Let me give you some advice: the most important person alive right now that you need to get to know is yourself. When life gets crazy, it is impossible to have a conversation with anyone about anything important if you haven’t first conversed with and come to understand yourself. I’m asking you to be selfish here. Listen to yourself, figure out how your subconscious thoughts are communicating with you, and give them your attention. You will feel so much better, and what’s more, you’ll end up saying things of meaning and getting more out of life.
I had a moment this past spring when I was sitting at my desk at work rushing to meet a deadline, mentally scheduling the first hour of my life when I got home from work (go to the post office, call the vet, pay the bills…), thinking also about some tense conversation I had earlier, when I just snapped. I remember wanting to scream internally and thinking to myself “I really don’t think I can do this anymore. Not at this pace.” I had been blowing off my check-ins with myself to such a degree that I couldn’t even figure out what it was that was bothering me so much. It was just everything.
So I did what I know to do. I booked an impromptu trip to a place I’d never been before so that I could get away from my life and figure out what to keep and what to eliminate. I scheduled the week off work and I took the first flight of the morning to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
There is something empowering about going alone to an unfamiliar place where you know absolutely no one. The only thing you bring with you is what is truly essential to who you are. You don’t bring other people’s influence, you don’t bring anything situational, and if you’re doing it right, you don’t bring responsibilities either. It is the only way I know to truly reset myself.
I needed this.
However, this was going to be delivered to me in a much different way than I expected.
When I got to Puerto Rico, I decided to check in on my reservations for the activities I had planned. Everything was cancelled. An unfortunate combination of logistics and stormy seas put a halt to my grand adventures. I made a decision then that I’m sure makes no sense to you now, but it was right for me. I decided to switch my flight and schedule a trip home just 36-hours after arrival. Why? It was right. I don’t know why. It felt right and I don’t argue with my gut.
So here’s what to do in San Juan with just 24 hours:
Wake up and watch the sunrise on the beach. Get breakfast and hail a cab to Old San Juan. Walk through the public sections of the forts before the tourists wake up. Capture a billion hazy early-sun panoramas of the old town. Walk the mile-long trail along the ocean and read all about the history behind the city. Meet some stray cats. Remember how energized you are by animals. Walk through Old San Juan as the shops open and talk to some of the gallery owners about local art. Purchase local stuff. Visit the cathedral. Walk around some more and find a place to eat that serves things you’ve never heard of. Try to order in Spanish. Take a trolley tour of the city because at this point your feet are bleeding. Buy socks. Meet some locals who are obsessed with Pittsburgh because of Roberto Clemente. Drink filtered Caribbean water because you have never gone anywhere without drinking the local water even though that’s the one thing people always tell you not to do (I love water). Watch a thunderstorm roll in from the ocean. Try to convince a nice man that you really, truly, honestly don’t speak Spanish. Get a ride back to your hotel. Meet some really awesome locals in an ice cream shop. Walk along the beach. Watch the sunset while strolling through the tide. Hobble, tired, back to your hotel where you will sleep for only three hours before you (again) catch the first flight of the morning, this time toward home.
It was exhausting in the best possible way. Normally, I’d hope to come back from a vacation feeling refreshed, but I was so excited to leave Puerto Rico completely depleted of any passionless, negative energy that it didn’t matter what I brought home with me.
Every time I travel is a revelation, even when it is just a 36-hour visit to an insanely beautiful, interesting locale. I learn who I am at my core–independent, curious, compassionate, creative. I see what makes me come alive. I am reminded of the size and scale of my life in the giant scheme of the world and how I have the power to minimize and maximize whatever I deem important. I get inspired and find new keys to unlock realms of my mind I haven’t yet searched.