Before kids, before most of us were aware of real carbon footprints, flight shame movements and overshooting day, before the extent of the climate crisis was as clear as it is today, like many, I used to fly very often. I used to tell myself to 'carpe diem' and went on trips, for leisure, as well as for business.
I thought the meaning of carpe diem for me was to live life as much as possible and less to practice mindfulness about what I did.
Airports were my second home, helped by the fact that I was living in London and who could say no to duty free Heathrow shopping, short flights, low airport tax, earned miles, and weekend visits to major European cities?
I did enjoy it all, no doubt. Until my 4th and last year in London was marked by weekly flights. Exciting at first exhausting later as I no longer could go a day without checking my travel diary, my boarding times or worrying about carry-on luggage and 100mls. Either for work or to visit my now husband, during our 1,5 years of long distance relationship London-Zurich I promised myself I would soon go on temporary retirement from travelling.
So once I moved to Zurich and was back on the 'continent', I decided I was going to stay put for a while, start enjoying car trips again and switch from planes to perfectly on time trains should I have needed to travel for work. As I was now covering international clients in Switzerland that was not a problem.
Then kids came and travelling took a whole new meaning. Travelling with kids means packing the house (nearly), travelling without means worrying if the kids will be ok while you are gone for 14-15 hours at best and cannot jump and pick them up should the school call you during the day.
It also means running through my (slightly paranoid in truth) check-list. Is our testament updated, have I written a note in the diary I keep for the kids (so they will know how often they were keeping us awake at night and where all those wrinkles and gray hair come from once their dad and I grow old!!), what's the plan for their dinner/laundry/clothes while I am gone. Their father is the best, one of the most hands-on dads ever so I should not worry but I still do. And frown if once back I realise they were sent to school with randomly matching clothes or socks... Nearly 10 years of life abroad brought me to realise that Italians just do it better. The colour matching that is.
Business trips also mean having to play catch up once back at the base and clearing natural backlog.
I pushed back on any trip I could for the past 5 years, cutting back to the minimum required, hoping virtual reality meetings would be a reality soon (and they will be!). Until today, as a big work project I am very fond of requires minimum one day in London, my previous beloved hometown.
On my way to my 7.45am flight this morning I realised my concept of carpe diem has drastically changed. As I look at the faces of sleep deprived people around me - I am one of them - at the airport I mentally go through what carpe diem means now for me.
Seizing the moment now means thinking of my family and their wellbeing and being present in the moment when I am with them, having a circle of wonderful new and lifetime friends and having left behind all the negative, energy draining people of the past, being grateful for every day and for the love I give and receive, even for every sleepless night of the past 3 years (all of them really), for the new opportunities and for the lessons learnt. Paying attention to my body, my mind and my gut feelings at every given time.
Being a more mature, more practical version of my previous self, it also means realising that no one, ever, under any circumstances should eat the pale-looking croissants microwaved in their plastic bags that are served on planes in the morning! (Sorry BA, time to increase food quality here.)
ps. I re-read this 6.30am written post while trying to dry after a walk in the pouring rain around Moorgate. The elegant British chatter around me, the cobblestones streets and the old brewery buildings remind me of the beauty and charm of this city. The damp, hot, overcrowded London tube on the other hand reminded me of why I enjoy Zurich and its calm clean trains for this part of life!