling on it? As for the future, well, that’s not even here yet, so why are we stressing about it? If anything, the past brings with it all the baggage that stops us from looking at the present moment for what it really is. And thinking too much about the future, whether it is with fear or optimism, actually has no value to us in the present moment.
As someone who was* (*is) highly neurotic, this book really struck a chord. I had spent most of my life stressing over things that had happened in the past; meanwhile, the present moment was passing me by without me actually realising it. The message of the book was such a revelation to me that I read it in one sitting during a flight from the UK to Cyprus. In fact, it helped me overcome my full-blown case of aerophobia, which was something I suffered from for over six years (Tolle explains how phobias are actually just a fear of what might happen. By fully focusing on the ‘now’ during flights, I slowly but surely overcame my fear).
This brings me to my love of travel. When I am on the road, I am constantly in the ‘now.’ Being in a new, exciting, foreign land with all its unfamiliar sights, smells and sounds enables me to fully immerse myself in the present moment. When I first moved to Dubai, I was in a constant state of mesmerisation; I gawped in awe at the skyscrapers, laughed at the random outbursts of craziness that I witnessed at every turn, and took in everything that surrounded me.
The last time we experienced this will have been when we were babies – everyday we discovered something new, whether it was how to use our legs, how cotton felt on our skin, or how an apple tasted on our tongue. Pity that none of us actually remember this magical time in our lives when we were truly present. But I believe that travel taps into this fundamental human need for exploration and discovery. It enables us to continue to marvel at the world that surrounds us, which, let’s face it, we should all be doing on a daily basis.
When we’re stuck in a routine, trudging along whilst working 9-5, it can be difficult to take the time to slow down and really ‘see’ the beauty of the world. Travelling, however, takes us out of our comfort zones, throws us into the throngs of uncertainty and forces us to really experience life. It gives us the gift of that highly elusive and liberating feeling that Tolle champions – the feeling of now.
And that’s why I love it.