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  • Thinking about routines after an extended trip
  • Travel tips

Thinking about routines after an extended trip

An extended vacation is a great opportunity to examine the routines that you take for granted. You stop doing some things and postpone others. It’s surprising how flexible day to day life is, how much you can put on hold.

We were away for a month. For a month, I didn’t schedule appointments or conversations. For a month, I postponed e-mails and decisions. For a month, I had no library books on the go, no projects to work on, no focused topics for learning and exploration.

Now we’re back home and slowly returning to our normal life. I started cooking in bulk again, freezing 14 chicken curry lunches to save us time in the weeks ahead. The cats are back from the boarding place, so there’s that 15-30 minute daily commitment to pet care. I have quiet time for myself again, truly discretionary time. What routines and activities do I want to restore? What do I want to put back slowly, carefully, intentionally? What do I want to lessen or reconsider?

2014-01-01 Routines I put away for the trip and which ones I want to put back

Click on the image to view a larger version.

I drew during the vacation as an aid to thinking, but not as much as I did at home. I’m back to my normal rhythms of drawing and writing, although it will take me a little time to ramp up to the same kind of buffer I enjoyed. I like this and will do more of it.

Being picky and guiltless about e-mail seems to work out fine. I answered almost all my mail, although some replies took weeks. The world didn’t end.

Work feels less urgent, too. Good transition. No emergencies. I’ll work on this for another couple of months, and then we’ll plan again from there.

Less time reading, perhaps. I reviewed the list of new business books from the library and didn’t feel called by any of the titles. There’s so much I want to learn, but maybe I’ll try more targeted searches – reading specific books or websites, perhaps, instead of just picking through what’s new.

Sometimes I look at how little time I’ve spent directly writing code and wonder if I’m slipping into that vicious cycle of rustiness and impostor’s syndrome. I remind myself that I’ve felt that way about Emacs and Rails and WordPress before, and still there are ideas and projects that lead me back. I don’t have to waste energy on second-guessing myself. I’ll come back to this in time. For now, I’m focusing on learning how to share what I’m learning. When I return to focusing on coding, I can use these skills to share even more. The important thing is for me to keep that confidence that I can learn what I want to learn – as long as I have that, I can pick things up again.

I miss biking. I want to set up a winter exercise routine to get me through those cold and dangerous months. Maybe something I can do at home, so I have no excuse. We have weights, I have an exercise partner, I should be able to make this work.

A vacation is an excellent excuse to disrupt routines, since people automatically understand. I wonder how I can do this even during a staycation. Perhaps a vague “I’m taking a break and will get back to you in a month?” It’s useful to interrupt your life so that you can see what you take for granted and be deliberate about what you put back.

Are you returning from an extended break? What have you learned about your everyday life?

Travel tips

Here’s a braindump of tips for making frequent travel more fun:

  • Learn a little of the language and culture. Look up interesting phrases. Check out a city’s attractions. Read some of their news. I usually check Wikitravel before I go to a different city. If a different language is spoken there, I’ll use Pimsleur or Web-based resources to learn a bit of it. It’s good mental exercise, and you’ll appreciate the place more.
  • Get to the airport early, and plan to do some offline work while waiting. Most airports will have power adapters, so you can still work on your computer. Internet connection may be spotty or expensive, though. Getting to the airport early beats worrying about traffic.
  • Pack light. Really light. Carry-on-only light. If you can avoid checking things in, you get into and out of airports so much faster. You can take advantage of the web or kiosk check-in and you don’t have to stand in line in order to drop your bags off. You can zoom out of the airport without standing around at the baggage carousel. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about lost luggage, either. It helps to have a backpack or a small rolling suitcase, and a large purse or a convertible bag (backpack / shoulder bag). Watch out for sizes. Some regional flights have under-seat spaces just a bit smaller than the standard carry-on rolling suitcase, and the overhead bins are very small. Elle sells a rolling suitcase that fits snugly under the seat on those small regional airplanes.
  • If you’re carrying two bags, try to get on the plane early. Overhead bins tend to fill up because people use those instead of putting their things under the seat in front of them. If you get in early, you can put your stuff into a bin close to your seat. If the bin next to your seat is full, put your stuff into a bin closer to the exit, so you can grab it on the way out. Do this before you reach your seat, because it’ll be difficult to go back with all the people coming into the plane.
  • Bring a jacket or a sweater on the plane. Cold flights are no fun. If you have an extra layer or some other soft thing, you can also fold it up for lumbar support. If your back tends to ache during flights, putting a folded sweater in the small of your back can help a lot.
  • Wear socks or travel slippers during your flight. You may be asked to take your shoes off during the airport security scan. Clearly, socks are a good thing. Also, your feet can get pretty cold in-flight, and socks can go a long way towards flying more comfortably. Travel slippers are great because they’re a bit sturdier and not as tight as socks, making it easier to walk around in the cabin or sleep in your chair. If you don’t have travel slippers, socks or sock slippers will do in a pinch.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated on long flights. Ask the flight attendants for water at least once an hour. You can ask them to pour you two glasses. You could also try bringing a wide-mouth water bottle and asking them to fill that, although I’ve never tried it myself.
  • Get some exercise. Get up and stretch your legs. Drinking plenty of water tends to help with this, as does picking an aisle seat so that you don’t feel guilty about waking people up.
  • Bring noise-isolating earphones. You can usually plug them into the airplane’s sound system. Use them to block out most of the noise from crying babies or  indicate that you don’t want to be disturbed.
  • Build in some breaks. It’s too easy to spend all your time doing business when you’re on a business trip, simply because there’s nothing else to do. Try to spend some time wandering around and enjoying the place you’re going to.
  • Meet up with friends whenever possible. Having dinner with friends makes business trips a lot more fun. Staying over with friends beats interchangeable business hotels any time. =)

More? =)