More time with friends - I stopped in Boston on my way to Chicago to visit a friend, and I’m staying with another friend here. As someone who’s used to living on my own or with my parents, just having more time to talk with friends - over breakfast, late in the evening, etc. - makes me significantly happier. And because I’m only in Chicago for a few days, I’m rushing around to meet up with everyone I know. When I’m traveling solo, I also find I’m more likely to chat with new people I meet, especially in hostels. (Update: I’ve just arrived in Bankok and yep, on the plane from Tokyo to Bangkok I sat next to a girl from Chiang Mai, and also met a couple heading off to explore Issan.) It’s a good reminder to always schedule more social time than I think I need in a typical week.
The end of boredom - I think it was Tim Ferriss who said that the opposite of happiness isn’t unhappiness, it’s boredom. When we travel, it’s much harder to get bored (at least in my experience). We’re constantly seeing new places and discovering new things. The days seem to last much longer because there’s so much novelty, and we’ve suddenly got better things to think about than all our previous worries. Somehow when we’re only in a place for a short time, there’s more pressure to fill every day with interesting stuff, but with some planning we can fill our weekends at home with exciting new activities too. What do tourists do when they visit your city, because I bet you haven’t done them all? Or escaping boredom could be as simple as taking a different route to work or wandering around a different neighborhood.
A more flexible routine - There’s always so much talk about creating the perfect morning routine, but when I travel, I really enjoy NOT having a routine. I can wake up when I want, eat when I’m hungry, journal when I have something to write about, and workout when I feel energetic enough. I still like doing all these activities, but there’s something stressful about having to do them at a certain time every day, and it’s really just a responsibility I'm placing on myself. I’m realizing that I need unstructured time to relax - not weekends that are hardly distinguishable from weekdays. I won’t be abandoning my morning routine, but I hope I’ll be more relaxed about it when I get home.
Long stretches of uninterrupted time - Plane rides are hands down some of the best times to get work done. There’s no (free) internet access, so for me that means I can read or write or organize my notes without the distraction of email, social media, or google search. I also can’t really go anywhere, if I get stuck I have to just sit in front of my computer and push through (or put my computer away I guess). It takes some discipline to create this kind of productive environment at home, but one thing that works well for me is writing early in the morning when it’s quiet, and leaving my phone in another room.
One thing that’s NOT on this list: no more WORK. I really could be doing anything I want right now, but I’m choosing to write, study Thai, code, and read (non-fiction books) whenever I have some time to myself or it’s too hot outside. Maybe it’s just me but I think I’d be bored and unhappy if I wasn’t working on some sort of project. I need to feel useful - after a while wandering a city looking at attractions starts to feel self-indulgent. Travel for me isn't about escaping work, it's about expanding my horizons, learning to adapt, experiencing a new place, meeting new people and trying to understand their perspectives.