Stuck in suburbia, intrepid adventurer Sophie Everard, founder of Mad to Live Retreats, reveals what lockdown has taught her about living in the moment…
As someone who has a diploma in living life by the seat of my pants, after one week of lockdown my social media and WhatsApp were flooded with concerned messages asking how I, somewhat of a travel and adventure junkie, was holding up with my wings clipped for the foreseeable future. I’ve made a living, working and personal, in pursuit of those moments and feelings where I feel most alive, present, and in the moment. I love to immerse myself in settings and activities where I can connect to the moment most powerfully, and with my tools to achieve that including my favourite activities like surfing, outdoor hikes and meaningful connections through meeting up with other people on hiatus, the lockdown could have appeared a bleak prognosis at first.
Conscious early on of the gravity of the situation having travelled back from Asia in early February, the escalating scenario snowballed into the UK lockdown of March 23rd. Fortunate to be safely ensconced in a space with a loved one and a familiar setting with some access to greenery, I tried not to let the notion of the unknowing of when I might be immersed in a large group of friends, sweat and saltwater happily pouring off of us, hugging each other close, disturb me. I didn’t, however, surprisingly, experience anxiety at the thought of this, because I knew that my potential woes weren’t a real problem: those who were on the front line tackling the virus, caring for our wider community, and making the tough decisions, those were the ones with serious issues on the line.
“Stuck” in suburbia, what was an intrepid adventure fiend to do? In retrospect now, I have been struck by the simple beauty that often surrounds us without us paying much second glance. Within our grasp, staggering splendour and moments of raw beauty in life are often close. The one hour of exercise permitted at the start of lockdown made me incredibly grateful for it: to be able to immerse myself in the stunning beauty of the local park and its surroundings, not a typical post-card scene, but with its own captivating magic, which I discovered. As that time limit has been lifted, a child-like sense of play and full immersion into those forays outdoors, where I have for probably one of the first times ever, paid such close attention, and wander, to my closer domestic environment. Many of us have pointed out the moving beauty of the changing of the seasons as we have weathered a tough lockdown, and truly, those stunning runs and walks that I have loved and treasured during lockdown, where I witnessed winter’s final grasp melt into spring’s awe-inducing life-giving force, the budding of trees, shaggy blossoms, sprouting greenery and the scent of life and fauna in the air. My senses have been enlivened in those moments, enlivened to how fortunate I was to be outside smelling, seeing, feeling and touching a wildly beautiful time in nature. And enlivened knowing I was fortunate to be outside, using my body, which is healthy.
With group gatherings nixed with lockdown, as someone who thrives of human touch and connections, getting used to Zoom meet-ups did admittedly take some time. I increasingly find myself technophobic, craving earnest connection, away from the digital realm, which had been my initial plan, both in my business and personal life, at the start of 2020. What would that mean during lockdown? It’s a classic, but it’s patently clear: we become so conscious of how fortunate we are if we do have loving family and friends, and with all external noise, distractions and social engagements otherwise diminished during lockdown, I became more than ever so grateful of family and friends.
Not to say I haven’t been before, but now, with many of my family, similar to myself, spread around the world, (the intrepid travel gene runs deep in my family), my yearning for my family is profound. With my sister and new baby nephew far away in Asia, our daily communications have been near critical to my well-being. The classic Zoom family quiz (yep, hands up if you did it too?) a weekly event to look forward to, connecting with a segment of my huge international family that I really haven’t spent much time at all with in my whole adult life, has been a wonderful way to connect with my family. My family may be dispersed across Singapore, Australia, Portugal, Belgium and the UK, but we’ve been connected, and those foundations made during lockdown, where earnest, in the moment catch-ups, laughs, shared worry and hope, have solidified family bonds, and I’ve promised myself to continue that. And without the external distractions which can litter many of our important times we spend without loved ones (guilty of checking your phone constantly? Yep, me too), those moments are all the more potent.
It’s humbling how I’ve learnt; how little I do truly need to connect with that intoxicating sensation of “being in the moment”. We deluge and swamp ourselves with a cacophony of wild stimulation and staggering choice in our daily lives. The incessant hunt for “living”, the non-stop FOMO-drenched tornado of the search, can often leave us feeling the opposite to what we are seeking: drained, exhausted, over-stimulated, and flat. With time for reflection, I was conscious that sometimes my pace of life was too fast, a knowing that I actually had acknowledged and acted on some time previously last year, but the lockdown near cemented that for me: living in the moment doesn’t have to pertain to high-energy stimulus and that unrelenting quest. Those moments can often be the simplest, their beauty found in a special modesty. A beam of warm sun dancing across the skin on a beautiful day, the tenderness of an embrace seeped in earnest love, a run into the park, trees dancing overhead, mud squelching beneath, and a volley of laughter with family during a weekly Zoom-glitched catch-up.
Life’s beauty is found even closer than we can sometimes fathom, and that understanding has taught me more than ever, about living in the moment.
By Sophie Everard
Main image: @sophiemadtolive
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