Unleashing the sloth

Back in 2015 I informed my people of my intention to 'retire' from my London way of life. Amongst other things I said: 'The sense of freedom and possibility is vast. My intention is to travel, slowly, to some places that interest me, but really my intentions are less about DOING new things and more about exploring new ways of BEING.'

Since then I've discovered how much I enjoy a slower rhythm than I danced to in the past. Almost everything I do, I now like to do sloow-ly. I'm much more present. I enjoy noticing. It has therefore been extremely interesting to speed up again for a period here in Central America and to notice how uncomfortable that now feels to me.

'This is called mindfulness, awareness, curiosity, inquisitiveness, paying attention. Whatever we call it, it's a very helpful practice.' (Pema Chödrön)

Something else that's become a priority in recent years is striving for relationships with self and others that are intentional, mindful and consensual. A key guiding principle is about looking for consensual pathways through differences.

'Explore how you can engage without stepping over boundaries and personal beliefs. Rather than looking for compromises in every situation, let loved ones choose paths that keep their integrity intact, without letting this mean a crisis for the relationship.' (Andie Nordgren, in their Manifesto for Relationship Anarchy)

At times this principle comes into conflict with another, much longer-held guiding principle: doing what I said I'd do. This was the tension happening in my head when pondering how to manage the unexpectedly different ways Claire and I enjoy travelling: I think she was as genuinely surprised to realise I hoped to do more than pedal, refuel and sleep as I was to realise she hadn't reckoned on that.

As a relationship activist I spend a lot of time urging people (online and occasionally through workshops) to get clear about how they prefer to live and love, and to surround themselves with compatible folks. I've articulated my own approach in my personal user manual. For example nowadays I don't go on dates with folks who aspire to the relationship escalator. I'll admit, therefore, to being taken aback and slightly disappointed in myself to realise the number of what I'll call 'fundamental rhythms' Claire and I (despite the best of intentions) omitted to discuss before we set off, how uncomfortable it felt to compromise on certain rhythms (not all of them; for example I enjoyed getting up about three hours earlier than I normally would, and am grateful for all the coffee that made this possible!), and - most disappointing of all - how difficult I found it to articulate my discomfort.

To make sure I learn the lessons of this experience - and perhaps to help others navigate similar scenarios - I've come up with a tool for potential bicycle-travelling buddies. #relationshipgeek

You know how countries often have a ubiquitous tourist t-shirt with the local beer brand on it or a particular slogan? Here in Costa Rica it's a picture of a sloth on a bicycle (sometimes with a surfboard) and the local slogan 'pura vida' (pure life). This seems so extraordinarily fitting to my current circumstances I may get one!

On my second day of slothdom in Costa Rica, Fate decided I hadn't slowed back down quite enough, so while cooling off in a gorgeous river she snatched my crucial prescription sunglasses out of of my grasp and hurled them down some rapids. I thus have to wait a week here near Volcan Arenal - out of the sun of course - until my new pair is ready. The optometrist also found indicators of possible glaucoma (which my great-uncle had); not a diagnosis but something to investigate when I'm in Blighty this summer. (Yes I pay UK tax!)

Needless to say I've had no difficulty coming up with a list of ways to fill a week, both DOING (free swimming in more crystal clear rivers, river tubing, free hot springs, cycling round Arenal to check out her lava flows, blogging, catching up with some of my peeps, making plans for the spring and summer...) and BEING (reading, writing, looking at the view, listening to toucans, clay-coloured thrushes and other birdsong, working on my Spanish, eating delicious Tico food...) It's a hard life being a sloth with a bicycle, but someone has to do it...