by Jyoti Chauhan

It’s so important to never lose your sense of wonder –  your hunger for adventure, your curious mind, your sense of exploration. I think we all grow more wary as we get older but it’s so important to keep that fire within you. We learn so much by exploring new places, new food, and new ways of life. Having the privilege of being able to travel exposes people to different cultures and different stories. It opens us up to food that we’ve never tasted, activities that we’ve never tried and sights that we’ve never seen. Everyone has their own experiences and being able to hear and see different stories shows us worlds we couldn’t have even imagined. Speaking to people we meet along the way can show us how different someone’s life is but it can also show us the things we have in common. Perhaps you thought you’d never have anything in common with a fisherman in Colombia but you both support the same football team. Or you meet a businesswoman in India who has the same number of children you have. Or you start a conversation with a waiter in Singapore who shares your love for David Attenborough. These interactions can be a joyful surprise in the midst of a sometimes overwhelmingly different situation.

Exploration of the world has obviously been halted by the pandemic but that doesn’t mean the exploration of different cultures has to stop. Many people have had to celebrate their religious or cultural festivals within lockdown and I think that has given people a chance to learn more about them. My family and I are Hindu and have had to celebrate Diwali in lockdown and I can’t ever remember it being in the news so much. It’s been lovely to see the festival being recognised and being talked about on a world wide scale. The fact that this is being spoken about so much hopefully encourages people to look it up or want to learn more about it or even just fully engage in a news piece. If you’re lucky enough to live in a multicultural part of the world then there are plenty of ways you can explore different cultures – the easiest being through food. You could look up different food deliveries available in your area and try food from a restaurant that you’ve never visited before – something a little different and a little daunting might soon become your favourite cuisine! Doing something that simple and easy could open up your world and your tastebuds. You could use this time to explore your local area and maybe find places you didn’t even know existed. Beautiful pockets of the country that you never imagined would be around the corner or hidden spots – perfect for walking and taking a break from everything that’s going on. You could even set in place preparations for the next trip you want to take. You could take some time to decide what you’d like to see, what you’d like to experience or where you’d like to eat. With the time and resources we have at our disposal now there are so many different trips you could plan – local or abroad. I also find it’s a reassuring way to look to the future and have something to look forward to in this time of uncertainty.

Something else that is important to explore during this time is self-care. I can feel you rolling your eyes but please hear my pitch before you close the tab. In the midst of all this chaos and misery, some of us have been given the gift of time. The time to stop and the time to listen to your body, mind, heart and soul. The time to rest and realign yourself. I think there’s a lot of pressure in lockdown to achieve something or learn a new skill or turn yourself in Joe Wicks – when in reality all we need to do is get through this. That’s enough. Listen to yourself. Make sure you take the time out to do what makes you feel at peace or feel good; whether that’s eating a piece of cake or dancing by yourself or having a bubble bath or meditating or exercising or going out for a walk or going to therapy or setting boundaries or watching Netflix. These past few months have been a lot and every person has a different way of coping. We’ve all had different responsibilities during this time but you need to make sure you look after yourself in the midst of looking after other people. I also think we’ve all been forced to reset our priorities, what we truly value, who we truly value and who values us. It’s also important to listen to your gut when it comes to things like this. During this time some of us have gained a better sense of which parts of our lives and which people in our lives are worth our time and energy. Protecting your energy is a huge aspect of self – care. Especially now when there’s so much going on in the world, it’s important to use some of your energy to ensure you’re taking care of yourself in every way possible.

I’ve also found that the arts are a great form of escapism and you can explore the world via books, films, music, TV shows and podcasts amongst many others. Reading a book or watching a film again at a different stage of your life can bring different meaning to it. You notice something you hadn’t before or another message jumps out at you that you’d never seen. Some of us are also privileged to have limitless options when it comes to choosing what to watch or listen to or read – we’re now overwhelmingly spoilt for choice. You can lose yourself in someone else’s adventure, you can become obsessed with finding out who the murderer is, you can explore a new world, you can fall in love with characters and you can as easily fall out of love with them. You can cry tears of happiness, sadness or anger for characters on screen – real or fictional. You can cheer someone on and shout encouragement from the comfort of your own sofa. You can learn so much from hearing someone else’s perspective, someone else’s story, someone else’s life. You can laugh until your stomach hurts at films you’ve seen 50 times before or a new podcast. You can become inspired to bake, cook, learn, lead, organize, create, help or listen. You can sit back in the nostalgia of a particular song or film. You can escape for a while and you can explore a world much different to ours.

For the past few months we’ve been challenged to find ways to explore when we can’t leave the house – as a passionate traveller who would have been far far away by now if it wasn’t for COVID (i know this is a privileged problem to have) I’ve found this difficult at times. I long to go and explore a new place and live in a new country. I crave the exciting feeling of being somewhere different and wandering around exploring the streets of an unknown city. When this ache hits me, I take a deep breath and ride it out whilst opening a new book, watching a film, listening to music or eating my weight in chocolate…hey I never said all the coping mechanisms were healthy.

In what ways are you escaping lately?

Read more from Jyoti:

Education & Conversation

Upskilling: Communication