Sometimes you have to risk hurting others to look after yourself.

Visiting places I’ve previously lived, so that I’m nourished rather than exhausted, involves being selective.

Whether it’s Amsterdam, Adelaide, Agadir or Aljezur, I used to try hard to catch up with everyone I knew, even on short stays. Cue: stacks of brunch and coffee dates, drinks and dinners. Then cue: me exhausted, having had numerous superficial one-off conversations rather than genuine, deeper connection. 

I’ve learned my lesson now: stealth visits. 

In advance, I tell only the people with whom I’ll have time and energy to catch up properly. No social media announcements, no messaging with all and sundry to jam my diary full.

Sometimes this means letting down people I really care about – but as much as I hate this feeling, my most important job is looking after my own needs. 

This usually involves a quiet yet stern conversation with the people pleaser in me, re: taking care of myself before taking care of others. She’s grumpy but she gets it.

And sometimes there is call to push my boundaries – to go out more, or stay up later, or have a fancier-than-usual dinner – to make sure I see the people I want to with the level of depth I desire. But no more spreading myself so thin that I wind up stressed and spent. 

This weekend I spent two days in the south of Portugal, and it was magical. I saw only two friends, ran into two others by chance (Vale da Telha is that kind of place), and left feeling nourished by deep conversations and delightful time in magnificent nature. With the memory of Friday’s almost-accident, my heart was – and still is – more open to joy than it has in a long time.