In the midst of newsletters on “tips to detox” and “guides to survive the holiday season,” I came across my photo of Marcel the Shell sitting on a plate that once held a piece of carrot cake. I took this picture after devouring said carrot cake, in an adorable coffee shop in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a moment I’d forgotten about for a while, but so much is wrapped up in this photo for me. So instead of sharing my tips to detox or even my tips to not detox (both posts that are readily prepared), I’d like to share the story behind this photo, because I think we all have enough “how to” emails coming to our inboxes this week, and I hope you’ll find something for yourself in my story.

It was a typical Scotland day – cold and rainy. I was about a month into my “big trip,” having already seen six other cities. I was exhausted by the time I landed in Edinburgh. I’d felt the constant pressure to fulfill all the expectations of an epic trip like that – see all the sites by day, party with strangers-turned-best-friends by night. I’d dragged myself through an incredibly boring city tour, and stared at my list of sites to see, with little motivation to go see them. Each night I contemplated hitting the town, ultimately finding my way back into yoga pants and choosing Netflix as my companion.

Battling a Malbec-induced headache one afternoon, I slowly made my way to town in search of a coffee shop with wifi. In one café – which didn’t have wifi – a local gent gave me the name of a spot just up the road. If you’ve ever heard a Scottish person speak, you might understand how indecipherable his suggestion was to me. I saw the direction he pointed, noted an “L” sound at the beginning, and a “K” sound somewhere in the middle, and off I went. I couldn’t have been more pleased when I stumbled across a quaint bakery and coffee shop labeled “LOVECRUMBS.”

I quickly settled into my new favorite coffee shop and sought comfort in an absolutely scrumptious piece of carrot cake and a latte. I sat there, probably writing, for some time. I remember texting with The Belgian – the guy I’d met and been crushing on since my first stop of the trip – and watching as my Facebook feed filled with visions of a massive flood in Boulder, CO, my former home. The emotions of both interactions color this memory, as if they were a part of Edinburgh at that moment.

That evening I enjoyed an early dinner sitting in a wing-backed chair between a window and a fireplace, reading my book between bites, before seeking out the nearest bus stop. The latest Rachel McAdams film was playing at a mall just north of the city. It was the only time I’ve ever gone to a movie by myself, which is now something I highly recommend; I cried my eyes out and found something so liberating about being completely anonymous in this foreign theater. Full of emotion and a refreshed sense of excitement for the rest of my journey, I walked through the rainy evening to find my bus home, and once again returned to my yoga pants.

I realize this memory means less to you than it does to me, but I shared it because at the time I worried that it was kinda lame going to see a movie when I was supposed to be having some epic adventure. I was almost ashamed for the amount of time spent in pj’s, sleeping late, sitting in coffee shops looking at my computer screen, or opting to go for a jog instead of going to make new friends. This was not how I expected my trip to look, but at one month in I needed a rest. I needed some normalcy, some downtime, and most of all I needed permission to let go of all the expectations – be them my own or those of others – and do what I needed to do.

At the time I thought it was an unmemorable day – I didn’t really do anything noteworthy. But as I came across this photo this week, so much came pouring back to me and I realized it was one of my favorite days of the trip. I remember it so clearly, and with such feeling, and best of all I have no regrets about my choice to have this “lazy” day but instead I am so glad I did. I took the time for myself, let go of expectations, and unknowingly created a memory that will make me smile for years to come.

So my aim this holiday season is to let go of expectations and enjoy the little moments; to find the downtime I need and spend it the way that I want to; to indulge in all the treats the season has to offer, and save "detoxing" for another time. I'll try to approach it with a positive mind, assuming it can be stress-free, that time with family can be enjoyed, and that maybe gaining a few extra pounds isn't the end of the world. Because it's the holidays, and like most things, it is whatever we make it. 

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