In Patagonia

Cerro Campanario, in the Argentine Lake District

Cerro Campanario, Argentine Lake District

They say travel broadens the mind, and for those of us who are lucky to do it once in a while, it certainly does. I’ve been in South America for the past month taking a very overdue holiday, and the effect on my mental state has been quite remarkable. I feel happier, healthier, more energised and full of possibility. And more than that, I think it’s given me a renewed sense of perspective on my habits and troubles here in London which is making it much easier to stay calm and focused as I get back on top of everything.

I think part of it is the process of shaking up my normal routine. I have my things which I do regularly in London to feel good, but I also have lots of bad habits, things I “should” do, things I don’t do enough of. Breaking my routines as I moved from one part of a foreign country to the next has been very good for me, like a breath of fresh air. Change your habits, change your head.

I e-mailed the rest of the Mindapples team from the far reaches of Patagonia with five things I do while I’m travelling to look after my mind which I don’t do normally:

  1. Saying yes to everything – well that is, everything that feels right. There’s something about being in strange lands that means you only get the most out of them if you’re prepared to do as the locals do, roll with the possibilities, and stay positive about uncertainty.
  2. Taking exercise – I climbed a small mountain in Bariloche, Argentina and I felt great afterwards, and in Buenos Aires I also did my first ever yoga class (in Spanish), and I may be hooked.
  3. Writing. Not much, but scribbling some bad poetry about geese and trees when I feel the mood strike me is a great way of getting my thoughts clearer.
  4. Early nights, early mornings – totally out of character, but there’s something about the air there that made me want to get up at 8am and go hiking. Weird.
  5. Being outdoors – Patagonia is beautiful and I did a lot of trekking and walking, in snow and in jungles, everywhere. Nature is amazing. The scale and pace of the non-human world is wonderful for creating a sense of perspective about the troubles and trials of city life.

Of course I also did my fair share of caprinhas till 5am, eating barbeque at 2am, staying up late partying, stressing about things, generally still being me. But all in all, this is the best my mind has felt for years. Now I’m back in London I hope to bring a rush of cool South American air to my life and work, and sweep¬†things up¬†into new, healthier energies. Either that or I’ll just eat more beef. Who knows…

All this has got me thinking though: maybe you don’t have to travel to change your habits and feel that fresh air. What if you could change your perspective by changing your Mindapples? The holiday season is coming up, so why not take a break, and swap your Mindapples with a friend…? A change is as good as a rest, as my granny used to say, so why not change your mental routine for a while, and let us know here how your mind feels afterwards. Happy travelling!

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2 thoughts on “In Patagonia

  1. Landscape is the primordial aid to contemplation. We have a majestic resource on our doorstep in the form of the LeaMarshes. It is perhaps now in the last chapter of its existance. Those people who care about the environment have been encouraged to believe that they have to sacrifice that which they care for most in order to save it.

    The erection of a giant wind turbine on Hackney Marshes will establish the lie that everything, including the landscape and the elements must be productive in order to be prove its right to exist.

    The case for the Turbine is bogus!
    Here is just part of the case against it

    1) The site for the Turbine is Common Land, control of land will be handed over to a private interest energy company or companies.

    2)The Turbine could be sited anywhere else and the energy transmitted by cable to Hackney in the normal way.

    3) A series of smaller turbines would generate the same energy without dominating the skyline.

    4) Hackney Marshes and the greater Lea-Marshes still provide an experience of a rural environment in close proximity to very dense housing conurbations. The open horizens and ‘big sky’ are a key element of this. A towering structure, combined with large-scale housing developments through the Lea Marshes will destroy this

    5) Mental Health Problems are suffered by very large numbers of people in the borough, and Depression is
    now being recognised aa a much more widespread problem than previously recorded. Recovery from these conditions along with M.E. and a whole variety of stress related illnesses is improved when sufferers have the opportunity to enjoy the experience of an outdoor natural, semi-rural environment.

    6) The leisure and recreation opportunities of this open space have barely begun to be developed by schools & other learning groups. A small sample study by University College London in the adjacent housing estate revealed that children and play-workers have no experience of, and know almost nothing about ‘cost free’ types of play and recreation in natural free-space.

    7) While many are content to use their Motor Cars to take their children to the sea-side or other wide-open spaces, the people who cannot afford to travel are not being informed of the benefits that lie on their doorstep. The majority of Hackney residents know very little about the marshes other than the football pitches. The council seems content to reinforce this narrow idea.

    The choice between football and the environment is a cruelly false one. It disguises the take-over of common land by private companies. It plays on people’s capacity to surrender something for the greater good. For shades of things to come, go to Millfields Recreation Ground, E5, and see the land grab being carried out by the National Grid and EDF by their redeveloped power station.

    The is a lot more to Hackney Marshes than football. They are part of the greater Lea Marshes, a semi rural space with wide horizens and open skies existing in close proximity to very dense housing conurbations. This space is threatened on all sides and is about to be cut through by high-rise housing developments, courtesy of Waltham Forest Council. Wind Turbines are iconic, beautiful and powerful political symbols, but, just like the Statue of Liberty, siting and context are everything. This turbine could be an albatross around the neck of the green movement for generations to come.

    If Hackney schools were teaching children the pleasures and the meaning of the enjoyment of the countryside, those same children would eventually be spending more time outdoors and less time indoors with the heating thermostat at maximum while they play at ‘virtual outdoors’ electronic games. This policy would also fit with the Government ‘Horizens’ project. This scheme aims to reduce personal depression among the adult population by ensuring that children have meaningful emotional experiences.
    There are no fast profits to be had, and there are limited political gains in the quiet enjoyment of natural free-space; perhaps there are some healthy gains, though, for the ecology and well-being of our shared world and a growth in direct knowledge of its precious fragility.

  2. Sounds like a brilliant trip, Andy.

    I think both are great:
    Travelling to new places gives me a different perspective on what’s happening at home. I quite often come back with a new resolve or having made a very different decision about something.

    And there is value in changing habits where you are too. I took up sketching this year – just because I’ve always wanted to give it a try. I now know that this is something I really like doing, and it’s rather like taking a mini-holiday for a couple of hours. It only happened because I challenged a pre-conceived idea I had about myself (that I couldn’t draw).

    By the way, while you’re in South America, I can thoroughly recommend a couple of days at Iguazu Falls. Absolutely stunning experience.