After almost a year away, I’m back in Europe. It’s something of a homecoming, as I lived here for more than 15 years. And with all the crisscrossing roadtripping I did from the north of the Netherlands to the southern tips of Spain and Portugal, the whole continent feels like my backyard. The resonant history and culture of this part of the world inspires me. And the food. THE FOOD.

I’ve driven a tiny Toyota named Tabasco more than 2,500 kilometers, exploring northern Portugal and zooming across Spain then up through the French countryside to the city of Brest to visit my brother who’s doing a fellowship at the university of West Bretagne.

Now I’m spending a couple of days in a little town called Champagne Mouton (a sparkling beverage and mutton? There’s clearly a story behind this town name) and today I went for a long walk to a nearby 8th century abbey. The abbey itself was closed, which didn’t bother me, as I was more interested in the scenery along the way than the destination. Through fields, forests, down laneways and up cobbled stairs. Past cows, sheep, goats, chickens, a dog who joined me for a section, cats and geese.

Being outdoors always has a positive effect on my mood and helps me disconnect from worries. Whatever is on my mind simmers gently on the backburner, rather than being boiled at full heat. Instead of stressing about decisions, or the imperative to make the ‘right’ decision, I observe the surroundings and take in the scenery. My body works gently but my brain relaxes. 

With the challenges I have faced this year, the outdoors and exercise have been pure therapy, offering perspective and positivity every time. And alongside its beautiful cities, Europe offers plenty of places to surrender in amazing nature too.   

There is a heap of research showing the benefits of walking meditation. What’s your favorite way to calm your mind?