Taking Laid Back to the Extreme

There was once a woman whose life revolved around planning. In her job as a project manager she was constantly formulating plans, scheduling meetings and keeping track of deadlines. Raising three kids meant planning for doctor visits, practice schedules, and school pickups. Dates were important to this woman. Time was important. Knowing what was coming next was like breathing air. It’s just something everyone has to do all the time. Right?

Hmmm…apparently not. A few days ago, this same woman didn’t know what day it was. Not just the date. She didn’t know the day of the week! And this wasn’t one of those “I just had a mental glitch and forgot for a second” kind of things. This was legitimate ignorance. What day was it yesterday? she thought to herself. That didn’t help. What about two days ago, what day was that? Finally she had to pull out her phone so the screen would tell her what day it was. Oh! Tuesday! Okay…well, that’s good to know, I guess.

Obviously, this woman is me. I’m not quite sure why I went with the whole third person narrative there. Perhaps because this is very atypical behavior for me, so it seems like I’m a different person lately. Yet, I have to say I’m finding this lack of perpetual planning rather refreshing. It’s made me realize how overscheduled I’d become. How much time I spent thinking about what needed to happen next and how little time I spent fully enjoying the present moment.

To say this family has been living without a plan lately would be an understatement. In fact, I think we’ve taken this whole laid back, in-the-moment thing to an extreme level. For example, we left our house in Pucon one recent morning, and as we walked out the door for the last time and started rolling our suitcases down the street, we didn’t have a ticket to anywhere or a reservation for anything. We went a couple blocks to the bus terminal, caught a two-hour ride to the nearby city of Temuco, rented a car and started driving north to who knows where. Free as birds! That is, if birds are restricted to the interior of a beige Citroën sedan.

We wound up in the coastal town of Concepción and stayed in a lovely little apartment managed by a sweet man named Jorge who let us in and then returned later in the night with a bottle of wine for us. See, it all worked out! Recently we’ve come to realize that if we stay calm and let things unfold, they always seem to work out just fine.

Now, that’s not to say we’re going to buck all planning forevermore. Since Chile is currently in its off-season and hotels and tickets are easy to come by, our go-with-the-flow attitude works for the time being. Clearly there are times when this approach would end in disaster, e.g. sleeping in a Citroën sedan with three kids. However, taking the road of spontaneity these past few months has not only made for some great experiences in our travels, but it’s been a good lesson in staying open to possibilities. Letting go of the plan and accepting what lies in front of us.

We woke up to rain in Concepción, so rather than checking out the city we decided to head north along the coast and spend a couple days in the seaside town of Curanipe. At stops along the way we found an island of seals and magical sections of beach dotted with massive rock formations.
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We spent so much time enjoying the drive we wound up arriving at our cottage (booked that same day, of course) well after dark. We rose the next morning to find our little place situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We spent the day exploring rocky shorelines, a gorgeous forest, and beaches full of fishing boats.
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When we went into town we were quite the spectacle as we piled out of the car and navigated our crew down the narrow sidewalks. Gringos are not a common sight in these parts, apparently. As we came down the street I would notice someone yell something into a store and then a couple more heads would pop out the door and stare at us. We also had people stopping us to find out what we were doing there. The conversations were a little jumbled with the language barrier, but it was fun to meet some friendly locals. With all the stares and random conversations, I thought this was probably a little like being Brangelina. (Haha! That’s right! I just compared Brian and Tracey Carisch to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Man, I crack myself up sometimes. :-))

Another interesting part of our time on the coast was a version of shopping I’d never experienced before. The stores in this area of Chile are set up like old-fashioned mercantiles. Remember when Caroline Ingalls would go to the store in Walnut Grove and tell mean Mrs. Olsen what she needed to buy? That’s what the shops were like in the towns we visited on the Chilean coast. A few products were out on shelves, but most items had to be taken from stacks behind the counter or brought out from the back storeroom. These shops were a true test of my language skills. I would successfully rattle off the things I needed, only to get a question with unknown words thrown at me, such as “¿Qué espesor le gustaría estas rebanadas de queso?” Uhhhhhhh…. sí, por favor? (By the way, if there’s an award for being the first person in history to incorporate a Little House on the Prairie reference into blog post about Chile, I think I just won it.)

The first few days of our trip up the coast were spontaneous, somewhat silly and sometimes serene. Sitting on those gorgeous rocky beaches watching the waves crash against the shore it was easy to fall into a reflective, one-with-the-earth state of mind. Over the past year, as our nomadic family has walked away from the hustle and bustle of modern American life to enter this extremely unscheduled, unobligated lifestyle, we’ve been given an objective look at the life we had back at home. To be honest, at times I find myself shaking my head a bit. I was always thinking ahead, always checking the time, often waiting for the next thing to start, and usually worried I’d be late for whatever it was. While I don’t think I need to go through life ignorant as to what day it is, I’ll definitely be striving to spend the majority of my time “in the Now.”

“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one:
the step you are taking right now.”
~ Eckert Tolle


About the Author

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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    1. Thanks for your concern “Anonymous”, but I’m far from underfed. I am absolutely in terrible shape, and need to start working out again.

  1. oh my! such a wonderful message and those pictures – love! i also really appreciated the Little House on the Prairie reference – Ma and Ms. Olson – HA!

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