Clear Intentions: My Trip to the National Zoo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

While in DC, I went to the zoo. For an entire afternoon, I was wandering the grounds of the National Zoo, spending some quality time in the small mammal house, hanging out as a party of one. You might be asking: why did you spend an entire day at the zoo? Aren't there all these other fascinating/DC-specific things you could have done? And you would be right - there are many museums, cemeteries, monuments, and other places of interest in the DC area that I could have gone to.

But I chose to go to the zoo.

It is the trap of most tourists to feel like they need to experience everything a place has to offer in order to feel "satisfied" with their visit. Vacations turn into these long sprawls of scheduled time where people are more or less running from place to place, feeling just as harried as when they are in their regular workday (if not more!). On this vacation, I wanted to break with the idea that every one of our actions has to be productive or profitable.

The zoo allowed me to connect with my intention: to relax.

It sounds so simple, but even on vacations we often lose sight of this idea in favor of cramming in all tour sites we can into one day. On Monday, I lingered in the halls of the small mammal house, hanging out with the elephant shrew and the three-banded armadillo and the rock hyrax for as long as possible. I observed (from a far distance) the crocodiles and snakes in the reptile house, and was brought back to my childhood when the zoo was the most bomb place to go.

Mind you, it took some time to get rid of the squirmy feeling that I wasn't "doing it right" or having the "best experience" of DC. To quiet these thoughts, I really had to work on living in the moment and reminding myself that there was a reason that I chose to be here. To relax. To escape. To heal. All simple words, but oh so difficult to access in this crowded busy life.

I challenge you, this weekend, to limit yourself to a singular focus. Whether that is to relax, to finish one assignment, or to go to one specific location (mammal house!) make that intention clear and put your whole self into it. It is better to do something slowly and deliberately than to do it just to get done.

You might also like to check out my round-up of life lessons.