As the saying goes, "the best things in life are free" and this year has given us the opportunity to really experience that truth once again. Choosing to be in the moment and be grateful for simple things is exactly that, a choice, and one we hope that we can continue to make whatever the future holds for us. It was just that we'd forgotten we had the choice before.
Here are some of the simple pleasures that we've remembered to appreciate and be thankful for this year as we've toured through Europe, feeling more connected to nature, to each other and getting closer to what really make us feel happy.
1. Watching a complete sun set
I think that many people appreciate a nice sun set, but really taking the time to watch the sun set is a simple pleasure that, before this year, I can't remember the last time we enjoyed. Glancing out of the window while watching TV or writing an email and thinking "what pretty colours", before turning back to the screen just didn't count. This year we've had many wonderful opportunities to really watch the sun set, starting when the sun is still well over the horizon and, as it begins to disappear, appreciating the subtle changes in light and colour as the clouds turn pink, the colour spreads out from the horizon, turning orange, yellow, red and finally fading to grey.
2. Reading to each other
Reading a book quietly, on our own, can be a very relaxing way to pass the time on the road. However, this year we discovered how much fun we can have sharing a book as well. Reading aloud to each other in turn has transformed a previously solo pleasure into a shared one that we found helps us to feel closer as well, not only during reading but afterwards when we can discuss what we've read.
3. Learning, simply for the sake of learning
Learning a new skills or task because you have to, either at school or at work, is a very different experience to learning simply for the pleasure of expanding your knowledge. I think, before this year, it had been many years since either of us had taken the time to acquire new knowledge simply because we wanted to know it. But that has changed so much this year and learning about various topics including food, nutrition, philosophy, religion, astronomy, evolution, art, photography and technology has been a continuous, fascinating and highly pleasurable activity throughout our entire adventure.
4. Listening to music
I've always liked to work with music or the radio on in the background but it's been a long time since I ever really listened. Taking time this year to sit and really listen to a piece of music (whether classical or contemporary), focus on the emotions it stirs and contemplate whether that is what the composer wanted to achieve has been a very moving and soulful experience for both of us. Plus, just like reading and learning, this has been even more pleasurable when shared with each other.
In a world of mains power and light switches we definitely took artificial light for granted. Moving into a motorhome has changed all that as we've tried to conserve our batteries, spending many evenings reading or listening to music by candlelight. In fact, as we've discovered, just sitting and appreciating the warm, intimate atmosphere the candles create is a pleasure in itself.
6. Feeling warm
Similar to lighting, but when conserving gas while parked in the mountains we often found ourselves wrapped up in many layers or beneath a blanket just feeling grateful that we were warm. A pleasure we'd rarely felt so deeply in the modern world of central heating.
7. Cracking nuts
We've always tried to eat nuts and seeds in our diet, but had never before tried cracking our own nuts. I know that cracking nuts is a task many people associate with Christmas time, but we'd always bought pre-shelled nuts before. This year, as part of our move towards shopping on markets, we started buying unshelled walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans etc. and discovered that half the fun is in the cracking!
8. Birdsong & the sounds of nature
To be honest my experience of listening to birds before this adventure normally meant feeling angry at the incessant noise keeping me awake at 4am when I had to be up in an hour and a half anyway to get ready for work! This has changed so much this year as we've taken time to stop and listen to the sound of birds, or the wind in the trees and waves lapping on a shore. Really focusing on the sound and not just allowing them to be part of the background noise we've found to be a very meditative experience.
Just as with sunsets, we've always enjoyed glancing at the stars and briefly pondering on the enormity of the universe before returning to another task at hand. But this year we've taken a fresh and more in depth interest which has been very thought provoking. Many nights, especially on clear nights way from the light pollution of cities, we've stood for long periods identifying constellations and planets in the night sky and really appreciating the vast, natural light display on offer.
10. Just looking & pondering - losing ourselves in thought
In our old lives of numerous activities and decisions having the chance to sit somewhere and just lose ourselves in quiet reflection on a topic or question was practically impossible. No sooner would we sit down than our heads would fill with our to do list or decisions about work, bills, pets etc. This year, however, just looking at a scene in front of us and letting our minds contemplate the view or another question of interest has been a major part of our own transition to less stress.
...looking to the future
Of course, this list is really just a start and a fraction of the simple pleasures and joy we have discovered and are discovering on our adventure. As we've said before, our motorhome adventure has become much more than a physical journey, it is a journey to re-discover ourselves once again. Whatever happens in our future we hope that we never again forget how to take the time to be in the moment and see the pleasures that surround us in daily life.
If you've enjoyed this post please pass this article on to others or share any simple pleasures you enjoy in the comments below.