I’m a Man of Many Experiments

 

Part of why I started traveling was so that I would be able to go through personal evolutions more quickly.

Travel allows you to take what you’ve learned and apply it more quickly. If you stay in one place you are subconsciously kept from making all the changes that you should. Personal habits and outside influences like friends and family – well-meaning as they may be – tend to treat you like you ARE and not how you want to be, and there’s not really anything that can be done about that.

When you move around, though, you are able to make positive changes as you learn since there are few habits and less consistency in surroundings and the people you’re surrounded by.

Step Into My Lab

I endeavor to speed up the process even more by constantly performing a series of lifestyle experiments in order to expose myself to extreme conditions. This has allowed me to figure things out that would normally have taken a whole lot longer to realize, and I’ve been happy enough with the results to continue to find new and interesting experiments to undergo.

But first, what do I mean by experiments?

Well, the major experiment that I’m working on right now is the Exile Lifestyle project. It’s not exactly normal to move to a new country every 4 months, much less to have a group of strangers to tell you where you’ll be going.

I’ve just completed an experiment wherein I didn’t wear black for 4 months. This was tricky, since a large portion of my wardrobe when I was living in Los Angeles was black.

I try not to use any paper products except for my notebook, sketchbook, business cards and napkins/toilet paper. All of the books I read now are digital or borrowed, and most of my brainstorming, accounting and writing take place on my computer.

When I first moved to LA I decided to take up a ‘no TV’ experiment…I tried to keep up with pop culture without the aid of a TV. This was especially difficult since everything in LA revolves around the film and TV industries.

I’ve just completed another round of my minimalism experiment, where I reduce the number of items I own to as low as possible. I started by getting rid of all my stuff except what would fit into a relatively large carry-on bag, and now I’m down to a much smaller carry-on and a total of about 50 items that I own in the entire world.

These are just a few examples, but a lifestyle experiment can be absolutely anything, so long as it’s different from your normal way of living.

I’m not a big meat eater, but I’m planning on doing a raw food diet for a month very soon. I eat raw food from time to time, so this won’t be an enormous stretch for me (not like it would be for my buddy Carlos who is on the Argentine red-meat diet), but it’s different enough that it will alter my perception for a while.

Checking the Results

And that’s the whole point: getting a different outlook on life, even if just for a short time. Even if you only see through that different lens for a month or a week or an hour, you’ve SEEN it and you won’t be able to un-see. Suddenly a whole new world of possibilities has opened up for you, and all it took was becoming aware of it.

By not wearing black, I was forced to figure out what other colors worked well with my style and coloration.

By using very little paper I figured out ways to live my life without consuming so many resources and in fact was able to streamline many of my processes by keeping my documents and details digital.

By not having a TV I was forced to talk to more people about what they enjoy watching and figure out ways to watch programs online so that I wasn’t completely lost in conversation.

By reducing the number of items I own to the absolute lowest count, I’m figuring out what’s essential in my life and what’s just clutter.

By traveling around so frequently I’m discovering more about myself than I ever could have guessed and learning how to deal with completely unpredictable situations calmly, rationally and with enthusiasm.

Preparing the Lab

I would encourage anyone who reads this to take up their own experiment, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t do anything so extreme that you won’t follow through. You would probably learn a whole lot by living the life of a homeless person for 6 months, but unless you’ve got some serious grit I doubt you’ll go more than a day.

Do something that’s within your reach. It’s great to dream, and there will be plenty of opportunities to achieve those dreams, but it may not be a great idea to blow all your money on a boat for the purposes of trying it out. Find someone with a boat and live on it for a while as your experiment, and then pull the trigger on the full purchase when you’re more sure of it later.

That’s an important point: experiments are just experiments, not major life changes! Anything you take up you can set back down if you don’t like it/can’t do it/can’t afford it/whatever. And that’s the whole reason you’re doing it – to see if it’s possible and if it’s something you want to strive for.

I’m probably not going to eat a raw diet for more than a month, but I might. How could I know? Maybe I’ll just enjoy the hell out of it and go full-blown raw all year round.

The more likely scenario, having done a few of these, is that I will learn some great raw dishes and integrate them into my current diet after the month is up. Which would be perfect! It’s rare that an experiment will completely shift your worldview (though it’s possible), but usually you get SOMETHING out of it when all is said and done.

Have you undertaken any lifestyle experiments? What were the results?

42 comments

  1. Temporary vegetarian (2 years), dedicated pilates practitioner (6 months), unnecessary budgeting to recalibrate priorities. They all taught me something and I keep elements from all of my experiments with me. Like finding out how many delicious dinners can really be made with no meat and adding them to our family menu of options.

  2. Temporary vegetarian (2 years), dedicated pilates practitioner (6 months), unnecessary budgeting to recalibrate priorities. They all taught me something and I keep elements from all of my experiments with me. Like finding out how many delicious dinners can really be made with no meat and adding them to our family menu of options.

  3. This was a very interesting article. I’ve done this repeatedly over the years, I guess, without even thinking about them as ‘experiments’. I took up martial arts (6 years) and am recently going around town with a friend of mine to all the dojos looking for right ‘fit’ for us. So far, most likely Muay Thai.

    I’ve also been juicing fresh vegetables and fruits. So far, my complexion has cleared up and I have gotten sick all winter (a first for me). I’m also $75 poorer per month, but I think the health benefits are worth it.

    Probably the biggest ‘experiment’ on my to-do-list would be to live in a spanish speaking country for 6 months in order to pick up the language.

  4. This was a very interesting article. I’ve done this repeatedly over the years, I guess, without even thinking about them as ‘experiments’. I took up martial arts (6 years) and am recently going around town with a friend of mine to all the dojos looking for right ‘fit’ for us. So far, most likely Muay Thai.

    I’ve also been juicing fresh vegetables and fruits. So far, my complexion has cleared up and I have gotten sick all winter (a first for me). I’m also $75 poorer per month, but I think the health benefits are worth it.

    Probably the biggest ‘experiment’ on my to-do-list would be to live in a spanish speaking country for 6 months in order to pick up the language.

  5. Colin – I love this post, and your whole approach of doing mini-experiements (who am I kidding, I love your whole life philosophy in general).

    I read a great book on healthy eating a while back called “The Four Day Win.” What I liked the most was the author (Martha Beck) suggests breaking something new down into a ridiculously easy goal, then doing it for four days straight. After four days habits really do start to change. It speaks to your point that we don’t always have to commit to these experiments forever – we can just try things out, learn, and continue adjusting.

    I hope all is well with you – happy travels!

  6. Colin – I love this post, and your whole approach of doing mini-experiements (who am I kidding, I love your whole life philosophy in general).

    I read a great book on healthy eating a while back called “The Four Day Win.” What I liked the most was the author (Martha Beck) suggests breaking something new down into a ridiculously easy goal, then doing it for four days straight. After four days habits really do start to change. It speaks to your point that we don’t always have to commit to these experiments forever – we can just try things out, learn, and continue adjusting.

    I hope all is well with you – happy travels!

  7. *I should probably note – for those considering juicing – that I actually meant to say: I HAVEN’T been sick all winter. Not: I HAVE been sick all winter.

    Big difference

  8. *I should probably note – for those considering juicing – that I actually meant to say: I HAVEN’T been sick all winter. Not: I HAVE been sick all winter.

    Big difference

  9. I find it interesting that you felt you had to keep up with TV while not watching it “to stay in the conversation.” I live in LA and watch very little TV (probably 2-3 hours a week now, although my kids watch more than their fair share of cartoons). I don’t find that TV adds that much to my life. I have friends in the biz (I’m in engineering, with a love of fashion … just so you don’t think I’m a dweeb) and we have a million things to talk about that aren’t TV. Now, if you are in the biz yourself, I’d understand the need to keep up. Anyway, TV is not important in the real world, so why keep up?

  10. I find it interesting that you felt you had to keep up with TV while not watching it “to stay in the conversation.” I live in LA and watch very little TV (probably 2-3 hours a week now, although my kids watch more than their fair share of cartoons). I don’t find that TV adds that much to my life. I have friends in the biz (I’m in engineering, with a love of fashion … just so you don’t think I’m a dweeb) and we have a million things to talk about that aren’t TV. Now, if you are in the biz yourself, I’d understand the need to keep up. Anyway, TV is not important in the real world, so why keep up?

  11. Gave up TV for Lent this year and will probably start to watch again after Easter but MUCH less, maybe 3-5 hours per week. I love the idea of experiments to keep one **out of** one’s comfort zone. I’d like to try a shopping fast, and some radical budgeting experiment. Intrigued by the no-black-clothing thing. Food for thought.

  12. Gave up TV for Lent this year and will probably start to watch again after Easter but MUCH less, maybe 3-5 hours per week. I love the idea of experiments to keep one **out of** one’s comfort zone. I’d like to try a shopping fast, and some radical budgeting experiment. Intrigued by the no-black-clothing thing. Food for thought.

  13. I’m sure there are a load of personal experiments I could undertake, but with children I’d feel selfish. Results and consequence – good or bad – are bound to have a reach beyond just me. Maybe that’s just an excuse to clear the jealousy and cognitive dissonance I’m feeling!

    I once read, ‘to live is to change.’ I’ve always remembered that. You are that. Good on you, Colin!

  14. I’m sure there are a load of personal experiments I could undertake, but with children I’d feel selfish. Results and consequence – good or bad – are bound to have a reach beyond just me. Maybe that’s just an excuse to clear the jealousy and cognitive dissonance I’m feeling!

    I once read, ‘to live is to change.’ I’ve always remembered that. You are that. Good on you, Colin!

  15. Cool concept Colin. I sort of do the same thing but living in one city for long periods of time it’s tough to make those rapid and drastic changes. You can still do it though. Once you are conscious of what you are trying to achieve and how others actively block those goals you can find ways around them. It does take more work than if you were able to find a brand new set of friends each place but it is possible.

  16. Cool concept Colin. I sort of do the same thing but living in one city for long periods of time it’s tough to make those rapid and drastic changes. You can still do it though. Once you are conscious of what you are trying to achieve and how others actively block those goals you can find ways around them. It does take more work than if you were able to find a brand new set of friends each place but it is possible.

  17. A lot of my lifestyle experiments have revolved around health and diet. I gave up coffee for 30 days once which allowed me to separate the addiction from the ritual. Now I enjoy the ritual of sitting down for a GOOD coffee and often chose to go without rather than having an inferior coffee in a bad atmosphere.
    Giving up meat for a few weeks helped me to develop my cooking repertoire and I also realised I felt a lot better without it. Now I’m probably meat free for 80% of my meals and when I choose to eat meat I aim for something that is special – organic, hand-reared, sustainable or perhaps premium like an amazing Iberico Jamon instead of crappy supermarket bacon.
    My next health/diet lifestyle experiment will be a 7 day “detox” in Bali in April.

  18. A lot of my lifestyle experiments have revolved around health and diet. I gave up coffee for 30 days once which allowed me to separate the addiction from the ritual. Now I enjoy the ritual of sitting down for a GOOD coffee and often chose to go without rather than having an inferior coffee in a bad atmosphere.
    Giving up meat for a few weeks helped me to develop my cooking repertoire and I also realised I felt a lot better without it. Now I’m probably meat free for 80% of my meals and when I choose to eat meat I aim for something that is special – organic, hand-reared, sustainable or perhaps premium like an amazing Iberico Jamon instead of crappy supermarket bacon.
    My next health/diet lifestyle experiment will be a 7 day “detox” in Bali in April.

  19. Yup, red-meat is where it’s at! But I’m looking into an all fruit diet. Also, I’ve been considering “prison” for like, a month. Not serious prison, because I don’t want to commit any crimes, but I mean total confinement. I’m pretty sure that freedom is the most underrated privilege of humanity, and I would like to change that for myself.

  20. Yup, red-meat is where it’s at! But I’m looking into an all fruit diet. Also, I’ve been considering “prison” for like, a month. Not serious prison, because I don’t want to commit any crimes, but I mean total confinement. I’m pretty sure that freedom is the most underrated privilege of humanity, and I would like to change that for myself.

  21. Hi Colin. Been reading your feed for a few weeks now, and I’m digging it. Something I’ve been wondering: where does your mail go? What do you use for physical address on ID etc?

  22. Hi Colin. Been reading your feed for a few weeks now, and I’m digging it. Something I’ve been wondering: where does your mail go? What do you use for physical address on ID etc?

  23. Raptitude.com

    He did, and his last article relates so well to this one, how could I not be inspired? Thanks buddy.

  24. Raptitude.com

    He did, and his last article relates so well to this one, how could I not be inspired? Thanks buddy.

  25. @Lise: I can’t wait to do more experimenting with my food habits. I’m thinking taking some cooking classes will help me with this, though honestly I’m one of those people who will forget to eat for days at a time if left alone with something interesting to do. Need to work on that!

    @Richard: Oooo, juicing sounds like fun. Might have to try that, as well.

    @Jenny: Thanks so much, Jenny :) Good point about the four-day hump, too…really hard to remember to do something new for that long, but if you can make it a habit, you’re golden.

    @M: Good point, but I should note that I actually was working in related fields most of the time I was in LA (living there I’m sure you know how many seemingly unrelated fields tie back to The Industry). I’m also someone who hates not having the big picture, and what’s going on in pop culture is still heavily influenced by what’s going on in TV land, so I like to know at least the basics so I’m not completely ignorant about that aspect of life. Plus: there are a few shows I like :)

    @Janet: Do it! Let me know how it turns out!

    @Mars: Thanks buddy! Always nice to e-meet another crazy person.

    @Tom: Thanks Tom, though I would say that by undertaking some personal life experiments, you’d actually be teaching your kids the value of seeing life from a different perspective. I remember when my dad got really into archaeology as a hobby and then started taking classes on it and we didn’t see him as much sometimes because of it, but I was SO impressed that he was working full time AND pursuing his passion (and a cool one at that). I don’t think that pursuing something like this necessarily means taking anything away from your kids at all, so long as you plan it right. Food for thought :)

    @Ross: It can help to have an excuse so that your friends don’t just think you’re a weirdo doing weird things. Write about your experiments for your blog or for the local newspaper. Start writing a book about your adventures. Have SOMETHING you can use as an explanation and people will generally be a whole lot more adaptive. It’s the unknown, seemingly out-of-the-blue-and-without-purpose changes that people seem to be uncomfortable about.

    @Tresna: Ooo, can’t wait to hear about your Bali detox. What does this entail?

    @Carlos: I would love to see what you found out from being imprisoned for a certain amount of time. THAT is definitely something I had not thought of, but I’m totally fascinated by now that you mention it.

    @Maren: Thanks Maren!

    @Mike: Proud to have you as a reader, Mike! My physical mail either comes to me wherever I’m staying (this is when I order something, get mail from friends and family, etc) and most of the other physical mail that I would get I’ve taken online (my bills are all paid online, for example). Anything that doesn’t fit into those categories gets sent to my parents’ house in Missouri. For my physical address I either use my folks’ place or wherever I happen to be staying (right now, for example, I’m living in a furnished apartment in Christchurch, New Zealand for 3 months…plenty of time to get a library card and the like, and for that I use my address here).

    @Jonny: That’s how I roll…mad doc-style.

    @Tim: I haven’t checked out that blog before, but it looks to be pretty great. Will have to dive deeper later tonight. Thanks Tim!

  26. @Lise: I can’t wait to do more experimenting with my food habits. I’m thinking taking some cooking classes will help me with this, though honestly I’m one of those people who will forget to eat for days at a time if left alone with something interesting to do. Need to work on that!

    @Richard: Oooo, juicing sounds like fun. Might have to try that, as well.

    @Jenny: Thanks so much, Jenny :) Good point about the four-day hump, too…really hard to remember to do something new for that long, but if you can make it a habit, you’re golden.

    @M: Good point, but I should note that I actually was working in related fields most of the time I was in LA (living there I’m sure you know how many seemingly unrelated fields tie back to The Industry). I’m also someone who hates not having the big picture, and what’s going on in pop culture is still heavily influenced by what’s going on in TV land, so I like to know at least the basics so I’m not completely ignorant about that aspect of life. Plus: there are a few shows I like :)

    @Janet: Do it! Let me know how it turns out!

    @Mars: Thanks buddy! Always nice to e-meet another crazy person.

    @Tom: Thanks Tom, though I would say that by undertaking some personal life experiments, you’d actually be teaching your kids the value of seeing life from a different perspective. I remember when my dad got really into archaeology as a hobby and then started taking classes on it and we didn’t see him as much sometimes because of it, but I was SO impressed that he was working full time AND pursuing his passion (and a cool one at that). I don’t think that pursuing something like this necessarily means taking anything away from your kids at all, so long as you plan it right. Food for thought :)

    @Ross: It can help to have an excuse so that your friends don’t just think you’re a weirdo doing weird things. Write about your experiments for your blog or for the local newspaper. Start writing a book about your adventures. Have SOMETHING you can use as an explanation and people will generally be a whole lot more adaptive. It’s the unknown, seemingly out-of-the-blue-and-without-purpose changes that people seem to be uncomfortable about.

    @Tresna: Ooo, can’t wait to hear about your Bali detox. What does this entail?

    @Carlos: I would love to see what you found out from being imprisoned for a certain amount of time. THAT is definitely something I had not thought of, but I’m totally fascinated by now that you mention it.

    @Maren: Thanks Maren!

    @Mike: Proud to have you as a reader, Mike! My physical mail either comes to me wherever I’m staying (this is when I order something, get mail from friends and family, etc) and most of the other physical mail that I would get I’ve taken online (my bills are all paid online, for example). Anything that doesn’t fit into those categories gets sent to my parents’ house in Missouri. For my physical address I either use my folks’ place or wherever I happen to be staying (right now, for example, I’m living in a furnished apartment in Christchurch, New Zealand for 3 months…plenty of time to get a library card and the like, and for that I use my address here).

    @Jonny: That’s how I roll…mad doc-style.

    @Tim: I haven’t checked out that blog before, but it looks to be pretty great. Will have to dive deeper later tonight. Thanks Tim!

  27. Good to see this post. I, happily, already do this.

    The traveling bit is spot on, moving a lot does let you go through all the processes of self evaluation, evolution, and generally growing up faster than most people.

    I know it’s done wonders for me on my end (31 homes before 19).

  28. Good to see this post. I, happily, already do this.

    The traveling bit is spot on, moving a lot does let you go through all the processes of self evaluation, evolution, and generally growing up faster than most people.

    I know it’s done wonders for me on my end (31 homes before 19).

  29. I had never thought of using travel as a way to really ramp up the learning process. But it is absolutely genius! I am even more pumped up about making this a reality for myself.

    I do currently do little experiments. The current one that I wrote about on my blog involves immersing myself in yoga. The intention is to force my mind and body to learn as much as possible and adjust. I have been going hardcore for the last 2 weeks and have begun to see improvements in my yoga session and also in the way I carry my body throughout my the day.

    At the end of the month I plan on pulling back a little and doing the same thing for my salsa dancing.

  30. I had never thought of using travel as a way to really ramp up the learning process. But it is absolutely genius! I am even more pumped up about making this a reality for myself.

    I do currently do little experiments. The current one that I wrote about on my blog involves immersing myself in yoga. The intention is to force my mind and body to learn as much as possible and adjust. I have been going hardcore for the last 2 weeks and have begun to see improvements in my yoga session and also in the way I carry my body throughout my the day.

    At the end of the month I plan on pulling back a little and doing the same thing for my salsa dancing.

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  33. I am a Raw Vegan, a minimalist, I have fasted for forty days twice just water, I am into barefoot running, and last summer I took a bicycle trip across the country. If you are going to do raw vegan-ism don’t be so religious about it that you won’t try out the local cuisine. Have a few exceptions planned out so that you don’t offend people too much. Your relational health is as important as your physical health, find that balance.

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