At the end of May I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. My husband and I traveled to the seeming ends of the earth to go on a South African safari. This bucket list trip was as magical as you might imagine. Elephants and lions soon became familiar companions and watching the sun rise and fall over the savanna filled me with awe.

While not everyone has the opportunity to live adventure on such a grand scale, it is vitally important that each of us takes time away from the routines of living. A change of scenery, meeting new people and having new experiences helps us evaluate what works for us in ‘regular’ life and what may need to change.

My first week home was a fog of jet-lag and trying not to fall asleep at 5 o’clock in the evening. As this haze lifted, I started to see my life and my world at home with fresh eyes. There were certain voices of family and friends that my heart longed to hear. Hugging my kids and snuggling with my dogs were a top priority. These are the relationships that are working for me. This is where I need to focus my time and energy.

In the broader aspects of my life, I could not wait to get back to dancing with my classmates at my favorite exercise facility. I looked forward to writing for fun and to rolling out my yoga mat for my cozy, little at-home routine. I noticed that because I took a long break from all of these, I felt more spark to do them once I returned home.

Joy is hidden in the pause. Giving ourselves days off is a healthy part of living a fulfilled, creative life. Often we mistake ‘powering through’ as a sign of commitment, but too often overdoing anything, even the things we love, can lead to burnout and feelings of apathy.

Balancing work, play and rest is the key to contentment.

This was never more evident to me than when I was observing wild animals while on safari. They followed their impulses with ease and full commitment. Lions and leopards rested without hesitation. Rest is crucial to their survival. They need to maintain their strength and stamina to ensure hunting for food is successful. The lives of their pride depend on this. When they rest, they rest like they mean it because they will hunt with equal determination. There is much we can learn from the natural rhythms and cycles of nature.

As my time away helped me sift through what gives me the most joy and allowed me to rest, it also helped me see where change might be in order. There were certain activities that I did not what to return to and occasional conversations that did not sit quite right. At this point, I am using these instances of awareness simply as information gathering. I am not ready to make drastic changes, but I am willing to continue to put my energy in the direction of what feels like happiness.

Hopefully I’ll meet more extraoridnary friends along the way.

Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW

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