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The 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, says that in general, 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. For example: 80% of income might come from 20% of your clients. 80% of your work gets done in 20% of the time you spend working. Etc. Let’s apply this to backpacking:


It’s crucial to say yes when you’re traveling solo. Saying yes means you are more likely to: Get a meal with your roommate in the hostel, change your itinerary to stick with friends and create deeper relationships, and try new activities for the sake of their novelty. “Yes” generally gets you to the best experiences and stories–80% of the time.


20% of the time, however, we must say no.


20% of the time, we need to take a rest day after pushing ourselves for four. 20% of the time, we need to stick to our itinerary. 20% of the time, it’s nice to just go to the restaurant you already know.


When traveling, it’s easy to want to experience everything. This is the exact opposite feeling of when you live somewhere, and it feels justifiable to say you’ll “do it later” because you're under the illusion that you have unlimited time. I know I put off tons of activities in Washington, D.C., until my last month hit and I realized how little I had actually done.


On a trip, the clock is always present (usually in increments of 3-5 days), and that will make you do more. This is good! There’s a lot to expeience. But you can’t say yes to everything. You will still get burned out, despite the inherent fun in traveling.


Here’s the biggest reason to keep this rule in mind: There will always be something else to do–on a trip and in life. We will never even approach doing “everything.” And when we accept that our time is finite, our choices become more intentional.


So, I try to follow the 80/20 rule, with “yes” skewing toward the first few days in any place. Saying yes in the beginning means you’ll make more friends and get a better understanding of the city. For example, if I’m in a city for five days, the first 3-4 are spent saying yes, and the next 1-2 are spent recovering (in general). “Recovering” doesn’t mean doing nothing. It just means I might go to bed earlier, do less intense activities, or spend more time alone. This recharges my social battery and gears me up to hit the ground running when I get somewhere new.


With every rule, this is not strict and should never be over-applied. But, it’s a good mindset to have because by accepting it, you give yourself permission to say no.


See you next week.

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