Pinch-Myself Moments

At the end of my first day of the Camino de Santiago, I sat on this beach for an hour crying on and off…tears of disbelief in what I was doing.

I am living the traveling life…for 18 months now. Some say to me, “You are livin’ my dream.” Is it a dream? Is it Nirvana? Shangri La?

No…it is life. There are ups and downs— mostly regular routine days that follow one on the next. It is not all newness and adventure. And even if it were, then eventually newness and adventure would become regular, commonplace…boring.

There are down days, when everything bothers me. I want to go home…I want to quit…I want everyone to go away.

There are days when I feel lousy or just plain sick.

There are days when I am lazy and I spend the day reading, knitting, playing solitaire, or surfing Facebook to see what my friends all over the world are up to. I feel guilty for these wasteful days, but I shouldn’t—everyone has days like that. I probably have even fewer than most people because I find so much joy in keeping my hands busy.

Keeping my hands busy in Chucuito Peru, overlooking Lake Titicaca.

THEN, there are days when I have what I call “pinch-myself moments.” And those make all the other regular and challenging days of my travel lifestyle worthwhile.

I can never plan a pinch-myself moment or know when one is going to happen. It might occur at a time when you would expect it—like when I arrived at the port of Tallinn, Estonia after an overnight ferry ride; or while I was teaching a lace knitting class at the Roscommon Lamb Festival in Ireland; or tossing some of Rachel’s ashes into the Atlantic Ocean at the end of my Camino in Spain.

Rachel’s Ashes

But interestingly, pinch-myself moments mostly happen completely unexpectedly—like while on a day hike on Aran Island in Scotland; or sitting in a tiny pub knitting on a cold winter night; or being awakened by a muezzin’s call to prayer, or—surprisingly—in the front seat of a hot and crowded martschutka (van) on the way from Bishkek to Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, with sweat pouring down my chest.

My knitting, a Guinness, a winter storm, a cozy fire…a perfect pinch-myself moment.

It is a wonderful feeling. I wish I could bottle it up and share it with the world. I always try to hold on to it, and sometimes just the savoring of it makes the feeling last a bit longer. But more often, the moment flits away, butterfly-like, and no amount of trying will recapture the elusive feeling.

It would be a bit addictive, this feeling. But I cannot conjure it at will. It appears when it wants to and without warning.

I can summon up an artificial pinch-myself moment…sometimes. But it won’t be as pleasantly overwhelming as the unbidden ones. It won’t feel as real.

I wonder if there is something I can embrace in my lifestyle or attitude—some way of living or thinking that will encourage a pinch-myself moment to visit more often.

Certainly, one does not have to travel to have pinch-myself moments. One could happen just as readily while you are watching grandchildren play, or eating the first carrot from the garden, or nursing a six-month-old, or even arriving at work one day and realize that you really love your job.

I guess you could also call these “I-am-so-lucky” moments. But I don’t really think luck has that much to do with it. I believe the phenomenon is a bi-product of a special way that one looks at the world and at one own life—in wonder and awe. And maybe mixing in some optimism and  appreciation of people and places doesn’t hurt any.

This outlook takes practice…effort. But the more I do it the easier it becomes. And maybe…the more often I will experience those REAL pinch-myself moments.

Inexplicably, I experienced a series of “oh wow” pinch-myself” moments while hiking along this talus slope on Offa’s Dyke in Wales.

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