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168 Hours in Mexico: A Story about Time and Travel

I stepped out of the cool airport and into a wall of searing Mexican heat. My flight from Toronto had been uneventful and I had enjoyed reading the book I’d been meaning to get to for the past month or so. 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam provides an excellent perspective on how we spend our time, the premise being that every person’s week contains the same 168 hours, and yet while some people feel oppressed by the clock and feel they never have time for enjoyment, other people manage to run companies, organize families, volunteer for their favourite charitable organization, read books, spend time with their Significant Other, exercise, and  still pursue hobbies and other fun activities. How do they do that? Vanderkam’s book shares that very information and I picked up a lot of powerful ideas that I will be implementing in my own life going forward.

As it turned out, 168 Hours provided a terrific note on which to start my trip to Mexico, and it was yet another reminder for me of the value of being open to new ways of looking at my life. I’ve packed a lot into the past four months, having had amazing trips to Portugal, and France, and beautiful long weekends in Ontario’s spectacular cottage country. I’ve moved my mother into a retirement home, parented my kids, run my business, started seeing a special Someone, and looked after my house, although my efforts on the latter front will not win me any Good Housekeeping Awards of Excellence.

(And by the way, for any other working parents who despair of ever having as clean and tidy a house as your mother kept, I will share Vanderkam’s important reminder that many  women in the 60s, 70s and 80s were full-time homemakers who more than likely had a spouse, and they spent an average of 35 or so hours a week cleaning, tidying, and managing their household. My mother, for example, kept a spotless house and she had a lively time playing bridge, and going golfing and bowling with her friends. She wasn’t also running a business and single parenting her kids. Vanderkam’s book brought into conscious awareness the fact that it’s long past time to let my expectations of my relationship to housework drift away. )

So, all that to say that I stepped off the airplane and onto Mexican soil with a new openness to time and how I view it. As I admitted to one of the friends I’m joining for this trip, much as travelling is one of my favourite things to do, the task of actually fitting it into my life makes me uncomfortable. The week before I leave is full of panicked attempts to get my work done, my travel arrangements finalized and the packing completed (oh, the packing!), and the week or two after I come home finds me racing to catch up on what I missed while I was away.  Taking off and landing a trip are challenging for me.

And, while I am incredibly grateful to have so many opportunities to travel, I wonder if there is something missing in my approach to how I’m doing this. I’m in a phase of life where I travel quite a bit and it would be a good idea to master a skillset around making my time on the onramp and offramp of each trip a little easier, so that each block of 168 hours in my life is a little more steady, orderly and tidy. This wasn’t an insight I was expecting to have during a trip to the Mayan hinterland. But it certainly set the tone for what was to come thereafter.

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