This is the second part of a series of posts I am writing about the lessons we learned from taking a gap year.
Europeans have an admirable nonchalant attitude
We are now pretty good at spotting Europeans* at the beach. We look for those folks who just simply don’t care. I say this not in a negative way but rather in admiration. They show up with a towel and maybe some water. That’s it. Where they are is where they are supposed to be. The sun is shining. Great. The sky is cloudy. Great. This attitude extends to dining, walking, and pretty much all other aspects of their lives. It is a nice way of going about life. You are focused on the here and now the way it is, rather than whatever is next or wishing for something different.
Drastic elimination of complexity is such a beautiful thing
Before we left on our gap year I spent several months writing down scenario questions like “what if our laptop gets stolen while we are traveling?” or “what if we get sick?”. Then I thought through our responses so I could figure out what we needed to do before we left to prepare. What emerged during this planning and reflection stage was the realization that the simpler you can make your daily life the more robust you become – not just while traveling but also while going about your life at home. We realized that all the effort we put into simplifying and automating our life for extended traveling resulted in a home life that is also more automated and simplified. I’ll write about the specific details in the future. It is a slow, deliberate process but well worth it when life gets busy.
Watching TV is less appealing
While traveling we pretty much never turned on a TV. There was always something better to do. Now, at home, we have found there is still always something better to do.
Out of sight, out of mind is real
At first when my phone stopped ringing and the flow of emails slowed I was quite happy. I told myself that I could relax and hop back into things later. When we got back into town from being away the phone did not automatically start ringing again. I found out that “out of sight, out of mind” really does happen – and not just from a professional standpoint but also a social standpoint. Everyone has their own busy lives. Professionally, this isn’t some earth-shaking revelation. From a social standpoint, though, I realized that you have to work to keep your social connections going.
More lessons to come
While we traveled I started writing in my notebooks quite a bit. I’m now in the process of going through these notebooks to figure out what might be helpful for someone else who wants to simplify, travel long-term, and/or just pick up useful bits.
Please comment below if you have learned any lessons from your own travels or have questions about some of the things I learned. Thanks!