Essays & Confessions

5 Life-Improving Things I Only Let Myself Do While Traveling

By | Tuesday, June 27, 2017

As I write this, I’m just coming back from five days in Anaheim, California, where Lauren and I were for VidCon. As you might know, our YouTube channel has recently exploded in popularity, which has been thrilling of course, but has meant a certain unwieldiness in how we’re managing our day-to-day with our still-tiny team, and an increased importance with events like that one. Between now and the end of the year, Lauren and I have six scheduled out-of-town trips for work alone (not counting some personal ones because el oh el I’m also getting married at some point), and while I am generally a person who enjoys traveling, this prospect has stressed me out profoundly. While we now are equipped with utterly gorgeous and functional new carry-on luggage from Away (my old suitcase was literally falling apart), there remains the whole navigating-this-new-workload-with elegance thing, which is much more mental than material.

And part of that has meant streamlining the way that I travel, and embracing my best habits while doing so. I’ve gotten (in my humble estimation) very good at packing, I’m religious about getting a big night of sleep before a flight, and I have learned to embrace the general frustration of air travel instead of somehow expecting it to be different every time I go. I used to be the kind of person who had to psych herself up mentally every time she packed a bag, and now I have slipped into streamlined and intelligent routines that keep it from feeling like a hassle.

But beyond that, I have also come into my own while traveling, as getting any kind of work done while gone (as I almost always need to do) means being religious about my habits once at my destination. Traveling now doesn’t feel like it’s throwing an enormous (if Instagram-ready) wrench into my work life. And I’ve noticed that some of the things I do while traveling are habits I could stand to integrate into my day-to-day life, because they make me happier, more thoughtful, and generally better-off. Here are the five biggest life-improving habits I have while traveling that I could stand to practice every day.

1. I take notes about nearly everything.

One thing that I almost always do while traveling is treat my day-to-day life as something to be observed. Even if I’m just on a work trip to a conference, I find myself constantly jotting down notes and remembering things more acutely. And while, as someone who produces a website where nearly everything can be turned into #content, it’s very useful for work, I find that most of the things I write down don’t ever get turned into something coherent. But nevertheless, I find myself very grateful to have written them, and more importantly grateful that I paid attention, that I took notes and didn’t let the little things slip by the way they so often do. Being more present in my day-to-day life can mean something as simple as a Moleskine or the Notes app on my phone being put to good use, and it’s something I want to challenge myself to do more when I’m not in a new place.

2. I schedule things down to the minute. 

My Google calendar when I’m traveling, whether for work or not, is managed down to the half-hour almost always. This is mostly because I have to coordinate when I am available to the team and when I am doing what with client and site work, and this often has to happen despite significant time differences (which are nearly impossible to mitigate when the site has to run on a very specific schedule). And at first, for someone as decidedly not type-A as myself, this hyper-scheduling and accounting for my time felt stressful. I felt like it was going to somehow prevent me from enjoying the moment, particularly on trips that were mostly personal (I’m never fully, totally offline, but some trips are primarily this way). But I’ve actually found the opposite: accounting for my time in a detailed and transparent way means that the times when I was off were that much easier to enjoy, because I knew I wasn’t forgetting anything. I’m someone with a tendency to be forgetful and constantly worry over what I haven’t done, and I’ve found that the super-detailed calendar allows me to be more present for both my obligations and my enjoyment.

3. I let the small stuff go.

Probably the biggest difference in terms of my travel-self is how not obsessed I get with little details and things that go wrong. I have a tendency to be much more “nothing is the end of the world” when I’m away, just because there’s already so much to be actually focused on. For example, when I’m leaving for a plane and stressing about what shirt or which shampoo I forgot to pack, I always calm myself with a “Who cares? You can get whatever there if you absolutely need it.” and I realize how true that is in the moment. Yet, in my day-to-day life, a similar level of not-that-big-of-a-deal anxiousness can derail me for a whole afternoon. Even just forcing myself to say, out loud, “Who cares? It’s not that big of a deal.” in my day-to-day life is surprisingly helpful.

4. I let myself enjoy things more fully.

I’m sure nearly everyone can relate to the feeling of pure, in-the-moment satisfaction they are often only able to feel when somewhere new, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working to actively change it. Creating intentional and thoughtful “days” within your own city, living with open eyes and a desire to remember details, is something available to us — and can be as simple as not keeping our eyes glued to our phones while on a walk home from the store, or finally making the time to go to this museum or that park we’ve been putting off. It’s something I’ve been doing more here in New York — I’ve gone on a few “solo dates” recently that have been just lovely — but I could be doing it more. Because the simple act of planning for something (the way we do when we travel) can be the difference between enjoying it, and letting it pass us by, barely noticed.

5. I get my best work done when it makes sense.

Mostly because schedules while traveling are so packed and unusual, I find myself falling into a really helpful work-habit: I get things done as they arise, or as I find myself with an open slot in which to do them. If it’s 10:30 PM and I feel a bolt of energy, I power through a bunch of emails because I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to again. But at home, with that same bolt of energy, I might just watch an extra episode of Netflix and let the work pile up to when I feel less inclined to do it. And particularly managing my own business, this idea of doing things as they make the most sense to do them actually makes my day feel much lighter and more manageable. Working more effectively and in a shorter window of time means listening to your body and mind, and getting things out of the way when you feel the mental and logistical availability to do them. I listen to my internal clock while traveling, and it’s high time I start listening to it while I’m home, as well.

Image via Pexels

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