Down Time

I’m always on the go, the energizer bunny… Before I left my life behind, I did cardio every morning, went to work, lifted weights on my way home, and walked my dog every evening. Weekends were filled with errands, cooking, cleaning, and sometimes, an outing, hike, or adventure of some sort. I rarely schedule down time for myself. I cancelled cable TV and hardly watched movies on Netflix. Every now and then, I’d start reading a book, sometimes, it would take months to finish, and my blog, well, I let this go for quite a while as well.

I recently met a girl from France who was at the tail end of traveling abroad for a year. She and her boyfriend bought a camper and traveled mostly along the west coast of Australia. We met the day I went to the Great Wall. She was so disappointed to be going back to the “real world” soon. She said she savored every moment and saw everything possible while on their trip. It made me happy to hear. I wonder if I’ll get bored or tired on this road but I feel like there’s so much I want to see and do, so how could I?

When I left Beijing for Zhangjiajie on the train, a part of me dreaded the 26 hour trip, but a part of me looked forward to it. It was forced “down time,” and I needed it. My body was sore and tired from the 40 miles I’d done in my first three days in Beijing, and I knew it would give me time to finish reading a book about Nepal I had started back in April! Additionally, before I left (and still had an Internet connection), I downloaded another book onto my iPad: Tales of a Female Nomad. I came across that book one day at Half Price Books while selling back a trunk load of a library I had collected over the years. I couldn’t buy one more book…

I enjoyed the train ride. I slept more than I expected, I read, I listened to music, I updated my blog posts, I did some budget projections. I did nothing. When is that last time I did that? I think it was the Sunday before I left San Antonio- May 29th. I was supposed to go hiking, but there were torrential downpours that morning. Instead, my friend and I went to brunch and spent the early part of the day watching the Departures episodes from Mongolia on Netflix. I have fond memories of that day! Doing “nothing” is good sometimes.

The day we left Zhangjiajie, it poured. It was the “extra” day because as mentioned, I had to stay one more day in order to get a soft sleeper on the train back to Beijing. It rained so hard and the clouds were so thick you wouldn’t have known the city had a backdrop of beautiful mountains. It made me super grateful for the few days of sun we did have. I was restless in the morning, feeling the effects of not working out now in nearly two weeks. I did a makeshift session in my little room. 400 squats, push ups, dips, leg raises… I went out for a jog. Somehow, I made it out just in time. The rained lightened and I ran along the path on the river then made the non-stop hike up to the temple for an extra session for my legs. I got back around 10:00 am – still 7 more hours before we had to leave for the train station. I slowly cleaned up, showered, packed, cleaned the apartment a bit, got some food and snacks for the ride back, got some money… Then, I watched Netflix. Again, I sat and did nothing. It was nice. I began a series called “Frankie and Grace,” as recommended by one of the Americans I met the day I went to the Forbidden City. I downloaded a “Learn Nepali- Alphabet and Numbers” book onto my iPad. I contacted all of my hosts in Mongolia and was quietly excited for the next leg, I was ready to get to the train station and head back to Beijing.

Rainy day jog along the river in Zhangjiajie.
Rainy day jog along the river in Zhangjiajie.

I’m a super regimented person, but now that I’ve been on the road, all of that has gone out the window. I’ll keep myself busy day in and day out, I’m sure, but I’ll schedule down time- it’s nice to have sometimes. I’m looking forward to my home stays with my hosts. I think a schedule of some sort will be good for me and I need to partake in regular life activities, like daily tasks, grocery shopping, cooking food, and whatever else I may be doing as a volunteer. I also need to get back to my love of learning language- something I haven’t done in a long time. I’m constantly looking at Chinese characters and comparing them with the transliterated sounds below, when available. I’ve learned to recognize a few symbols, but it doesn’t compare to formal learning, and of course, I still don’t understand a word of Chinese. At least numbers are the same, so I can understand the cost of things and sorta decipher a food label. (Nearly everything is calculated for a 100 g serving and calories are noted in kilojoules. Grocery shopping takes me forever as I’m doing multiple calculations simply to determine calorie content of these unfamiliar foods). In Mongolia, Cyrillic is used, so at least I’ll be literate, but the language is nothing like Russian. I can only hope that most people do speak some Russian though! Nepal is going to be tough. Not only do they use a new alphabet, they use a different script for numbers. Learning them is first on my list. Learning Nepali and reading the articles that the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics sends daily are going to be important to me. I need my brain to be engaged beyond activities of daily living and I cannot let my own nutrition education slide.

While I plan to see and do as much as possible, I think it will be important to have down time. Sometimes, it will be forced, sometimes, I may schedule it. I think the last 48 hours will suffice for some time, but I do have that 2:00 am flight Thursday morning, so I’ll be doing nothing for a while then. Also, my host in northern Mongolia is about 500 miles from the capital. It’s a 1.5 hour plane ride, but the 16 hour bus ride is $108 cheaper. Looks like I’ll be seeing a lot of Mongolia, after all!

Author: Tiffany Batsakis

Registered Dietitian Fitness Fanatic World Traveler Food Lover Weimaraner Owner

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