Intentional Milestones

Something that I took for granted while on the road was the number of milestones that were built into my life.

I’d arrive in a new country, I’d try some new food, I’d meet a new group of people, I’d start a new project — all things that are native to a full-time traveler’s lifestyle.

Yes, I wouldn’t know where I’d be sleeping the next week, and sure, I didn’t know which languages would be useful in the coming months, but I was able to use each end-point as a launchpad for what came next.

What I’ve learned during my first month here in Wichita is that non-predictability isn’t something I can count on here, living this sort of lifestyle.

Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and be exposed to valuable difficulties, but they aren’t key components to this pace of life. They’re available if you seek them out, but they aren’t inextricable from everything else. They’re à la carte add-ons, not unavoidable entrées.

With the exception of super-high-end travel, where you essentially control every aspect of your environment despite technically being in a new location, living on the road means constant shifts in rhythm and thinking and societal expectations and pretty much every other aspect of life.

When you’re staying in one place, however, in most cases you have to expend extra energy to find these opportunities. You can practice new languages, but you have to work for it — find classes or friends who will practice with you. You can discover new foods, but you have to work for it — track down cuisines you have no reason to know about, find places that serve them, or recipes that you can replicate.

You can be forced out of your comfort zone, but in general, you have to be the one doing the forcing.

Many aspects of the typical geo-stationary lifestyle are fixed and predictable. This is useful on a societal level, because it means we have stable utilities and resources, housing and workplaces. But this sort of system creates so much security-gravity that pulling away, kicking off to do something different from what’s provided by default, requires a remarkable amount of effort.

I’ve only been in Kansas a little over a month, and already that pleasant-but-worrying inertia has become a familiar houseguest.

As a result, once a week I check in with myself and change things around.

I rearrange the things I have scheduled on my calendar (“What if I record my podcast at night instead of in the morning? What if I write a blog post mid-week instead of over the weekend?”), figure out some new items to add to my ‘Let’s Try This’ list (recipes to cook, songs to learn to play on guitar, books to read, software to fiddle around with), and clean the whole apartment, resetting it to zero.

I find that this, along with ambitious deadlines for my projects and even my consumption habits (“Let’s settle in and finish reading this book by this weekend!”), allows me to structure my time in a more productive way than what I find myself falling into by default.

The idea is that rather than simply marking the time that’s passed by weeks and months, I can instead keep track of milestones: things tried and learned, projects worked on and finished, and lifestyle/health goals accomplished.

I’ve been speaking and writing about how to better spend your time, energy, and resources on the important things for many years, and I knew there was a latent advantage to traveling in this regard, but I didn’t expect it to be such a pronounced one.

Reorienting my more geo-stable lifestyle in this way has thus far helped make up for that gap, though I’ll be continuing to experiment. Pushing oneself out of well-worn grooves and deciding to off-road becomes increasingly difficult as those grooves become deeper and more pronounced.

Working to find the right balance point between stability/security/predictability and novelty/experimentation/evolution, for me and my priorities, will no doubt keep me busy during my time here.