Insane in the Membrane: Getting Lost to Find My Way Home

By periodically losing our minds, we stand a better chance of finding ourselves
— Steven Kotler

I'm sitting here enjoying one of the best iced soy lattes I've ever tasted, in Kraków, Poland of all places, reflecting on my last 6 months of life and travel (I'm sorry, but you had to assume a 'halfway there' post was inevitable, right?).  It's hard to believe it's been one year since I first applied for and was accepted to Remote Year and gave a very courteous 4 month notice to my NYC employer.  It's even harder to believe that it's been 6 months since I boarded a plane at Logan Airport in Boston to start my Remote Year journey in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  

Since early February, I've traveled to 28 cities and 11 countries, climbed the highest summit in Indochina, attended a Vietnamese and Cambodian wedding, performed Tai Chi on a dragon boat in Halong Bay, island hopped in Thailand, developed a motorbike addiction, watched the sunrise more times than I care to admit (and not in an 'early bird catches the worm' fashion), snapped more photos of sunsets than I know what to do with, stared an elephant in the eyes (it was love at first sight), danced in a flash mob proposal, scaled stupas in Myanmar, fell asleep at the opera in Budapest, donated blood and volunteered at a hospital made of shipping containers in Cambodia, ran a 10K in Singapore, 4-wheeled across sand dunes in Mui Ne, accidentally flashed everyone in front of the Moulin Rouge in Paris when my dress blew up over my head (how fitting!), took over the wheel on a Douro River boat cruise in Portugal, reunited with my French-speaking half-brother (whom I hadn't seen in 21 years) during a 12-hour, overnight layover in Brussels, did things I said I would never do, and built connections stronger than I thought possible in the span of a few months.  Needless to say my curious and adventurous spirit has been well fed (unlike my bank account).

Remote Year Kublai, my motley crew, at our 'Halfway There' beach party last week.  

Remote Year Kublai, my motley crew, at our 'Halfway There' beach party last week.  

Yet despite deepening laugh lines that I wouldn't smooth over for anything and countless moments of sheer bliss, I often find myself questioning why I'm on this journey. I'm eternally grateful for this opportunity and extremely fortunate to be spending my time alongside so many intelligent, funny, talented and kind people.   I certainly don't miss sitting in a windowless office and clinic for 10-12 hours a day (though I miss my patients dearly) and I value every second of freedom that I have, but I struggle to find a deeper sense of purpose. I chastise myself for lacking discipline in the absence of deadlines and structure and for squandering my financial stability in the name of gainful unemployment (because let's be honest- these telemedicine and health coaching gigs are basically only funding my expensive soy latte and green juice habits).  I actually WANT to work more.  And not just to fund my travel, but because showing up everyday to do meaningful work makes me feel whole.  The problem is I haven't found my flow. 

And so I'm reminded of why I applied for Remote Year in the first place.  Sure a devastating break-up was the catalyst for my application, but ultimately I was looking for my flow.  I'm passionate about a lot of things (plant-based nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and influencing a paradigm shift in a super broken healthcare system to name a few), but haven't yet concocted the cocktail that leaves me blissfully drunk in my humanitarian powers.  Ok, so MAYBE I'm putting too much pressure on myself...

I just finished reading "Stealing Fire" by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal (which I highly recommend!). The book refers to 'flow state', which the authors describe as a state of consciousness in which you feel your best and perform your best.  These states of consciousness are characterized by selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and information richness.

Steven Kotler said, “First, creativity is essential for solving complex problems — the kinds we often face in a fast-paced world. Second, we have little success training people to be more creative. And there’s a pretty simple explanation for this failure: we’re trying to train a skill, but what we need to be training is a state of mind.”  Flow states can be triggered by a number of things- meditation, a workout, cooking, dancing, playing guitar, psychedelic drugs, etc.  For me, distance running and travel are the two main things that have helped inspire creativity, quiet my inner critic, expand my consciousness, reframe my state of mind and edge me closest to my flow.  George Clinton sang, "Free your mind and your ass will follow".  Now neither my hair nor my dance moves are a match for the P-Funk Master, but I do know that when I stop trying to force things and patiently wait to NATURALLY tap into my flow, music starts playing and my booty starts shaking (metaphorically speaking).  

George Clinton, in his flow.

George Clinton, in his flow.

Me, looking for my flow.

Me, looking for my flow.

Amelia Earhart once said: “When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it”.  Amelia was one badass lady (and my idol), so I'm going to heed her advice, relax, continue working on my laugh lines, trust my intuition and curiosity, and keep traveling and running (towards my flow state).  This adventure that I'm on IS a great one, so I welcome it with open arms. Sometimes this lifestyle leaves me feeling totally insane in the membrane.  Fortunately membranes are pliable and selectively permeable (#ScienceNerd).  Though I don't expect to find all the answers or to magically mend the healthcare system over the next 6 months, I will keep cultivating that flow state of mind, saying yes to all the amazing things and allowing my travel experiences and newly established relationships to permeate the barriers of my membrane.  Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way home (those GD cheesy metaphors again).  Here's to six more months of crazy adventures with fabulous people! 

Throw back Thursday to the blog post I wrote January 31st on the plane en route to meet my Remote Year Crew: Ready For Takeoff