Billy and Brian sit down with teacher, writer, psychologist, and consultant Dr. Yvette Erasmus to discuss:
--how she feels about her daughter's change of plans to forego college and live with her for another year--her recent trip to Alexandria, Egypt, in which she closed a chapter in her life
--her recent trip to Ireland to support a friend through adventure
--the difference between the journeyer and the explorer and how those approaches to finding meaning in life can add fulfillment
--how someone can go on an exploration or a journey without ever leaving their home (but why it's important to get out of familiar surroundings as well)
--what Billy's purpose during his upcoming trip to Portugal (and beyond!)
Like what you heard from Dr. Yvette Erasmus? Contact her at:
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Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I am matchless today, Billy.
Brian: Yes, in that I have no matches.
Billy: Yeah, how come you are matchless? How come no one —
Brian: I use lighters. Well, was that a dad joke? All right, well.
Billy: Is that why you chose matchless for your word today?
Brian: It kind of was. I was like, oh, I can dad joke that one.
Billy: Oh, you are the absolute worst human being.
Brian: It’s true. I’ve got much worse jokes.
Billy: Oh gosh. No, please don’t. Please don’t. I’m actually so glad that this is the last episode of this season.
Brian: What are we going to do? We’re running out of words.
Billy: We are. We’re going to have to go to a thesaurus here and just start Googling words or, no, here’s what we want. If you have a word of the day that you would like Brian to say, please text it to us, DM us at Mindful_Midlife_Crisis. You can tweet us at @mindfulmidlife or email us at email@example.com. What are some words that you would like to hear Brian say?
Brian: I’m going to set up some parameters too on this. So, make it hard, first off. I will not look at the pronunciation of the word before saying it on the air. How does that sound? Let’s make it a little challenging.
Billy: That sounds awful.
Brian: It’ll be entertaining, though, will it not?
Billy: Oh my gosh. I’m sweating just thinking about what could possibly happen with all of this. Oh, but this is an exciting episode because this is the last episode before we do our season recap with Matt Hazard next week, and we thought who better to have on the show than one of our favorite guests, Dr. Yvette Erasmus. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to episode 19 where we talked to her about compassionate communication for deeper and more meaningful relationships, please go back and listen to that one. You’ll enjoy this interview that much more. Dr. Yvette is a teacher, a writer, a psychologist, and consultant with a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in clinical psychology. Dr. Yvette’s unique background as a global citizen makes her uniquely able to help others bridge the gaps between heart, head, body, and soul. Her programs integrate core insights from multiple wisdom traditions and offer various programs for community learning as well as one on one consulting and therapy. Welcome back to the show, Dr. Yvette Erasmus. How are you today?
Dr. Yvette: Hello, hello. I am so happy to be here with you.
Billy: It’s so nice to have you in studio too. It’s always a different vibe when we have our guest in studio so that’s very pleasant. And you needed to get out of the house anyway, right?
Dr. Yvette: I absolutely needed to get out of the house. It’s so lovely to be in a new setting and to be with real people. This pandemic has really given me a new appreciation for being live with people.
Brian: No doubt. Me too, actually. I mean, I don’t see a lot of people during the day for my day job but, yeah, I feel the same way you do just gathering — or going to concerts. I was at a concert on Sunday.
Dr. Yvette: Oh, how fun.
Brian: A big one. There was about probably 2,000 people there and it was strange for a minute, like you got to look around like, “Oh, this is what it’s like again.”
Dr. Yvette: That’s right. That’s right. It almost feels like entering — I feel like I’m doing something naughty these days when I’m hanging out with a lot of people, like there’s a part of me that’s like, “Am I allowed to be doing this?”
Billy: What was the concert, Brian?
Dr. Yvette: It was the TeamHappy Benefit. The guitar player from Hairball has esophageal cancer so it was a benefit for him and the guy’s been fighting and it looks like it’s been pretty tough on him but he’s got a beautiful family and a huge support system so everybody was out there showing him some love and raising some money to help take care of those medical bills.
Billy: Who was all at that concert? Who all performed?
Brian: Oh my gosh, the list goes on. There was a lot — Fabulous Armadillos, Hairball, Magic 70’s Sunshine Band. There was a lot.
Billy: Slave Raider was there.
Brian: Slave Raider reunited, actually. That was a big deal. And they were great. They were really great.
Billy: Yvette, who is a concert that you have not seen? Who’s on your concert bucket list?
Dr. Yvette: Oh, my goodness. Who is on my concert bucket list? I have no idea.
Billy: Are you a music goer? Do you like going to concerts?
Dr. Yvette: Yes, sometimes. It depends. My favorite concert, I’ll answer this one instead, there’s a group from the UK called Tunng and their music is really, really interesting, and I’ll just leave it at that.
Brian: I got to look it up now. I’ll look it up.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah. I saw them at the Walker Art Center, I believe, is where they were performing and I was absolutely intrigued. They had all kinds of non-traditional instruments, all sorts of things that you wouldn’t normally consider to be instruments. A lot of percussion —
Brian: That’s cool.
Dr. Yvette: — a lot of melody, really interesting, unusual things happening sound wise. I loved it.
Brian: So they’re like Blue Man Group without the blue, maybe.
Dr. Yvette: Maybe.
Brian: Because isn’t that Blue Man Group does? They pretty much just bang on whatever is laying around.
Billy: Blue Man Group is a lot of fun.
Brian: Yeah, you like the Blue Man Group.
Billy: I have seen them in concert and it is entertaining.
Brian: And I’m right, right?
Billy: Well, yeah. It’s a lot of percussion and stuff like that but it’s also performative and theatrical. It’s a good time. Absolutely. I am willing to say that I enjoy the Blue Man Group. I don’t need to see them again but I enjoyed the one time that I went and saw them.
Brian: I don’t think either of us is the stature to become a blue man. I think you have to be a certain height, a certain weight, like you have to be six two and so many pounds.
Billy: Oh, really?
Brian: Yeah, there’s some really strict criteria because they want them all to look the same.
Brian: Right, so they have some very stringent rules on how you can look before you can become a Blue Man, officially.
Dr. Yvette: That is fascinating. I’m going to have to go look this up.
Billy: I am too, so now we have two things to look up here. We need to look up the parameters and what it takes to be part of the Blue Man Group and we need to learn more about the band Tunng.
Billy: So all right. So, did you see Tunng when you were living in the UK?
Dr. Yvette: No, actually I was here in Minneapolis but, yeah, I followed them ever since. I’ve really enjoyed their music. I don’t know who I would go and see next. Probably —
Billy: Is there someone from your youth that you have not seen and if you went and saw them, it would be a nostalgic event for you?
Dr. Yvette: I’ll date myself.
Billy: That’s okay.
Dr. Yvette: Paul Simon.
Billy: Oh, yes.
Brian: Oh, can’t go wrong there.
Dr. Yvette: Lady Smith.
Brian: Oh, that’s a great, Graceland is —
Dr. Yvette: Yes, Graceland.
Brian: — incredible record.
Dr. Yvette: Yes, absolutely, that’s where my mind goes next.
Billy: So as you think back on your younger self, what’s some advice that you would give to your younger self if you encountered her today?
Dr. Yvette: Trust what you want.
Billy: Tell us more about that trust.
Dr. Yvette: Trust what do you want. I think a lot of my journeying had to do with undoing the conditioning of doing what I should do and what I was told is the practical, realistic, right thing to do, especially where that sort of contradicted what my heart wanted. And when I look back, the biggest regrets that I have or the things that I sort of wish I had figured out more quickly had to do with really trusting my inner desires, even when they were a little bit offbeat or countercultural or not what, quote unquote, “normal” people would do. It would have been something around like just trusting your instincts and doing the things that you love doing and letting that guide you more than all of the practical scripts that I think came down from a pretty fear-based family system about success.
Billy: So, the last time you were here, just kind of going off of that, you had talked about how you had landed your dream job in Kuala Lumpur but then you decided not to take it because you had a five-year-old daughter and you couldn’t bear the thought of putting her on a bus and having her ride across town in a large city for 20 minutes in order to get to her school. So, does that fit into that in some way where you’re like, “No, I made the right decision,” or would you look back on that and say, “You know, I wish that I maybe would have tried that out for a year just to see what that was like,” or do you do not even think of it in those terms?
Dr. Yvette: No, I love, love, love that question because it still feels like I went with my heart. My attachment to my daughter and my love for her and her wellbeing was just more powerful than having to pursue my dream job that year. And one of the things I told myself was I can apply again when she’s a little older, when circumstances are a little different. If this is really something that stays alive in me, I’ll apply again, I’ll find my way here. I don’t have to give it up forever but it still was about following my heart, which was about doing what I felt as a mom would best serve my kiddo at that time.
Brian: I think most parents or most good parents would make that choice too honestly.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah.
Billy: That kind of begs a good question about regret and it sounds like you have no regret about it because you’re able to look at it like it wasn’t meant to be because it wasn’t within my heart.
Dr. Yvette: Yes, but if we want to drill down into that moment, I think it’s worth saying that there was also a period of grieving and there’s also sometimes in life we come up against difficult choices and even if I know that I’m going to make this the priority, going with my daughter and tending to her emotional nourishment as I understood it, there’s still a little bit of giving myself space to feel sad about a sacrifice that I am legitimately making and willingly making. I’m not doing it resentfully, but there is still — we find that in life, we can’t have everything at the same time. Now, it may mean that if I really did want to get back to KL and go to the International School of Kuala Lumpur, I’m sure I could reactivate my teaching license, apply again, and go. And if that was a big part of my sort of intended journey, I think that would be a desire that would stay alive in me. And I think that’s part of, in answering your question, if I look back, there are desires that I had at 15 and 21 and 28 that I would dismiss and decide that’s not realistic, we don’t do that as grownups, that didn’t ever go away. And so then later, I get to go and do some of those things and follow some of those dreams, but in terms of advice for my younger self, I would just say, “Oh, honey, you can let go of that. You can let go of realistic. Go for inspired. What brings you energy. If it brings you energy, go with it. Trust the wisdom of that.”
Billy: So what are some of the things that 15- or 21-year-old Yvette wanted to do that today Yvette is going to do now that it’s more of a reality and you’re following that — I always like that you used the word “play” so what is today Yvette going to do for play that 15-, 21-year-old didn’t get to do because it wasn’t practical?
Dr. Yvette: So I won’t even say practical, I’ll give you a really weird one, actually. I love walking. I love hiking. I love being physically active. And when I was in my 20s, I had these competing things going on in my mind. It’s really good to exercise, you should exercise because it’s healthy, and then another part of me that was like, “And exercising is a waste of time when I have all of the studying to do,” and I would privilege studying and being productive and exercise was always like devalued and it came with this inner conflict because I also knew it was supposedly good for me but my motivation to do it at that point was like I should and I have to. Today, I walk every single day and it is joyful and it is fun and I love it and I get out into the woods and I get out into nature and the old part of me that was like, “This is really a waste of time, you have much more productive stuff that you should be doing,” the volume is toned way down on that. And I do it because I enjoy it, not because I think I should because it’s a good health thing or that I have to get in my to-do list of exercise because that’s what they tell you to do, which was part of the motivation when I was younger that has fallen away, but I think it’s a little bit like once I’ve settled into knowing what I genuinely and intrinsically enjoy and then valuing that, like that’s a way to live. One of the ways to live is to really follow what brings you joy and what brings you energy. And it’s so much lovelier for me than living a life based on all the things I should do first and then maybe there’ll be a little bit of time and energy left for what I want to do. So I flipped those.
Billy: Do you think, though, just to play devil’s advocate, that you had to put in that work first so that you could get to a point where you could take the time to go for a walk in the middle of the day? Or do you think that you could have always been at that point and not sacrificed being out in nature, doing things that you loved maybe 10, 15 years ago before you started doing a practice like this?
Dr. Yvette: So it’s a complicated question because I would say whatever path I did take is the path I needed to take, because that was the trial and error of it. I needed to find out from the inside out what did work for me and what didn’t work for me. And so, in some ways, we spend a lot of time I think in life sometimes getting contrasts, doing the things that we actually realize we don’t want to be doing and in finding out what I don’t want, I get a lot clearer on what I do want. So I think that’s an integral part of the journey. We all go through things of doing what we don’t want because it helps with the clarity. That said, I don’t think that I needed to do a whole bunch of things that I was doing when I was younger to figure out what I really loved, I just think I needed to drop the working against myself pot all the time.
Billy: So the last time you were here, you were excited about becoming an empty nester and when I talked to you about a month ago, your daughter had chosen UMD and I had praised your daughter as being one of the smartest 18-year-olds on Earth because only the best and the brightest go to the University of Minnesota Duluth. And how’s that going?
Dr. Yvette: Well, she announced to me last Monday, she was in Egypt last Monday visiting her father and she sent me a text letting me know that she and her father have had a heart to heart and they have decided that she should live with me for a year and drop out of college. And then —
Billy: That was not April 1st last Monday, just in case anyone’s wondering.
Dr. Yvette: No, and I instantly text her back with high anxiety saying, “Okay, hang on, slow down. You’ll be home on Wednesday. Let’s just talk about this when you get home. I get that you and dad have had this discussion and just hang in there, Jesse, and as soon as you get home, we’ll talk,” and she’s like, “Mom, it’s done. I have unenrolled.”
Billy: Oh, wow. And the best part is when we talked during the last interview, you said that that was the only option that was not on the table. It’s like you jinxed yourself and here it has come back round full circle.
Dr. Yvette: I know. I know. Luckily, I had two days from Monday to Wednesday to do a lot of venting and grieving and processing and then by the time my delightful darling child showed up on Wednesday, I was in a more calm and grounded place where we could have a discussion about her life plans that felt slightly more supportive than it might have been on Monday. So we have a lot of renegotiation going on. I mean, I was able to say, “Listen, of course, it’s your life. You get to decide what you want, but I would have liked to have been included in that discussion.” And there is something about having that decided, something that affects me to such a great degree for the next year, to be left out of that discussion really doesn’t feel good. So that’s where we began and now we have a plan for the next year, but there’s a lot of pivoting happening over here.
Billy: So, essentially, you’re helping her find her meaning and purpose through the self-journey.
Dr. Yvette: This is the hope. This is the intention. We’ll see. I’ll report back to you how it actually goes.
Billy: Do you have your hand on her back giving it a gentle push through all this whole thing?
Brian: Hey, if it’s any consolation, do things ever go to plan?
Dr. Yvette: No.
Brian: Of course they don’t, that’s why we’re talking about what we’re talking about.
Dr. Yvette: Never. The best laid plans just — one of the things I have learned through the life journey is that the ability to be flexible and go with whatever life throws at you is key. It’s key. The resistance is futile. When life throws you a curveball, the best thing you can do is figure out how to enjoy it.
Brian: Embrace constant change —
Dr. Yvette: Absolutely.
Brian: — is how it registered with me, especially in business. When you run a company, you have to keep evolving. You have to look at markets. You have to look at demand for the products or whatever it is and you have to constantly pivot. You can’t go, “Okay, I sell widget A now and 10 years from now, I’ll sell the same amount of widgets,” and it just does not work that way.
Dr. Yvette: No, no, no, we have to be super responsive. Like any relationship, things emerge, things are always being created and co-created and reinvented and so it’s — for me, the trick is learning to really enjoy that, learning to enjoy the surprises instead of getting rigid and tight and attached to the one outcome that I wished for or that I think is, quote unquote, “the right one” while letting myself be angry and grieve and feel disappointed, like I make room for all of that but it doesn’t have to lead the way.
Brian: So has she dropped the other shoe yet? Is the plan she’s going to run off to Hollywood and become a performer or anything like that?
Dr. Yvette: No, but she did come home on Sunday with a tattoo.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Dr. Yvette: So, I just told myself, “Okay, this is 18. This is individuating. This is,” because I’ve said to her many, many times, this has come up before, I’m like, “Jesse, please just wait until you’re 25. Just get a tattoo after your 25. Don’t do it impulsively right now, I understand,” like this is another discussion we’ve had and that was another text I just received. Yeah, yeah, it’s fun in my house right now.
Brian: It’s always fun with children. You never know what to expect.
Dr. Yvette: I know.
Billy: I’m laughing hardest because I’m the one person in this room who doesn’t have children and I’m just like, “Ha, ha, ha, ha.”
Dr. Yvette: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I hope you’re feeling very self-satisfied right now.
Brian: I made the right choice.
Billy: Very much so. Very much so. So, the reason why we wanted to have you on at the end of this season is because we’ve had all these amazing guests on who have been providing us with this great information about how to live our best lives and I’m about to embark on this journey overseas for the next year and I don’t know where the wind is going to blow me and, when we talked last time, you really did a great job of talking about finding meaning and purpose through self-journey and you yourself have done that, have lived on multiple continents, and we thought, well, who better to have this conversation than Dr. Yvette Erasmus, so when we come back, we’re going to continue talking to Dr. Yvette and learn about some of the recent journeys that she has taken and what the difference is between being a journeyer and an explorer. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Dr. Yvette Erasmus and we are learning all about finding meaning and purpose through self-journey. Dr. Yvette, you have lived all over the world and so, for people who maybe missed the first episode we had with you, can you talk about where your travels have taken you?
Dr. Yvette: Okay. Born in South Africa, preschool in Malawi, elementary school in Germany, middle school back in South Africa, high school in LA, college at the U of M, lived in Egypt for five years, England five years, Tucson, Arizona, for a while, Bali, Indonesia, for a while. How’s that?
Billy: That’s a lot of continents.
Brian: Yeah. Could you pick something a little more exotic maybe? That’s incredible.
Billy: Yeah. So when we talked to you last time, you talked about how you’re looking forward to being both a journeyer and an explorer in the second half of life and you did such an excellent job of explaining what you think the difference is between being a journeyer and an explorer. So can you do that once again for us?
Dr. Yvette: So they’re very similar. I mean, both of them have to do with sort of traveling through something, but the intention is a little bit different. Like if I’m on a journey, I have some kind of an end goal in mind. There’s a beginning and a middle and an end to a journey. There’s a quest, there’s a clear intention, and I have a little bit more of a goal in terms of where I’m hoping to go. And maybe I need to pivot and change things along the way but there’s sort of an overall beginning, middle, and end. But when I feel like I’m in more of an explorer mode, it’s a little bit more like hunting and gathering, like following whatever rabbit hole shows up, and I don’t have any idea where it’s going to take me, I don’t know if I’m going to go up the mountain, around the mountain, down the mountain, through the field, into the sea, I’m just exploring, and it’s a little bit more — it emerges as you go. You make the next decision as you go.
Billy: So when we talked to Scott Welle, he talked about creating an alter ego so as you have gone on journeys, do you develop a hero mindset then when you go on your journeys as you’re trying to get from point A to point B to point C which has a goal? Or do you not view it in that way?
Dr. Yvette: I don’t know that I have consciously developed an alter ego hero mindset. However, I definitely do see myself as the heroine of my life and the queen of my domain so there certainly is some archetypal energy that I think I embody. And the other thing as you were saying that that occurs to me is I feel like I’m very much a journeyer, that’s my — I always have something that I’m aiming for or that I’m intending, like I live a pretty intentional life, but then, along the way, I like exploring, like my style of journeying is with a very exploratory mindset. So they seem to sort of go together in that way. Does that make sense?
Billy: It does, and I think what I’m working towards is being more of an explorer because I feel like I’m more of a conqueror when I go on vacation. Like if you were to take a look at my itineraries for my travels in the past, it’s down to the hour, like I know exactly where I’m going to be, and I feel like these upcoming months, like particularly in Portugal, I have two months to use your word play and that’s what I want to embrace is becoming more of an explorer as opposed to a conqueror, because even when I think about being a bucket list traveler, that feels more like I’m just crossing experiences off my list to say that I did them rather than saying that I experienced them or live them to a degree. So then you have actually taken two trips in the last six months.
Dr. Yvette: Yes.
Billy: And so the first one was to Alexandria, Egypt, and when you and I talked the last time on the phone, you talked about how that trip closed a chapter in your life. So, could you talk about that trip and how that closed a chapter in your life?
Dr. Yvette: Oh, absolutely. So, just a little context, I used to live in Alexandria, Egypt, I used to teach at Schutz American School and that’s where I met my first husband, my daughter’s father, and I had two stepchildren in that marriage and my stepdaughter, who I love very dearly, was getting married this June and so we were returning to Alexandria to be there for her wedding and it was one of those things where of course I’m going to show up, I love my stepdaughter, I want to be there for her, and that was the only goal that I had in mind, was to show up for the wedding. And I did, obviously, I got myself out to Alexandria nut one of the things I noticed as I was there that I hadn’t planned and it kind of surprised me and I think this is what I was saying to you on the phone when we were talking was I noticed that in every — like I stayed at my ex-husband’s house and when I left, I remember really consciously thinking, “Okay, this is the last time I’m ever going to see this apartment,” “This is the last time that I’m going to see the Corniche on the Mediterranean,” or, “This is the last time that I’m ever going to be in such in such a mall,” or, “This is the last time I’m gonna be on the north coast,” and that thought was in my mind very, very often. And as I was meeting people and saying goodbye to people and saying hello to people at the wedding and with family, it wasn’t as explicit in the relational space between myself and everybody else, I don’t know that anybody else knew that this was going on, but I was really aware that, inside of me, I was doing a lot of letting go and closing and releasing. And it felt really fortifying to feel like inside, even as we were driving, at the end of the wedding, we drove from the north coast of Egypt right across the desert towards Cairo and we had a flight that left at like three in the morning, and we’re driving in the middle of the night, the stars are amazing in the Sahara Desert and I’m on this road and I was thinking, “This is the very last time in my life that I will be on this road in the Sahara Desert heading to Cairo,” and it was very settling. I felt like this incredible release, this lovely goodbye. It doesn’t mean I won’t see people again or that the relationships are over, but I was very, very clear inside of myself that I would never have a need for any reason, there was nothing that was going to make me be back in Egypt again. I may go back. I mean, who knows, but I doubt it. I can feel in my system that it was the closing of a chapter for me.
Billy: I just like the way that you described that because it feels like you were, as you were able to recognize those first couple, “This is the last time, this is the last time,” it almost sounds like you were able then to be more present in those moments.
Dr. Yvette: I love that you picked up on that because I felt like I savored the trip. It’s like I was installing, like there was a part of me that was just really installing the experience and appreciating it for what it is and feeling like, “I’m done with this. I have no need to be back in Egypt ever again.” I’ve done the last thing, I’ve done the last wedding, like we’re finished, and it did help really enjoy and appreciate the experiences and the scenery in a very present way. I loved it.
Brian: Was it emotional for you, in terms of like outwardly emotional, or was it, you used the word settling, so was it fulfilling? And I feel like cathartic would be more emotional, so was it fulfilling in the sense that it filled your heart with happiness that you’ve had that experience and now you can let it go?
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, I think the word that comes to me is one of completion. It’s the satisfaction of a chapter of my life being complete. Like I married this man, I had this child, I made this commitment to these kids, and I was going to see it through. And I was going to nurture those relationships, I was going to go all the way back even though I would much rather spend my money and time on other things, like these are the commitments that I made. And it felt to me like a part of me said, “And this is the last one. Now you can be done with this commitment. You can close this chapter. You’ve raised this child,” my daughter’s half-sister and half-brother are both older than she is and she had just graduated high school and her brother is already married and now her half-sister was married and I felt like we’re now complete. I can now graduate from being this kind of mom and I can now enter into an entirely new stage of my life and I can be finished. It was like that.
Billy: And so one of the big shifts that you took recently was to Ireland.
Dr. Yvette: Yes.
Billy: And so talk about what was that trip? Was that more of an exploration for you? Was that more of a journey for you? What did you uncover about yourself during that trip?
Dr. Yvette: So let me give you a little backstory on that trip. My very closest friend in the whole wide world who I actually met when I was teaching in Egypt, so we’ve known each other almost 25 years now. She’s from Nebraska. She and I have been friends 25 years. She ended a 23-year-old marriage this year and, at the beginning of the year, she had said to me, “I really want to walk off my marriage. Will you walk through the Appalachian Trail with me and let’s go backpacking?” and I was like, “Lynn, I love you dearly, you are my soul sister, I will do anything for you, and I will walk off your marriage with you, absolutely, but I need a warm bed and a shower every night.”
Billy: That’s how I travel as well, yes. There’s no such thing as camping. If camping involves a hotel and a shower, I’m in.
Dr. Yvette: That’s right. I was like, “Listen, honey, walk off your marriage, yes. Appalachian Trail, backpacking, you and me, are you kidding me? We will die. It’s not gonna happen.” So she has a lot of Irish heritage and so we found a walking trip in Ireland that was seven days of hiking so that fulfilled the walk every day and walk off your marriage piece and it also fulfilled the be a really good friend and show up for your friends piece and it also fulfilled the company will take your luggage from inn to inn and your meals are prepared and you have a warm bed every night so that’s how that happened. So the journey part, the intention part was to walk off one life and walk into a new life.
Billy: It sounds like it was a tour. Is that what it was that you went on? Or…?
Dr. Yvette: Yes, sort of.
Billy: Like a guided tour?
Dr. Yvette: So it was with a company and they booked our inns and they planned daily hikes so to that extent, yes, but there was also a lot of downtime, so you would show up at a certain time every morning, you’d meet, you’d learn about the hike, you’d go out hiking for the day, eat on the trail, learn, we walked the Famine Road, we walked all sorts of just incredible things, and then the evenings, afternoons and evenings were doing whatever you want, exploring around town, walking through the hills, doing whatever.
Billy: So I wonder if some travelers would consider it to be sacrilege to do a guided tour when you’re doing something that is supposed to be like a release, like what your friend was doing, they’re walking off the marriage. Did you see it as that or were you just like, “No, we’re doing all these things here because the big piece of it is I’m here with my friend, she wants to go for the walk, but we also have the conveniences involved in it too so we’re gonna do this tour and we’re not gonna plan it all together,” because that sometimes can be the fun in doing a trip as well.
Dr. Yvette: Oh, so much fun, yes, absolutely. But let me give you a little bit more context. So my friend Lynn and myself and her sister Carrie were the three people who went and when we showed up, there were seven people on this excursion with a guide, all women. One woman was an internal medicine doctor from Colorado. She was there with her daughter —
Brian: Was she also walking off a marriage?
Dr. Yvette: No.
Brian: Okay, all right. Just checking.
Dr. Yvette: She was walking off the trauma of being on the frontlines with COVID —
Brian: Okay, there we go.
Billy: She’s carrying a little bit, yes, absolutely.
Dr. Yvette: Yes, yes, yes. And then there was a woman from the Netherlands and a woman from San Francisco who is the CFO of some big company. Anyway, so that was it. And one of the things that I did not realize was a, quote unquote, “thing” for me, because I have most of my life scoffed at guided tours, I have had a lot of superiority and condescension in myself about guided tours —
Billy: So you were one of those people I was alluding to.
Dr. Yvette: I am one of those people, okay?
Billy: Still are.
Dr. Yvette: Yes, yes, yes. And let me just say I over identify with that perspective and this is one of the things I learned. As a single mother. I have been working very hard, planning the meals, planning the groceries, managing the budget, making the arrangements, doing the activities, and what I didn’t realize I was going to love so much was being picked up at a train station and having Paul manage everything, the timing, the food, the arrangements, the coordination. All I have to do is show up and be cared for and it was absolutely heavenly. The food was incredible. We didn’t have to worry about logistics. When something didn’t show up or some driver wasn’t there, we could just sit and have a cup of tea and wait for somebody else to solve that problem. It was absolutely heavenly. I did not realize how much I was going to enjoy being held in a container where I don’t have to plan and be responsible and make all of the decisions. It was surprisingly luxurious for me.
Brian: So are you looking for a butler now?
Dr. Yvette: Yes. Absolutely.
Brian: That’s sealed the deal.
Dr. Yvette: A butler, a personal assistant, a chef, a driver —
Dr. Yvette: Yes. I need staff.
Brian: You need staff. You’ve gotten accustomed to staff now.
Dr. Yvette: It was lovely. But the hikes were intense. I will say the hikes were intense. It was hard work every day.
Brian: I bet. Ireland is — I’ve been to Ireland and it’s cool. It is —
Dr. Yvette: Oh, it’s beautiful.
Brian: It is so great, yeah. I’ve got a brief Ireland story. When I went, my wife and I flew out of Minneapolis and we went to Heathrow and then we flew over to Dublin and then we were supposed to fly to Galway but our flight got delayed. Anyway, we get into Galway very late and we decided to rent a car because we had missed our shuttle. So, all right, we get in the car, I programmed the GPS. It’s only two hours. Here we go. Two hours later, we’re pulling into a field where there’s two dirt tracks. I’m not kidding you, there’s no lights anywhere. Two dirt tracks and the GPS goes, “Arriving at your destination.” So we’ve been traveling for 26 hours at that point so we’re like what do we do now? I don’t know. Okay, let’s just drive so we drive, we find this town that was about a block long —
Billy: Wait, wait, how does this dirt road then lead you to the town? Did it just —
Brian: We just started driving, we were like, literally, there’s lights over there, drive towards them.
Dr. Yvette: The light, follow the light. Follow the light.
Brian: That’s what we did. We were like, well, we better go back to when it wasn’t dirt so when we got on the road. Anyway, so we were driving by this really small town, a whole city block long this entire town is and right smack in the middle of that block, we look and it says inn and the lights are still on. I’m out of the car, I jump up, I run in the door and there’s this lady, she was about, she had to be pushing 60 behind the counter and she was seated and her arms were crossed and she was looking over her glasses at me and I said, you know, at this point, I looked disheveled. I had a bottle of whiskey in me.
Dr. Yvette: A weary traveler.
Brian: Yeah, traveled, and I’d finished, like I said, a bottle of scotch on the way, so it was like, anyway, I say, “Do you have any rooms available this evening?” and she looks at me and goes, “No,” and then I went, oh, I’m thinking here we’re finally and I just — I was defeated at that point. And she goes, “I’m just kidding. I just wanted to see your face.” And then she opened the kitchen and the bar for us and made us food and we found a place to stay and she was absolutely just one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met my whole life. It was great.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, I had that experience a lot. Beautiful souls. I loved the people in Ireland.
Brian: Oh my gosh, so good. We were out driving the countryside too and ran into this gentleman and his son and, again, I had a bottle of whiskey with me and the guy looks in the car and we said, “Hey, can we get up to that castle?” and he looks in the car and he sees the booze and he goes, “Don’t go getting in trouble now.” We’re like, “No, no, we’re fine. Don’t worry.” But he gave us instructions on which castles we could tour and couldn’t and all that stuff. It was really cool.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, yeah. See, that kind of exploring, that kind of like showing up in a country and then just sort of following your nose is very appealing to me. I love that. That is very much in alignment with how I prefer to travel.
Brian: Me too.
Dr. Yvette: Really, you know, and I actually am planning to go back to Ireland at the end of October and do a little bit more of that. There was so much to see and there’s so much to do and it’ll be a very different trip. It’ll just be a drive around and explore kind of trip. This was a really lovely way to be in a different kind of container, especially one that I used to be quite condescending about.
Brian: Which part of the country was that tour in?
Dr. Yvette: We were in Galway.
Brian: In Galway? Oh, yes.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, we were in Galway and we did all of the islands, well, not all of the islands, we did many of the islands off the western coast of Ireland and we did Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher.
Brian: The Cliffs of Moher so south down from Galway. See, we went to Clifden where we were —
Dr. Yvette: We were in Clifden as well.
Brian: Isn’t that a darling town?
Dr. Yvette: And then we went up to Westport.
Brian: That is Clifden Castle right there.
Dr. Yvette: Oh, excellent.
Brian: There’s a picture in my office of Clifden Castle on that trip. My wife took that picture.
Dr. Yvette: Oh, excellent. That’s beautiful. Yeah, so we’ve been to very similar places. It was lovely. We stayed in Clifden, we stayed in Westport, we stayed in Doolin and in Galway.
Billy: When you go out on your bus trips, do you feel like that’s more of an exploration or is that a journey or is it a combination of the two? Leen seems like a planner.
Brian: She is. She’s great at that and gets a lot of enjoyment out of it.
Billy: Right, and you would know where destination one is going to be, destination two, that sort of thing. So is that how you guys plan out all of your trips or do you feel like you’re planning those trips out with the bus like that because it’s the first couple runs with the bus?
Brian: Kids. No, it’s kids.
Billy: Oh, okay.
Brian: If it was just Leen and I, we wouldn’t have to do anything. When we went to Ireland and Paris and London and all of those places, we basically said, “Okay, here’s where we’re staying and let’s just go find something to do.” We didn’t plan that much. But with children, you have to because you need to know, okay, am I going to have electricity? In the case of the bus, am I going to have electricity and water and showers and all that nonsense so you got to plan a little bit more with kids, but just she and I, no, we just go,
Billy: Would you take trips with your daughter?
Dr. Yvette: So many.
Billy: Where would where have you taken your daughter? What experiences has she had with you?
Dr. Yvette: Well, a lot of the trips that we have done have to do with where we were living. So traveling around Egypt, traveling around Turkey, we’ve met family in Turkey before and done some traveling around Turkey. Bali, Turkey, and Minnesota. No, actually, know that you ask that question, you know what I’m realizing is that most of the exploring was more local. It was more local. And I think a piece of it was, for example, I would love to go with her back to South Africa. I want to go back to Africa and show her some of my history. I didn’t want to take a 15-year-old that was going to whine and moan through the whole thing because I’m attached to that outcome. So I’m waiting for her to be intrinsically interested and then I want to do that trip with her more like a grown-up.
Billy: Has she asked you to do trips like that with her or where would she go if she had the opportunity to choose a trip
Dr. Yvette: She will go anywhere where her eight best friends are, okay?
Billy: She doesn’t want to travel with mom.
Dr. Yvette: No. The last thing in the world that she wants to do is take a trip with me. I have, during the pandemic, I even said, “Jesse, we could take a road trip. We could drive to the Grand Canyon. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go do an adventure.” “Mom, can I bring so and so? Can I bring so and so?” I’m like, no, no, no, this is a mother-daughter trip and you’re not into it so let’s skip it. No. I’m not going to be a driver for a bunch of teenagers. That’s not my idea of a good time.
Brian: You’re in the basket right now though. You know how when you get little kids, you’re super cool, and then all of a sudden you’re not cool and then after college, you’re cool again.
Dr. Yvette: Well, I’m still hoping we get to an after college stage.
Brian: After college age, let’s just say.
Dr. Yvette: College age, I can go with but I don’t know if we’re going to get to after college and I know that I am probably the last person in the world my child enjoys spending time with right now.
Billy: And yet she has chosen to spend an extended amount of time with you. Oh, the irony.
Dr. Yvette: They make no sense. They make no sense, but I am being used. Let’s just be clear, I am being used for room and board. That is it. That is it. If I tried to talk to her, I’m met with grunts.
Billy: That maybe should be a condition for this extended, like if you’re going to stay here, then we are going to take a mother-daughter road trip, dammit.
Dr. Yvette: That’s right. Listen, I will settle for a five-minute pleasant conversation in the hallway, okay? She literally said to me the other day, I came down the stairs I said, “Oh, good morning. How are you?” “I’m tired. I don’t want to talk. Is there something you need?” Okay, I’m going to go make some tea, would you like some? “No.” It’s like that. I’m learning to roll, I’m learning to roll with this.
Billy: So you said you’re heading back to Ireland in October?
Dr. Yvette: Yeah.
Billy: Where else is on your list or do you not think like that? Because I remember you said that you’re also looking forward to a time when you can just go to the airport, point at a destination, and go.
Dr. Yvette: Yes. Listen, I have an app on my phone that tracks all kinds of destinations and then when the flight becomes under a certain amount, even if it’s for a weekend, I’m like, “I’m ready to go somewhere on a Friday, stay somewhere two nights, I don’t care where it is, come back Sunday night, as long as it’s under 100 bucks,” so I just have a look and see what’s coming up and even though I now have a house guest, I have decided that my darling child can be responsible for the house plants and the maintenance and I’m still going to do that. So, one place that I do really, really want to get to is New Zealand. I have a good friend in New Zealand. It’s going to take a while since they are in full lockdown. That is on my sort of out there bucket list. But right now, I think I’m in a very opportunistic place of what will life throw at me, what opportunities are going to come my way and I’m positioning myself to just be ready to jump at them and go play. And a lot of my work, in fact, almost all of my work is online so if I take my computer with me, I don’t have to worry too much about where I’m getting on the internet from as long as I have reliable internet so, I don’t know, it’s going to be a year of exploring. This is more of an exploratory mindset at the moment than a journeying.
Billy: Oh, it could be anywhere, like just see where the wind blows and takes you.
Dr. Yvette: Yes.
Billy: Excellent. Excellent. Well, we’re going to take a quick break and then when we come back, we’re going to continue talking to Dr. Yvette about finding our meaning and purpose through self-journey. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Once again, we are here with Dr. Yvette Erasmus and we are continuing our conversation around finding meaning and purpose through self-journey and the reason why we’re talking about that is because I’m about ready to take off here. This is the last episode of this season before we do our season recap with Matt Hazard next week and who better to have on the show than one of our favorite guests, Dr. Yvette. Part of the reason why we want to talk about the importance of traveling is, one, almost all of our guests talk about wanting to travel more and I think a big part of that is because I saw this statistic, and keep in mind, I got this on social media so take it with a grain of salt, but it says that 64 percent of Americans have never left the country, 54 percent said they have visited less than 10 states, and 11 percent have never left their home state.
Dr. Yvette: That’s crazy.
Billy: And keep in mind, it’s a social media stat so that could be wrong but —
Brian: You know, 80 percent of people know that stats, you can make up whatever you want to say.
Billy: Exactly, so like I said —
Dr. Yvette: I think 10 percent of them just take it at face value.
Brian: You’re probably right.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, I am 75 percent of the time.
Billy: So I guess maybe here’s — I didn’t get a passport until I was 37 years old and my family didn’t travel because I grew up on a farm, you couldn’t leave the cows at home. So we didn’t travel ever and like growing up, we went to Florida once when I was in fourth grade and then we went to Wisconsin Dells and those were our two family trips. And that Florida trip was one of those timeshare meetings so I had in fourth grade sit through a timeshare presentation. But, yeah, I didn’t get a passport until I was 37. It was 2014 when I finally went on my Pearl Jam trip and I’ve still never been to Mexico. I’ve been to Canada but we went to Canada when I was in college because you could drink there when you were 19 so I don’t know that that necessarily counts. I was in Duluth so going to Canada was only a four-and-a-half-hour drive, like it was just as close to driving to Canada as it was to Rochester or something like that so I don’t know that I would necessarily count Canada. When I went to Toronto, that counts, because Toronto is absolutely amazing. I’m curious, why do you think those statistics are so high? If those statistics are accurate, why do you think people choose not to travel? I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I would have ever gone to Europe if it wasn’t for Pearl Jam, like if I didn’t have this deep passion for the band Pearl Jam, I don’t know that I would have gone to Europe at this point, I don’t know that I would have had a reason to go, like Pearl Jam created a journey for me because that was very much about goal-oriented stops. So I’m curious, why do we think people do not go on these trips? I’m curious to hear both of your thoughts.
Brian: I’m going to say it’s financial, that the statistics probably correlate to incomes. In other words, when you’re above a certain income and you have that disposable income, you can travel but not everybody is above that threshold that allows you to have extra money to travel so I would guess it has something to do with finances. What do you think?
Dr. Yvette: I like that, I like that, I’m sure that plays a big piece of it. There’s also something in there, especially as you’re telling a story about Pearl Jam that comes up for me around having a desire and this question about where do our desires come from, like if I don’t know what I don’t know, it’s very difficult to go and seek it out.
Brian: That’s a really good point.
Dr. Yvette: So, how do we get inspired? Who’s telling stories from various cultures? Are we seeing pictures of how beautiful things are in other countries? Are we getting exposed to something that would give us a vision of something that we might want to experience? Because I think any journey begins with a desire to experience something we haven’t yet experienced. And the other thing is, not everybody has that desire. The more stressed out you are in life, the more likely you are to want to settle into a status quo. We don’t like change. We want to be comfortable and that’s a default for a lot of people is seeking comfort, not necessarily seeking adventure.
Billy: So I’m curious about this, Brian. You and I grew up in small towns, you grew up in small town Wisconsin, I grew up in small town Minnesota, and we’ve talked about how, in small towns, it’s easy to fall into the trap of you just do the same thing over and over and over again, you go to the same bars, like you don’t go to clubs in small towns, you go to bars, that kind of thing, and really the only thing there is to do is drink. So I know that, like part of me was like, “Well, why would I travel to Europe to drink when I can drink down the street?” You know what I mean? So I’m wondering, how old were you when you started traveling? Did you travel with your family?
Brian: No, but having a Special Export was considered traveling when you’re —
Dr. Yvette: Is that, okay, is that a kind of beer that we’re referring to? Okay, I’m just checking.
Billy: It sure is. There is nothing special about it —
Brian: It’s extreme beer too.
Billy: — from your body as soon as possible.
Brian: That’s true. Although I remember touring the brewery, the G. Heileman Brewery in La Crosse, they made Special Export because they bought Special Export and made it in La Crosse and I remember being there the morning after we had gone out in La Crosse and I was in no shape to partake in any kind of beverage and my buddies ended up, they’re like, “Come on, you’re here, you gotta,” all right, fine. I finally came to the peer pressure and it was delicious.
Billy: Or was it just something that you needed that time in order to get through the day?
Brian: Yeah, exactly.
Billy: No, I wonder about that sometimes though. I wonder, like my dad finally went on an overseas trip, I don’t think that he’d ever been overseas before and this was maybe four or five years ago and so he spent a month in the Philippines. My mom has been over to Germany I think a couple of times. But I think about my sister, I think my sister went to Mexico once but I can’t even get my sister to come down to the Twin Cities to visit me, like it is stress inducing for her to come down to the Twin Cities from my hometown where she lives. And so I wonder if people develop a sense of fear, like you said, they just get comfortable in their surroundings and they’re like, “Well, why would I ever need to go to Paris when everything I need is right here? Everything that I enjoy is right here,” and I think about, for me, what are the three things that have gotten me to travel? Pearl Jam, baseball, so I’ve been to every major league baseball stadium, and then paddle boarding and I think about what would my life experiences be if I didn’t have those three passions. And now I’m starting to develop a passion for being outdoors and hiking and I bought a state park pass and I used that to my advantage here this last year during the pandemic and I feel like that’s something a lot of people have decided to do, especially in the United States, as you can just take a road trip out west and you can do Zion and Antelope and the Grand Canyon and those types of trips and people are starting to embrace that a little bit more. And so I just curious why people who have not traveled choose not to travel? Why those statistics are so high? That’s just a curiosity that I have.
Brian: I think Dr. Yvette nailed it. It’s you don’t know what you don’t know. If there’s never been an impetus to create that vision, that, “Oh, I need to see that in person.”
Dr. Yvette: Yeah, you don’t have something pulling you forward. And then you also have, so you don’t have something pulling you forward and then you also have the fear of the unknown. And a lot of people really, there is such a thing as status quo bias where we really are wanting things predictable.
Dr. Yvette: It does bring up for me the sort of psychological parallel, because that’s where my mind always goes, which is that we always begin any internal journey with being unconscious. We don’t know what we don’t know. We’re unaware. I don’t know how amazing it is to go zip-lining through the Amazon and if nobody has told me a story, I have no way of finding that out. So the other piece that it makes me think about is the power of storytelling and you know how we used to sit around campfires and tell stories about where people went and what they did, like there’s something that was very sort of built in and wired in. You get these inspirational stories. And when I look at the media today, there’s not a lot of inspirational storytelling happening. There’s a lot of “The world is dangerous, it is violent —”
Brian: Fear, fear, fear.
Dr. Yvette: Exactly.
Billy: But do you think travel vloggers are counteracting that?
Dr. Yvette: Yes, but how do they expand their audience beyond — that becomes sort of a — I will read travel vloggers because I love to travel, but it’s difficult to break out of that to all of the people who are not already intrinsically seeking it out. And then we’ve got to look at mass culture, what is our mass culture producing and consuming? And then it goes down to the lowest common denominator and then that brings up all kinds of other questions and issues, which we won’t get into today.
Billy: So can you talk about a trip that you’ve taken where it was more about finding meaning and purpose through self-journey and did it go as expected or did you have to let go of expectations?
Dr. Yvette: Traveling where there was meaning and exploration for me. You know, honestly, when I think about the trip that I just took to Ireland, I think that one’s sort of front and center because it’s the most recent one but I was not actually excited about going to Ireland personally, like I didn’t, when Lynn — we found this trip and she was so excited about Ireland, I’m like, “Great, I’m excited to be going somewhere with you. That’s what I’m here for.” But Ireland in and of itself, I didn’t really have a lot of desire, and I was excited about it because I love traveling and I’m always up for going and seeing a place that I’ve never been and so when I went on that journey, my intention was to show up for my friend and to be there as a support for helping her get through this thing, supporting her in her intention. Along the way, what I discovered was, first of all, my flight was delayed for three hours on the tarmac in Minneapolis, which meant that I missed my connection in Amsterdam, which meant that I wasn’t going to end up in Dublin as early as I thought, which meant that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Trinity College, which blah, blah, blah, so at the very beginning of my trip, it started with disappointment and frustration and helplessness. And I thought, “Oh, dear, this is going to set the tone for this trip. This is really not good.”
Brian: Sounds like we have a similar experience at first with Ireland.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah.
Brian: Maybe they do that to everybody.
Dr. Yvette: Maybe.
Billy: Never travel to Ireland, good Lord.
Dr. Yvette: But you sit there and then you have these moments where you think, “Well, who do I want to be in this moment and what do I want to make of this experience in this moment?” I can sit here and bitch and moan and feel sorry for myself and, okay, I can give myself 10 minutes of that, but, at the end of the day, the journey is what is it like to be on this airplane right now not knowing if we’re going to take off today? Can I find a way to enjoy this? And then once we got going, can I enjoy what might happen when I get to Amsterdam where I’m now going to spend eight hours instead of an hour and 30 minutes? I mean, this sort of — and I ended up exploring Schiphol Airport for a day and I loved it. Have you been to Schiphol Airport? Do you remember it?
Billy: It’s really nice.
Dr. Yvette: It’s beautiful. They have a museum, they have science things, they have a library, they have places where you can lie down and sleep. It was wonderful. They’ve got live plants everywhere, walls, green walls. It was lovely. And I would never have explored that airport and enjoyed myself wandering around if I had just done a quick transit. So there’s that.
Billy: It’s interesting that you say that. I mean, really, there are beautiful airports. Vienna’s airport is beautiful, but you really don’t think — you want to get into the airport as quickly as possible and through the airport as quickly as possible and out of the airport as quickly as possible and you really don’t take the time to enjoy what an airport really has to offer because you’re so dead set on the destination and I’m guilty of this too, like I don’t want to sit around and explore an airport but I don’t know that I’ve been to a whole lot of airports that are maybe in my opinion worth exploring or maybe I didn’t even know because I didn’t bother to look up from my phone or get out of my seat because once I found my gate, then that’s where I was going to sit and I was going to wait there the entire time until my damn flight took off and it better be on time.
Dr. Yvette: That’s right. And so isn’t it a lovely story of how our mindset can really dictate our experience? Schiphol Airport was — I’ve been in more airports than I can count and it is absolutely in this moment one of my very favorite airports, and I think it is unique because they’ve made it very comfortable. They’ve made it serene and quiet and light and very comfortable for people who get stuck there. And I was appreciating that because not every — let’s take Chicago, not every airport is like that.
Billy: Stansted in London is like Vegas.
Dr. Yvette: Yes.
Billy: You just feel like you’re in Vegas because there’s so many people there and it’s all the stag parties that are flying out of Stansted for some reason, I don’t know what it is, but oh my goodness, Stansted Airport in London is a party at six in the morning.
Dr. Yvette: That’s crazy.
Billy: It is wild.
Dr. Yvette: Yes. Airports have their own little subculture and if you can get out of the goal orientation and just sort of settle into the people watching and the anthropological lens, sort of, it can be really enjoyable. It can be really enjoyable. So, I don’t know. Ireland was very surprising to me in many ways. I know that I went in with a mindset that I was just going to let what happened happen and there were surprises every day. I met people that I never imagined I would meet. I’ve met friends that I’m in touch with still, that I hopefully will be in touch with for a very long time. And every day was its own journey, like our guide would say, “This is the hike. This is how far we’re going. This is how much elevation This is how to pace yourself.,” and every morning, it was like, okay, one foot in front of another. And some of those hikes had a path and a beginning and a middle and an end but on one of the islands, we ended up — we started in the middle of a field of sheep and there was no trail and we made our way over rolling hills and heather and sheep pastures and trying to find our way across streams and getting wet and it rained and how far are we going to be able to get up this mountain and are the clouds going to lift and there was no trail. We were just making our own way. And there was something very magical for me. It was the most strenuous hike that we did but it was really lovely to zigzag down and to really sort of find a path where there wasn’t one.
Brian: Did it give you an appreciation for like, say, what some of the explorers first when they’re discovering countries? I think about that often, like especially in Minnesota, when they had to navigate these covered wagons through forests, ancient forests, I mean, holy cow.
Dr. Yvette: Absolutely. There are no paths, there are no roads, you’re sort of just making your way through the wilderness and I love that experience. It’s really, really fun.
Billy: There’s a place in Portugal called the End of the World, because Portugal is the westernmost point in Europe, and so when explorers would leave, people would stand on that point of the world and they thought, you know, when the world was flat, that that’s it —
Brian: Wait a minute, it’s not?
Billy: It’s not. They have been doing research and they’ve learned that it’s actually a sphere.
Billy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Billy: For a science guy, I would have thought you would have known that already. So that calls into question all of your science research.
Brian: I’m not going to commit to believing it right now but I’ll definitely research it.
Billy: So when we talk about like the self-journey, I think it’s easy to equate that with taking a trip or having some sort of adventure, but how can someone just have a self-journey in their day to day life?
Dr. Yvette: I think it’s mindset. I think it’s absolutely the spirit through which you’re willing to live your life and what you see as the meaning, the reason that you’re here. Do you have a clearly defined for yourself sense of what you’re here to do with your life energy? And I think, when I realized, when I made the decision, I don’t know how much of it was realization and how much of it was deciding, but I had a moment, let’s just put it like this, probably a combination of the two, the top down and the bottom up, where I just thought I am here to be a loving, empowered human and to help people love each other. That’s it. And there’s a million ways that I can do that, I can do that in my friendships, I can do that in my parenting, I can do that in the therapy work that I do, I can do that in the teaching, I can do that with how I deal with the passenger sitting on the plane next to me, but everything suddenly became a mission for me. And once I let go of it needing to look a particular way or have a particular paycheck or a particular structure and I realized that it was how I lived my life and what kind of person I want to be and what kind of experience I want people to have when they interact with me, suddenly, everything becomes a journey. Everything becomes an opportunity to wake up, to learn something, to push a growth edge, to integrate a new skill, to get to pull in a new relationship, to get to love another human, and it becomes just a huge, wonderful adventure and the planet becomes kind of a playground. So, I don’t know if that directly answers your question but I do think it’s a mindset that we develop and it is an openness to being alive instead of numbed out and rigid and uptight about everything.
Billy: When you talk about mindset, it reminds me of just continually choosing to grow day in and day out and I think that is very much a part of the self-journey. You don’t necessarily have to go out and explore, I think it helps you grow when you go out and physically explore different environments and different cultures and encounter different people. You had talked about how you met some people while you were in Ireland and they’d become your friends, so just growing that network, when we think back to when we talked to Dr. Dawn Graham and how important it is to build your network, your network equals your net worth. So the people that you have met through all of your travels, through living on multiple continents, do you still stay in contact with them? Do you use them as resources to say, “Hey, if I was swinging through, can we get together?” that sort of thing?
Dr. Yvette: Oh, absolutely. People are very useful. Not to reduce them into objects to be used, which I vehemently stand against, but, yes, absolutely. I mean, it’s lovely to feel like there are many places in the world that I can imagine going where I know someone that I could use as a home base or as a point of contact or as somebody who would have some goodwill to help me out. And I love that. And the other piece is, I think there’s a lot of this external exploration out into the world where you sort of bump up against things that are the same and different and you sort of discover who you are, that there’s also the sort of being willing to explore your insights, being willing to be awake to what is coming up in you, what is the inner exploration, because they parallel each other. When you go out into the world and you put yourself in situations that are unknown and unfamiliar, it activates something in you, your survival system and your value system and your identity system, and I know that I experience myself a little bit differently. Like sometimes when I travel and I’m in another country, I’m always curious to know how do I feel about myself in this context. I know exactly how I feel about myself in my house at home, I know the comfort and I know my little creature habits and I feel a lot like a hobbit, just I have my little routines and I’m very automated in some ways, but when I’m out, like the trip to Ireland or even when I was in Egypt, it pulls on different aspects of who I am and I get to find out more about me, like I get to experience myself differently and people respond to me differently than the people that I’m familiar with at home and that’s also another set of kind of exciting and weird data.
Billy: I like that. I like that idea that it pulls in almost different energies. We’ve talked a lot about energy this season and our friend Matt Hazard just sent us a text earlier today and said, “You guys are pretty woo-woo here.”
Brian: Hey, we’ve always said we do not endorse or promote any of our guests’ point of views, we’re just exposing people to them.
Billy: Exactly, exactly, and we also said if it works for you and it’s not harming you and it’s not harming somebody else and it’s harming the environment, make it work for you. Why not? And we’ve had people on here who, yeah, maybe some of those ideas are a little woo-woo but I’m sure there are people listening to me and Brian and they’re like, “These two sound like a couple of dipshits.”
Brian: That is pretty much everybody.
Billy: I think that’s why we make sure we have guests on the show to fill most of the time so it’s not just me and Brian like, “How was your day, Brian?” “Oh, you know, I am, what’s my word of the day?”
Brian: I found a nickel on the sidewalk, Billy.
Dr. Yvette: You bring the real. You bring the down to earth common sense real.
Billy: Maybe a little too down to earth sometimes, salt of the earth. So, we’re recording this episode on August 25th and I am leaving September 7th for Portugal. This episode comes out on October 13th, which means I will be almost through my month in Lisbon. So I’m starting my way, I’m going to fly to Lisbon and then immediately get on a train and go to Aveiro, which they consider the Venice of Portugal because it has all these beautiful canals, I’m going to spend just a day and a half in Aveiro, and then I’m going up to Porto for about two weeks, doing Lisbon for a month, and then Lagos, which is in the Algarve region for two weeks. And I don’t have a return flight home. I don’t know where I’m going to go after that. If you’re a customs agent in Portugal listening to this, pay that no mind. I’m going to leave your country at some point, unless Dr. Yvette and I just talked about our golden visa plan which if you buy property over there and follow their guidelines, then you can get a golden visa after five years which means you can travel all throughout the EU with that extended visa so we’re pooling our money here together because we’ll try and find a development which we can invest in. So, while I’m doing that scouting for that development, what advice do you have for me as I embark on this year-long self-journey in hopes of finding meaning and purpose? Or is that putting too much pressure on myself to find meaning and purpose? Should I just let go of expectation?
Dr. Yvette: Well, let me ask you a question. What is your intention? Do you have a clear intention for this journey, for this trip?
Billy: That is a great question. And if I’m being honest, I think the intention of this journey —
Brian: Say something really deep, like, “I wanna find my true self.”
Billy: Well, it’s maybe not as deep as that but — so here’s what it is. I want to figure out if I’m good at anything other than teaching. Now. I miss teaching and I’ve been in this dean position for six years, I know that I don’t have a passion for that. I would be more than happy to return to a teaching position at my former school and there is a position that will be available to me once I come back, but when I think about it, it’s like, “Well, I could teach English anywhere in the world so why not explore that option?” The other thing is this. I just feel like maybe there’s more to my time on this earth than just being a teacher, like this podcast has been something that’s been therapeutic for me so I’d like to grow that in some way. I’ve wanted to be an author, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, that’s why I wanted to English teaching. Every English teacher is an unpublished author in the midst, right? So I’m there. But another thing that I really hope happens during this time is I’m hoping that I learn how to love myself again. Now, here’s what I mean by that. I’ve been thinking long and hard about maybe where that has dwindled and I think a big part of it is, for me. I don’t do as many of the same things that I did back in my 20s and 30s that brought me joy or brought out that alter ego in me a little bit, like I don’t play softball anymore, I don’t play football anymore. I was thinking about this the other day, as corny as it sounds, I want to dance again. That’s really what I want to do. Now, when I say dance, I don’t mean like Flashdance or anything like that —
Billy: Brian knows —
Dr. Yvette: That’s a disappointment.
Brian: I know, I was looking forward to the video and the water splashing.
Billy: Well, we can make that happen.
Billy: But I think there’s a part of me that wants to learn to live out loud again and I don’t feel like I have been able to do that because of some of the things that have happened in terms of the online harassment that I have endured as a result of being a dean. So a lot of that has stripped me of wanting to put myself out there in a positive way. The fact that this podcast exists, it terrified me for months when we first were — because I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, what if students find this?” The Instagram account that we have, that was private until I’m like, “Okay, we need to make this public in order for people to be able to access this because it doesn’t look good if you have a private podcast account on Instagram.” That went public and, oh my gosh, like that — you have no idea how many sleepless nights I had with that.
Dr. Yvette: It’s so vulnerable.
Billy: Yeah, and so just going back to I want to learn how to live out loud again and enjoy the silliness and the wackiness of my personality but to do it in a healthier way, whereas it was more alcohol induced, more alcohol infused when I was in my 20s and early 30s, now, it’s just being around people who make me feel like I belong and people who elevate these personality perks of mine, these personality traits of mine that some people might see as obnoxious but other people are like, “Oh my gosh, I love your energy.” Because I think people who have a lot of energy, they fall into one of two categories, either you’re super fun or you’re super obnoxious. And I never wanted to fit into the super obnoxious one but I think I fell into that more so when I was younger and now I want to move towards being super fun again and embracing that. So when I say I want to dance again, I think a big part of that is this pandemic has robbed us of going to live music, which is something that I absolutely love and Brian has seen me out on the dance floor and, listen, it’s not anything that’s spectacular. It’s not, but it’s a full body movement and it is a full body experience.
Brian: It’s quite spectacular. Just for all the listeners, it’s really quite spectacular. I’ve been playing on stage with Billy out in the audience many, many times and let’s just say I notice it every single time. And for that matter, Billy, I really appreciate it and I love it because it’s fun.
Billy: Yeah, and I think about — so we have friends that are in a band called Ded Walleye and they’re no longer playing anymore and I used to go and see them all the time, like wherever they were, if they were in the five state region, I would drive and I would go see them and the nickname was Dancing Billy and as soon as Billy hit the dance more, then everybody else knew to hit the dance floor, that kind of thing. And I would go out on the dance floor when nobody was out on the dance floor. If it was a song I liked and it moved me, I was out on the dance floor. And now I’m so apprehensive about hitting the dance floor because it hits me that, “Oh my gosh, people are watching, what are people going to think? Are people going to post this on social media? What’s going to be the blowback from that?” And I want to let go of that. I want to let go of that. That was a very long answer to your question but I have been asked that question quite a bit and that is the most honest answer to that question. So anybody who’s asked me that question, I don’t want to bore you with that long answer but since I have a microphone in my face right now, I’m just laying it all out there. So I want to bring back Dancing Billy.
Dr. Yvette: Yeah. Yeah, that’s beautiful. So I think that pretty much defines exactly how to do this trip. Dance a lot. Follow your energy. Go and express yourself. And anything that is about reclaiming those buried paths that got inhibited over the last six or seven years, it’s about bringing them back alive and letting them come out to play.
Billy: If you’re a band in Portugal, hit me up because I will go and support your band and I will hit the dance floor —
Dr. Yvette: With wild abandon.
Billy: Exactly, and I will bring people out on the dance floor with me. Like the pied piper, I will bring in a group of people and we will have a great time.
Brian: I’m betting there’s some fine bands in Portugal.
Dr. Yvette: Absolutely.
Billy: I’m looking forward to it. If you have friends that are in bands or if there are just good establishments in Portugal that you know of where they play live music, I don’t know what the situation is over there in terms of COVID and what their regulations are for bars, but even if — it’d be great, actually, if the bars closed at 10:30 and the music stopped right around then so that I get to bed at a reasonable time, that would actually be really, really great. So let’s go. I know that they have late dinners out there.
Brian: Billy, head check. Why do you need to be home early?
Billy: Because I just really enjoy not being out late anymore. Remember, as I got older, I would only go see sets one and two of The Brute Squad because once midnight hit, I’m like, “I don’t care about your third set. I don’t care if Eddie Vedder himself walks on stage during the third set, I will miss it because I’m not staying out past midnight because I’m gonna turn into a pumpkin.”
Dr. Yvette: You know your boundary.
Billy: Exactly, exactly. It has to be a real, real special occasion for me to be up past midnight. I did it enough back in the day, I don’t need to keep doing it, unless it’s for a real special occasion. The first time I see Gen X Jukebox perform, I will stick around for that third set.
Brian: Wow. Well, thank you.
Billy: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Yvette: Is that your band?
Brian: It’s a new thing we’re doing.
Brian: So it should be pretty fun. That’s just coming together now.
Billy: And I assure you Dancing Billy will be in full force —
Brian: Oh, this is your jam, man.
Billy: 100 percent everything I’m looking forward —
Dr. Yvette: I need to be invited to this because I need to witness this.
Billy: You are invited. Don’t just bear witness —
Dr. Yvette: I will join you.
Billy: Yes, there you go.
Dr. Yvette: I will join you.
Billy: There we go. Here’s the thing though, I need about a five-foot radius because when I dance, I need all that space. I’ve had people before tell me, “Hey, you kicked me,” and I’m like, “That’s not my problem. That’s your problem. Quit standing so close to me while I’m dancing.”
Brian: Maybe we should make you a warning sign, just put out like one of those wet floor ones.
Dr. Yvette: Or get some cones.
Billy: Or wear a hula hoop, so this is my space, this is my bubble, don’t get in my space or bubble, this is all mine right here. You can dance around me but if you get near me, you might get kicked. I don’t step on feet but I — it’s like a violent spasm when I dance.
Brian: It’s definitely that.
Billy: And here’s the thing, is I’m not dancing to that like to R. Kelly bump and grind or something like that, like it’s usually like a rock song that I am dancing like that to, or if it’s a slow song, I took swing dance lessons when I was in college so it was all the rage because the Gap commercials had come out right around that time so everybody was doing swing dance lessons so I got in on that movement too and so that was a good time. So I want to get back to doing more of that. I want to get back to living out loud so thank you for sharing your advice.
Brian: I’ve got a great way you can start. Plaid pants. Plaid pants.
Billy: I used to have —
Dr. Yvette: I veto this suggestion. Just weighing in.
Brian: Come on, Dr. Yvette, we got to have a little fun with Billy. I mean, that’s out loud.
Billy: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I can dig out my argyle socks from back in the day and my argyle sweaters. I used to rock those like they are nobody’s business. Oh. Well, this was such a fun conversation. Thank you so much for joining us, really, really appreciate having you back on the show. You absolutely are one of our favorite guests so we really appreciate the insight that you bring and the perspective that you bring each and every conversation.
Dr. Yvette: Well, I love coming to laugh with both of you. Thank you.
Billy: So, for Dr. Yvette, for Brian, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.