Lockdowns, happiness and the millenial muppet

YEAH! Today was my last work day for a couple of days. It’s time for ‘staycation’, ‘homelidays’, and whatever other horrible terms people have come up with, because they find it so horrible to stay at home. To put this in perspective; 68% of the people on our planet will never leave their own country. I totally made up this statistic, but it can’t be too far off. I’m pretty sure that a large part of the global population hardly ever leaves their own villages (or knows what a holiday is, for that matter). With that in mind, it is rather ridiculous how much we complain about not being able to travel. My generation of millenial muppets has grown so accustomed to exploring Mayan ruins in Quitana Roo, Mexico, doing via ferratas in the Dolomite mountains in Italy, having Chang hangovers after nights on Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, watching elderly Chinese spend their days in small towns in southern Yunnan, China, or hastily chartering a small Cessna plane to see the Nazca Lines in Peru on a three hour stop-over during a bus ride from Lima to Cuzco.

I know this, because I have been through it all.

If there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught me, it is that if you’re not happy at home, you probably will not be happy elsewhere. When we packed up our belongings and moved to Germany, we ended up in an apartment in a small town not too far from here. We got it as a temporal solution. It all seemed great. Except it wasn’t. I was very unhappy in that place. I will avoid going on a long tangent about the why. That’s a different story that perhaps is better left unshared. Looking back at it now, it also totally explains the angst that overwhelmed my person and dominated my days for about five or six solid months in the first part of 2020. A lot of unhappiness was created because of this, obviously for myself, but I think I made Heike pretty miserable too. We really needed a change, and this feeling was so visceral to both of us, that the mere projection of living in another place already changed our moods. It was only after moving to our current – and more permanent – home, that my situation improved. It was one of my darker episodes, but we got through it, and I think came out stronger in the end. Needless to say, we’re pretty happy where we are now. So much so, that for the first time in our eleven years together, we have recently started painting walls to make it ‘ours’ completely. The neighborhood is friendly and quiet, it’s a ten-minute walk from work. We have a garden (one of those wild and old ones, not some concrete + lawn mess). We’re good.

Last Christmas, one of the things I was most worried about, was that I would be bored to pieces at home in the lockdown situation. We always spent our Christmas holidays with family, often followed by a trip to London, Paris, Toulouse, Prague, anywhere we could that wasn’t home. And it was not just those holidays. Roughly eight months of my four-year PhD I spent traveling the globe. Oman, China, Peru, USA, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Italy (yes, Italy twice), Greece, Mexico, Belize, Austria and France. Of course, I also extended my PhD starting date by a month or two, because ‘I needed time to make that once-in-a-lifetime bike trip to Santiago de Compostela’. I told you before that I was one of those millenial travel muppets. I meant that. I never traveled before I was 21, so I had quite some catching up to do (I still have a to-do list). So, well, I was slightly worried about spending time off at home.

I thought it would be horrible.

On the contrary, though, I have had a great few days off around Christmas. We spent nice and active days with our small family, hiked through snowy hills, cooked so many Yotam Ottolenghi recipes that I could almost dream them. We taught or boy how to walk on Boxing Day. Just in our living room, sitting on the floor. We spent a wonderful amount of quality time with lots of attention for each other. It was incredible. And all of that within our tiny attic apartment (except the snow walks, I realize that). For the next ten days or so? We will just repeat that Christmas holiday process (minus the snow walks, I realize that). Our family is at home together almost all the time, Rafa does not go to day care. Yet, our attention is divided often. One of us is with the boy. The other is at work. In the evenings, one of us brings him to bed, the other has a bit of self-time. The time we really spend together is during breakfast, lunch and dinner, but all other time we are distracted. These days are about focus on and attention for each other. These days are about really being home. And this time I embrace the idea!

If you cannot be happy it home, you probably will not be happy elsewhere.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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