When I was in Canada, staying local for holidays was not a big deal. There are tons of people who stay-cation for their work holidays. But, when my husband, John, and I decided that we would stay in Qatar for this Eid holiday, it gave us a lot to think about.
While it may sound like a non-problem, I am sharing because it is a unique and common problem for expats. When holidays arrive, the pressure to leave is almost overwhelming. Everyone else is headed to the airport, and the Fear-Of-Missing-Out kicks in.
If it were November or another month where we could actually touch the steering wheel in our car without risking burning our hands, we might consider a stay-cation more readily. Anyone who has lived in the Middle East or another hot desert climate will understand how this dilemma of not being able to go outside affects your thinking.
As we speak, we have survived Ramadan in Qatar while "under seige," with embargoes from the GCC countries and elsewhere, a temporary shortage in chicken and dairy, and in 50+ degrees Celsius. But Eid is upon us, and EVERYONE we know is getting out of here for the week, or are starting their 2-month summer holiday. The panic is very real.
After a stressful and crazy year (including my husband John nearly losing his life in a head-on collision with a motorbike while cycling, and training for a 9-day mountain bike race in South Africa), John and I left our Eid planning until the last minute. For the past few days, we have been frantically searching online for the countries not too far, but also countries we are not banned from travelling to due to our Qatar Residency Permits. On top of that, we wanted to find a country where you cannot literally fry an egg on the sidewalk (for a rubics-cube level challenge, try finding holiday destinations using all of those criteria!). We searched online with the urgency I can only compare to my experience of trying to find a public toilet in London while suffering from a UTI. Urgent.
But wait, I am a leadership coach. I work with people and myself every day to be more self-aware, purposeful, and to live in alignment with our core values and dreams. Why was I having such a knee-jerk reaction to the impending holiday?
So, in the spirit of being more authentic, I want to share our process for being more intentional and really thinking about our motivations for the great escape. It is by no means a recipe for what you should do. And who knows, we may experience some what-ifs. But maybe our process will resonate with you and give you some ideas for paying attention and bringing more alignment to your life.
First: Pay attention
We noticed that things were feeling hectic and started to talk about it. Awareness (without judgement) is important to bringing more mindful attention to the pressure you are experiencing. I noticed that I wasn’t really into the planning, it felt stressful, and I was not even really that excited about choosing which country we’d visit. That was a red flag. Also, we were bickering about who would make the plans, which also made me think something was out of alignment for us. We started getting curious: "What's stressful about this? What would ease look like? How can we make this really simple?"
Second: Talk it out
One thing we discussed was the reason we wanted to travel. We asked ourselves questions like, “What is the benefit of travelling for the week?” and, “How does this trip contribute to our shared vision and even our short term goals?” A common theme was that we would regret missing the opportunity. But, this is not the last chance we will have to travel, and we have both been fortunate to travel a lot already. Another thing that came up was the fact that it isn’t really enjoyable to be in Qatar at the moment. It’s too hot to go outdoors, and having taken a rest after our big race in April, we haven’t acclimatized as we did in other years when we trained outdoors through much of the summer. So, we had a good chat about where the tensions were for us.
Third: Revisit goals
What is your (shared) vision? What are you working towards?
Some of our current goals are:
So, how would travelling for Eid detract from or contribute to these goals?
Well, it would not support our plan for the following reasons:
On the other hand:
List all of your goals – even especially the embarrassing ones. For example, I would like to travel to at least 75 countries in my lifetime (I'm currently at less than 20), but that goal is less of a priority to me at the moment. Our future plans include continuing to travel, so it’s not like this is the last chance we will ever have. So, what’s important to you? Prioritize your goals according to your most pressing desires and other important criteria like timing, how much money you will need, where your heart is pulling you, etc.
I'm proud of our decision to really think about this and be intentional. And I hope you can find some value in this post as you join The Conscious Expat Community - expats who are committed to living a more intentional and authentic life.