Changing Things Up

I’ve spent a lot of my life since graduating high school moving to different places. Here’s a quick rundown for reference:

  • Graduate after spending the first 17 years of my life in Missoula
  • Move to Thailand for a year
  • Move back to Missoula for 4 months
  • Move to Washington for school for 9 months
  • Back to Missoula for 3 months
  • Back to Washington for 6 months
  • Germany for 5 months
  • Back to Washington for 12 months
  • Seattle for 3 months
  • Back to Washington for last 9 months of school
  • Off to Los Angeles for 2 1/2 years (one inter-city move in the middle of that)
  • Back to Missoula for 3 months
  • Currently in Argentina for 1 month (2 more planned)

Through all of this, I’ve had to learn a few things about travel and what’s important in my life. More than anything though, I’ve learned how to appreciate where I am. All to often people (myself included) get stuck in routine. Routine is nice because it’s comfortable. Change can be very anxiety provoking. I still hate moving, but I love exploring.

I was looking at a tourist map of Buenos Aires recently and had an epiphany: why don’t I own a tourist map of Los Angeles or Tacoma (where I went to school) or Missoula for that matter? Did I let myself get complacent? I’ll never know everything there is to know about a place, so why did I ever stop exploring? From here, I started pondering what else I could learn from my travel experience to apply towards more fully appreciating what life has to offer. Here’s a few items from my list.

Re-assess every 3 months

Breaking off connections and forcing myself into a new locations means that I have to find new places for my hobbies, new teachers, new classes, new teammates, new companies, etc. Because there is time and energy involved in this search, I often find myself rethinking what’s important to me. This means I get the opportunity to start or stop whatever I was doing guilt-free. Maybe I was playing ultimate frisbee with a team (I wasn’t, but for example) that I had some friends on, but really was only going because I felt obligated and because it was my weekly habit to go. Well if I move to a new city and don’t feeling like joining an ultimate league, I don’t have to. Granted this is a terrible way to get out of obligations, but realizing that freedom led me to the above rule.

Every activity you do should be working towards some greater goal for yourself. You don’t have to enjoy every minute of it, but it should be noticeably improving your life or have good probability of doing so in the future. Set aside some time right now and do this:

  1. Write a list of every activity you do regularly: Exercise, work, dance, art, music, meetups, hiking groups, drinking, poker playing, whatever…
  2. Ask yourself for each one: if I moved to the other side of the country, would I seek out people to help me continue doing this?
  3. If you answer no for any of these, stop doing them (unless you have a very good reason not).
  4. Make a calendar appointment for yourself to repeat this exercise 3 months from today.

One piece that makes this process easier is picking quantifiable goals. I bolded that because it’s that important. I get caught in time traps by my own mind every so often because I pick open ended goals. I hate giving up, so I stick with things that may not be what I really want to be doing. What I’m not saying is that you should constantly be changing your activities, merely that you should give yourself a chance to reevaluate every so often. For example, I recently decided that I want to get stronger so I’m going to spend 2 months doing a specific workout plan for that purpose. After that two months, I think I want to work on my running, but I’ll reevaluate at the end of the strength gain program and decide to continue if I’m really liking it, or move on if I feel it’s time. No worries, no guilt, because I accomplished my goal of doing it for two months.

Goal: Complete the task above and pick a goal you can do in the next two months.

Pick up a guide book:

If you live somewhere long enough, you get desensitized to all the excitement that’s around you. You go to the same places, hike the same trails, see the same sites. Next time you get a chance, stop by a local hotel and browse the brochures they have, or go to a local bookstore and pick up a trail map or a guide book for your region (the internet works well for this too — but I’m a fan of getting out of the house). From there it’s simple, find somewhere new to go. Maybe there’s a great museum you went to 3 years ago, but haven’t set foot in since, maybe there’s a concert venue you’ve never been to, could be anything. This step is pretty simple, the hard part is remembering to do it. Use your calendar again: put in a reminder for yourself every month to do something new that month.

Goal: Find one thing to do this month in your city that you’ve never done before.

Bring a camera:

Walking around with a camera puts you in a different mindset. Instead of walking to get somewhere, you’re walking to observe, to look at things in a new way. When you’re taking photos, suddenly a fire hydrant you’ve walked by every day for the past year is a dash of red in the forefront of a composition of green bushes. Once you’ve done this a few times taking photos, you’ll start to develop an appreciation for the beautiful things around you even without the camera. You’ll notice the clouds, the colors, the shapes of things you’d have passed by for mundane before.

Goal: Walk to a park near your house with your camera.

Make new friends:

The most difficult part of relocating is probably the loneliness of knowing no one. On the plus side though, this is a good motivator for being friendly and trying to meet new people. You’d be amazed how quickly you can find acquaintances and get to know people when you’re trying. Granted, not all of these are going to turn into your best friends, but at least you’re feeding one end of the funnel and it’s likely that you’ll filter out some you don’t get along with, but those that make it through will become a valuable part of your life.

Too often people find enough acquaintances in an area to fill up their invite calendars with drinking occasions, then stop looking. While this is fine, and it’s nice to have a stable social network, why not expose yourself to new people? It’s likely you meet new people all the time, but don’t consider getting to know them because they don’t need to. Keep in mind though that not needing something and not benefiting from having that something are separate concepts. Challenge yourself to keep exploring.

Goal: Invite someone new to do something with you and your friends.

Conclusion:

I hope this inspires you to get out and live a bit. Life can be hugely fulfilling or crushingly overwhelming and a lot of it has to do with how you treat yourself. If you set yourself up to enjoy it, you’ll enjoy it. That’s probably a whole other blog post in and of itself though, so I’ll just leave you with the above suggestions and hope you can take them and run.

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