The author, Courtney Loechl, is a Make Shit Happen coach, hostel management consultant, and avid world traveler. With a focus on consistent, tangible steps paired with the right mindset, she guides her clients to transform overwhelm into action in order to grow their businesses and achieve major life goals.
After years of living around the world—teaching English to child monks in Thailand, guiding whitewater rafting in Swaziland, hitchhiking through New Zealand, managing a hostel in San Francisco, and much more—she made it her mission to help others follow their dreams instead of just talk about it. Courtney lives with her wife Candice in a ’79 Dodge camper van they renovated into their tiny home, with plans to convert a full-size school bus into a mobile hostel called The Wanderbus.
When I chose last minute to not return to the playa for my fifth consecutive Burning Man, I wondered how I would feel seeing people’s photos as they returned. Would it make me have massive FOMO? Would I wish I had just gone? Would I feel sad or disappointed?
My decision to stay home had been in the name of self-care and healing, something I had willingly but deeply let slide in exchange for working hard, taking care of others, and generally prioritizing all else above myself.
The power of choosing myself, for the first time in a long time, had felt as transformative as any of my other burns. It felt expansive and freeing.
So I was surprised to realize that the anxious feelings arising as pictures and videos started flooding my feed had little to do with missing the burn and everything to do with a timeline I had unknowingly put on myself.
It basically said, “Get completely back on track before the burners return or there will have been no point in staying home.”
With a side note of “P.S. If you don’t, you failed.”
Never mind that self-care is a journey, something I frequently remind my clients.
Never mind that I was seeking a lifestyle change—not a quick fix—and stayed back simply to begin right away instead of delay it another three weeks.
Never mind that in the grand scheme of my life, the return date deadline was arbitrary.
There’s a funny thing about transformation.
It often feels like transformation happens as a result of a significant moment, during a profound experience, or throughout a life-changing event.
And it makes sense.
Often a new thought or a paradigm shift or even just an uncomfortable awareness will have certain emotions or feelings attached, which usually signal to our brain “Yo, things are changing big-time around here!”
And perhaps there IS a transformation that takes place in those moments. One of those “There’s life before and after ____” kinda things.
But transformation is also messy and confusing. It’s often not linear nor follows a neat path. And most of all, it takes real change.
It takes more than an awareness, or a verbal dedication, or a willingness only where it’s comfortable.
The reality is that the transformative feelings I went through by choosing to stay back needed integration just as much as any other major shift.
After my groundbreaking decision (how it felt in my head), I spent the next few days devoting the entire first hour of the day just to my own self-care.
Before messages or social media or content creation or client calls, I focused on ME, and I felt so much pressure ease off and my light began to shine again.
By the time people left for the burn a couple weeks later, I was sitting solidly in my decision. It felt like I had already received my yearly reset transformation and I was good to go, without even leaving or dealing with crazy dust storms or playa meltdowns. Easy!
And then the next 10 days flew by. I got busier, and little by little my self-care practice also diminished.
I began falling back into old habits.
One hour of self-care turned into 40 minutes, and then 20. First thing in the day turned into “I’ll find time later on.” You know how it goes.
I had already started to recognize this and work to change it, again, when those pictures started rolling in. Though they brought up some anxiety, really they were just a reminder that my integration process wasn’t complete. And that’s okay.
Making that initial decision to prioritize self-care truly was a turning point for me. And I want to honor that!
But what genuinely choosing myself REALLY means is to consistently do that every single day, over time, until it becomes a habit. My new normal. Something I don’t even think twice about.
That’s what integration is really all about. Not just having the experience, but sustainably shifting habits, thoughts, and behaviors until they become a part of you.
Only then can the deepest levels of transformation truly happen.