There’s a universal phenomena, particularly noticeable out here on the coast of Kenya. It occurs when we get so used to wonderful things that we no longer enjoy them. In this part of the world it is neatly summed up by the expression; ‘trouble in paradise’.
The expression is used when someone has spent enough time on the coast to have lost the day-to-day joy of this stunningly beautiful and peaceful place and begins to notice the problems.
Yet I’m not sure it’s particular to this place, or even to geography.
People get used to wonderful things. Lottery winners end up as happy or unhappy as they were prior to their win. We tire of even the most exciting people, places and riches. We can get used to the sensation of jumping out of planes, or a fantastic place, or a great relationship. We can lose the magic.
On arrival, people are overawed by this part of Kenya. It’s paradisiacal.
It can take a few weeks, or months before flaws start to creep into one’s peripheral vision.
Daily, I hear complaints from people who seem to find fault in even the very best things. Whether it’s the beer, which isn’t quite cold enough, or the mosquitoes, or the relentless wind, or one’s staff and their inability to make poached eggs quite the way one wants them (good God!), or the bureaucracy, or different nationalities complaining about one another (there’s a bit of an Italian Vs. British rift in this part of the world).
The list goes on. Many people seem deeply unhappy and frustrated by this place, even though they loved it when they arrived. Yet I sense that the same people would find problems wherever they go.
It’s interesting how quickly what initially felt very special can feel normal, even annoying. It’s often difficult to retain one’s perspective.
Yet it is perspective that turns relentless wind into the best kitesurfing spot in the world.
It is perspective that enables you to shake up a routine that has become dull.
It is perspective that turns hassle into humour.
Here are a couple of ways to retain perspective:
1. Shake up the routine
I believe that change can be a great way to maintain one’s enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive, just a change of scene (here’s a slightly flowery article entitled Five Ways of Taking a Vacation without Taking a Vacation, which contains some good ideas). Even changing routines can help refresh. Sometimes it’s difficult to shake out of the current routine, but I find that if I can summon the energy, it is nearly always hugely rewarding – even if it means camping in your garden for a night, dusting off that old fishing tackle and heading for a lake, playing an impromptu game of twister, or reading something that would normally have you reaching for the shredder.
2. Simplify expectations
It’s also vital to keep things alive by enjoying what you have and trying to reawaken dulled senses. Expect less.
Out here in Kenya, it should be easy. I can walk through indigenous villages and marvel at the colours and our respective lives. I can head for a swim in a turquoise ocean. I can spend an evening watching elephants drinking from a waterhole. I can head for a kitesurf.
Yet there are days when I get annoyed with things that would have had me laughing on arrival. I miss my friends and family. The exotic can become the idiotic. Whereas in San Francisco or London, there was never enough time – sometimes we have too much of it out here. It was an incredible luxury on arrival, now I sometimes find myself a little listless. Tell that to most people in London and they offer to give you a beating.
But that frustration only lasts for a short while – plus I recognise it is the same mood that would have me listless wherever I am. The quicker I notice it for what it is, the quicker it passes and the quicker I can get back to loving what I have right here, right now.
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