Before Planning for 2015, a Travel Adventure to La Gomera

December 28, 2014 · 6 comments

I’m unpacking my brain.

Unpacking all the wonderful-but-stressful bits and pieces from the last year: all the highs and lows of running a business, plus personal milestones like planning a wedding and moving into a new home. Unpacking the signatures, the paperwork, the timelines, the accomplishments and failures.

Piece by piece, little by little, emptying my brain. Making room.

Each year around this time, I develop goals and plans for the coming year, both for my business and my personal life. Yet as eager as I am to look forward to 2015, to scheme and scribble and share all the exciting things I’m planning for the next 12 months, this year I need to unpack first.

Why down time must precede planning

2014 was busy — too busy. Most of that busyness stemmed from good things, and I’m grateful for that. But even good busyness can be stressful, which is why my biggest goal for next year revolves around not being so busy… but more on that in my next post. For now, I must focus not on the doing, but on the undoing.

I wish I could let go of all of 2014 at once, but my brain doesn’t work like that. To truly unpack, I have let go slowly, item by item. Occasionally I’ll feel a flood of relief, when the weight lifts all at once, when the fog clears. But most of my unpacking is deliberate and slow.

I unpack by walking. By putting one foot in front of the other, up mountains, down rocky paths, through the sunshine, the wind, the rain. We walk for hours, my husband and I, for days. This year we’re in La Gomera, a tiny Spanish island off the coast of Morocco, part of the Canary Islands. It’s beautiful, serene and largely undiscovered, and in most places we have the forests to ourselves.

La Gomera hiking holiday

The perfect place to unpack my brain. View of Vallehermoso, La Gomera, Spain.

This is some of the most spectacular hiking I’ve ever done, rivaling even New Zealand, one of my favorite places for trekking. We walk from village to village, following an itinerary from Macs Adventure, a company that organizes self-guided trips. I’ve always created my own itinerary when backpacking, so investing in an organized trip was a reluctant experiment, an attempt to embark on an adventure honeymoon without a lot of researching and planning.

It was a risk worth taking, for this has become my new favorite way to explore. Macs set up all our accommodation, provided us with route maps, and now shuttles our luggage to a new bed-and-breakfast each day, so we walk between villages with just a day pack. The hiking is tough, between 8-12 miles daily with lots of strenuous ascents and steep descents, and we’re rewarded with spectacular views and tiny villages in the mountains, some accessible only by foot. Because it’s self-guided, we’re still exploring on our own, just the two of us.

Heart-pumping climbs, plus warm showers, comfy beds, yummy food and an interesting new culture at the end of each day. My eyes have opened to a whole new way of travel, and I’m eager to explore more of the world this way.

View from our hotel over Hermigua, La Gomera, Spain

View from our hotel over Hermigua, La Gomera, Spain

Making room for new priorities

While I don’t know when the emptying will end and the rebuilding will begin, I do know this: I don’t want to throw everything back in at once, the same way it was before.

Instead, I want to rebuild almost as slowly as I unpacked, adding items and responsibilities and goals one by one back into my brain, so only the best make the cut, and the rest gets left behind. I want to examine each remaining piece with a focused brain, not one that’s cluttered or overwhelmed. A brain that has plenty of room for developing new ideas and determining true priorities.

I’ll write more about this in a future post, but I want 2015 to be about simplicity. About cutting out the fat to make room for bigger things. That will, no doubt, mean saying no more often, even to opportunities I want to take. But it will also help me create a life that’s less hectic and more focused on the now, so I can do fewer things fabulously rather than a million things decently.

But first, I must unpack. So I put one foot in front of the other, letting my worries and stresses and “shoulds” escape into La Gomera’s beautiful forests, down into the valleys and up into the vast emptyness of the sky. With each step, I inch closer to empty. Already I feel happier and lighter, freeing myself of 2014, preparing to look toward the future.

View of Mt. Teide from La Gomera

View from La Gomera of Tenerife’s Mt. Teide, the highest mountain in Spain

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Lahey December 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Great post – I’m also making room for new and better things in 2015. It’s been challenging to let go of the old, especially when it’s been working reasonably well. Habits are powerful.

I’m trying a more flexible approach to planning this year, and I’ve found “The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan” by Tim Berry very helpful. Thinking thorough what I want to accomplish and how I’ll get there is much easier for me with some structure – but not too much. 🙂

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Ivana Ivanovic December 29, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Alexis – so great.

At the beginning of 2014, I was reading a great book about finding my passion & profession (a miracle! it did the job!) and, as homework, I had to DRAW my 2014 as I imagined it.

The result: even though I feel like I have already cut out so many things in my life…the drawing was still too busy.

Yet, I felt like I could not give anything up! I had to work, I had to be starting a freelance career, I had to dance, I had to sail, I absolutely had to go to the gym, I love my friends, I have to keep reading….

A coach made me close my eyes and think about what my life would feel like with only one or two things on that drawing, and then how I would feel with all of it there. The exercise was eye-opening :)!

I was afraid I’d feel deprived if I gave anything up – but I didn’t feel deprived even giving up everything but my main main thing I wanted to do. The image of doing that one thing in full force and leaving the rest out felt calming, powerful, energizing even.

It is easy to say no to small things…outings with friends, one writing assignment or client…I found that it is sometimes a big thing we have to give up. Something that feels un-give-up-able:)
(comfort thought: it is temporary)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this – and thank you for your blog and great work!

Happy trails and Happy 2015!

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Alexis Grant December 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Ivana — Thank you for sharing this! I’ll remember it as I draw up my own plans for the coming year. You’re right that it’s easy to say no to small things… but takes true courage to say no to big things. Happy 2015!

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Jessica Lawlor January 3, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Amen to doing less in 2015″¦but more strategically and with an immense amount of purpose. Love that you’re “unpacking” your brain right now. Can’t wait to chat soon! xo
Jessica Lawlor recently posted…Three Words For 2015My Profile

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