Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~ John Lubbock
Having just finished a series about economic indicators, it seems like a good time to move on to some lighter fare. With summer now in full swing, I thought some posts about travel and finding downtime would be timely.
Before I had a child and despite my demanding career, it wasn’t too difficult to find time for non-work related activities. Whether it was an evening out with my wife, reading a book, or going on a ride, I always had chunks of free time available before/after work and over weekends. After my son was born though, as I’m sure those of you with kids will appreciate, those chunks of free time quickly disappeared.
With less time to recharge and reflect, I’ve found it to be incredibly important to use travel time to contemplate the way I’m living my life and how it may be at odds with where I ultimately want to go. The reason I find travel to be an excellent opportunity for this type of reflection is because that is when I’m apt to embrace what Keats referred to as “negative capability”:
When a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. (The British Library)
As eluded by Stephen Hebron in the cited article, what Keats means by this is we can improve our potential by allowing ourselves to be less determined to work everything out. That is because as we experience the world as an uncertain place, we’re more inclined to be open to perspectives and outcomes, we wouldn’t normally consider as a matter of course.
Want to make sure to benefit from the creative space offered by travel?
Consider priming the pumps by taking note of a few things as you start your trip (e.g., on the flight out of town). I recommend writing them out on a piece of paper but if that seems like too much work, talk things over with your honey or simply take mental notes.
Note what you’re working towards.
There is nothing like taking a break from the day to day to remind you of what the dream is. Perhaps it’s owning your own home? Being free from debt? Getting healthy? Helping others? Spending time with your family? Owning a Hawaiian shave ice shop next to the beach? Whatever it is, taking a little time to visualize where you’re heading (or what’s missing in your life) can be a great way to have it in the back of your head while you’re on travel.
Note what will cause you to fail.
As discussed in a previous post, in her book The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, author Alice Schroeder recounts a story of how at the close of Charlie Munger’s eightieth birthday celebration, Munger gave a speech with the following advice:
Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead—through sloth, envy, resentment, self-pity, entitlement, all the mental habits of self-defeat. Avoid these qualities and you will succeed.
In other words, instead of asking yourself how you are going to realize your dream, consider the bad habits you have that will cause you to fail.
Note what time you’ll meet.
As I’ve learned, figuring out what habits will cause failure is the easy part; the hard part is figuring out how to avoid them. So that you’ll actually take the time to sort the hard part out, commit to a time during your trip when you’re going to work through the problem. Ideally, this would include your significant other and would not be saved for the flight back home when you’ll already be thinking about the work week ahead. Morning walks on the beach, lazy afternoon lunches, and time by the pool can all be perfect opportunities to figure things out.
No trips on the horizon due to a lack of funds or time? Consider blocking off a Saturday to make a day of it in your own backyard. Or if you live someplace where there is an “offseason,” take advantage of the lower rates and create a staycation. Indeed, one of the great things about living in Tucson is that because it’s so hot in the summer many of the local resorts are significantly discounted during the summer.
Before I check out for the week, a new song for our ever expanding and eclectic playlist. With the 4th of July holiday behind us, I was reminded of the song “Fireworks” by First Aid Kit off of their absolutely excellent album Ruins.
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