For many years I had a dream to visit Mexico. Bright colours, incredible landscapes, amazing cuisine, music, people, rich history and culture where colonial and ancient indigenous styles and traditions are mixed in a unique way have all been calling me. So when a last minute opportunity showed up in late November to visit Mexico after Christmas, I had to take it and make it happen despite the tight timing and lack of time to plan the trip properly.
After a busy and stressful December in London and Christmas in Canada (where I witnessed one of the worst ice storms in recent years) I finally arrived in Mexico ready to relax in beautiful hotels, eat amazing food, soak up the sun and all the beauty around me to get inspired for the new year. My expectations were sky high. After all, I was finally on my dream holiday.
Mexico certainly lived up to the beautiful vision I had in my mind. It was what I expected and so much more. I was overwhelmed by my experiences in the first few days. From day one in Mexico City, where I started my trip, all my sense were constantly engaged. I was surrounded by the brightest and boldest colour combinations in the streets, in architecture, in restaurants, while enjoying delicious, spicy, rich food and hearing local music everywhere I went. And if that wasn’t enough, the the sight of beautiful mountains that surround Mexico City took my breath away each time I looked at them.
But less than a week into my Mexico trip I caught myself thinking that this holiday was not looking quite like the image of perfection from Conde Nast Traveller magazine I had in mind. I began to allow myself to get annoyed by small things, such as difference in the level of service, loud music in the hotel and lack of wholewheat bread at breakfast. Later things got even more challenging: boyfriend caught a cold, then it was my turn to get sick with stomach bug, one day we got stuck in an airport for the entire day when our internal flight was delayed for 6 hours and when we finally got to the beach it was raining, a lot, and one of the hotels we stayed in gave us their worst room, well below our expectations. Even though this was only for one night, it felt like the last straw.
I was not prepared for this. My expectations for a dream holiday did not include this scenario. Why me?! Why did the universe decide to spoil my dream trip? Couldn’t at least the weather be sunny if I had to be sick on this trip?
What I did not see at that moment was that the pressure and huge expectations I was putting on myself were ruining my travel experience. The problem wasn’t the weather, the food or different service, it was my perfectionism and that by choosing to focus on the negative I was allowing myself to slip into the victim mode.
The minute I realised this I decided to drop the expectations I was carrying all this time (it felt very liberating) and let go of the need to have perfection in everything. And then I was able to really enjoy my holiday again.
Why? Because when we stop obsessing about things being perfect, we are able to become present and enjoy the beauty around us. “Getting out of my head” allowed me to engage with my senses and discover new ways to enjoy my travel experience.
I enjoyed noticing every small detail in my new surroundings and allow myself to be inspired by what I saw: new colour combination, interior design and style ideas, food and drink presentation.
If the weather was not warm enough for sunbathing, we went on walks on the beach or one day simply relaxed in beautiful hammock on the beach while meditating to the sound of the waves.
Eating delicious local food felt like the biggest luxury when I recovered from my short illness.
Having deeper conversations and getting to know people I was lucky to spend time with on this trip was one of the best things about it.
These and many other beautiful moment made my holiday. The less lovely moment helped me to learn important lessons.
If you ever find yourself on a holiday (or any other situation) when things are going wrong all the time, here is what I suggest.
- See if you can change the way you see the situation. By focusing on the negative we attract more of these experiences. Try focusing on the positive instead.
- Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself, your holiday, your partner, the situation? Let go of these expectations and perfectionist ideas. You will feel much lighter and will open yourself to new experiences.
- Practice becoming fully present. I know this sounds very new-age, but it works. We can only experience enjoyment here and now, when our different senses are engaged. You may be surprised how many things there are to enjoy in the present moment.
And one final thought. One day, when it was particularly cold and windy, I was watching children on the beach. Seeing how much fun they are having, rain or sunshine, made me a little envious. We, adults often require certain conditions and circumstances to be “right” to be able to have fun. Maybe instead of unrealistic new year’s resolutions aiming to make us and our lifestyles more perfect we could commit to having more unconditional fun in our life and being truly present?
Beautiful lifestyle does not begin with media-defined luxury, it begins with being present, noticing the beauty around us and having fun unconditionally.