Coconuts for days. Wild pineapples, mangos, almonds, and papayas. Kingfish or yellowtail for lunch. Year-round low eighties. Caribbean-clear water with ample reefs. No cars. Mostly smiles. All stars visible when the sun goes down. Doesn't that sound nice?
This is a real place about 60 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, and it had a powerful effect on me. The island and many of its people were a stark contrast to my reality in Los Angeles, and I love meeting those who refuse to participate in the Rat Race yet enjoy their lives and attain a level of consciousness and happiness that we all aspire to. It's enough to make you reconsider just about everything you throw your energy into.
I know I did.
Following are some lessons I learned while spending a week on the island. I realize that there was a synergistic effect happening, and that observing one or two of these lessons isn't going to overhaul your psyche or eliminate the stresses in your life.
However, I hope that some of the peace and perspective I gained can be achieved by anyone, simply by being aware of aspects of modern life that may be grinding us down.
1. The importance of a sense of place.
This adventure taught me that how I behave and what I care about is directly related to where I am. For example, I spent long moments looking at the natural world and connecting to it on Little Corn--not checking Facebook, Instagram, my favorite sites, blogs, reading books, listening to podcasts, or any other myriad ways I spend my time back home.
I watched an iguana high up in a tree eat a piece of fruit, and I've joked since coming back that it was more powerful than four years of dream-chasing in Los Angeles. This isn't entirely true, but I knew there was a lesson in it. I did not wear shoes for the majority of my time there, and stepping lightly over almond pods and crab exoskeletons was a great reminder of how distracted I am in my normal day-to-day. Be aware that your environment is having a tremendous impact on your life in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways.
2. Walking will change you.
There is no other choice on LIttle Corn Island, and as a result you get plenty of exercise just going from one part to the next--even if it's as simple as finding fresh fish or grabbing a bottle of water. When I'm Wazing to my destination in Southern California, I'm listening to music or a podcast, regularly checking my phone, maybe drinking an iced coffee, and admiring a mural or two at best. Mad distractions. Walking forces you to pay more attention, and that means being more present.
If you don't walk a lot now, you can always start.... now! It remains one of the cheapest forms of transportation, and will connect you to your environment in a way that no other form of travel can. Strap on your shoes--or better yet, take them off--open the door, and start moving.
3. Mitigate peripheral man-made noise.
There are no ridiculous cars, motorcycles, converted bicycles, or other privately-owned, noisy vehicles to speak of on Little Corn Island. There aren't any police helicopters, sirens, dump trucks, or construction noise either. In short, the sounds of a typical city aren't present there, and the peace that comes with that is extraordinary.
Where I live the daily noise pollution is astounding, and if you live in an urban area there's a good chance that you deal with something similar. I encourage you to find some time every day for complete silence. Whether that is a meditation, using noise cancelling headphones to (fill in the activity here), or finding the quietest place in your immediate proximity, you will notice your thoughts become clear and your stress levels drop.
The sounds of the jungle and the lapping of waves put me to sleep every night faster than any time in recent memory. Consider that it has been the soundtrack of that particular island for thousands of years and never gets old somehow. That is nature at its most soothing.
4. Light, Electromagnetic waves, and sensory annoyances are taking their toll.
The amount of time I spend looking at screens has gone up since the early nineties, when I was watching a shitload of TV every day, and that is appalling. I'm frustrated when I feel that I can't disconnect because of business, relationships, family, etc.
What I found on Little Corn Island is that the world didn't end when I put my phone away. I was so much more focused, so much more present, and so much happier. "Oh, yeah," I thought, "I used to feel this way all the time!"
I'm certain that we're more anxious now than we've ever been because we carry around mobile devices. I see it in people at restaurants, in cars, at auditions... Always anticipating that next text message, that next Like, or that next validation that "LOOK! I EXIST BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS SEEN ME!" Or maybe I'm imagining it all...
In any case, I used my phone for the odd picture during walks through the jungle and sending an email or two. Other than that, it stayed out of sight and I felt free.
5. The importance of a sense of play.
Do you remember how much you used to play? I guess it depends on how old you are, but with very few exceptions and outliers, I can assure you: you used to play a lot more! That's what happens when you grow up and everything gets very serious. Aren't we all walking around like our lives are happening in italics? I feel that way a lot, and it's ridiculous to take ourselves so seriously. Can we agree to stop that shit? Or at least be in italics a lot less?
I knew I needed to play more, and so I invented coconut games, climbed rocks and trees, swam poorly, chased lizards, tried to fly (still can't), and trash-talked crabs, among many other playful things. Don't forget that you were born to shine, and that playing lets a little bit more light out. You won't be thinking of stuff and things as you pass from this earth--you'll think of the moments you made and the people you loved.
Get together with someone you love and go play.
Hasta la próxima,
P.S. Have you traveled to Little Corn Island, or a similar place that completely overhauled your sense of self and priorities? Tell us about it in the comments field below!