At the time of writing, I’ve been home from my trip for less than 24 hours. While in general, it’s good to wait before writing about something in order to give adequate time for reflection, I actually think the lack of time lends legitimacy to what I’m about to say.
It is unbelievable how quickly I felt like I needed to work, was behind, and wasn’t doing enough. It happened within about…seven hours of being home. And for six of those hours, I was asleep. So call it one.
All I did was Facetime my friends about the show we’re producing in New York tomorrow (there are very limited seats available, which you can get here, by the way!). And when I saw them working hard, I thought “wow, I have so much to do. I’m behind.”
The reality is, I’ve spent the past three and a half months barely working. I still did a lot. I read tons of books, performed magic, wrote blog posts, and explored new places every day. But I actively avoided “work.” I set up email auto-responders, I had time off the grid, and avoided doing too much planning. I loved it. It’s the way you should travel.
I also had this conversation at least one hundred times:
New Person: Do you know what you’re doing when your trip ends?
Me: I’m moving to New York City to do magic professionally.
Me, in my head: Wow, I’m going to have a lot to do when I get back.
It’s as if, for the whole trip, I was slowly cranking up the pressure valve on my to-do list, knowing it would all explode once I got home. And this self-fulfilling prophecy was very much fulfilled.
I’m back with my props, with my books, and a space to rehearse. I’m inundated with possibilities and things to work on. I lost my relaxing mindset and I’m focused on what needs to be done. The question is, though, is this the right mindset?
While I traveled, I was far more spontaneous than I used to be. For example, when I lived in Washington, D.C, I'd have casual dinners or happy hours scheduled for weeks. Meanwhile, while I traveled, I’d regularly invite someone to dinner that night within ten minutes of meeting them and I don’t think I ever made a dinner plan more than one day in advance.
Now that I’m back I'm realizing: I’ve seen the light! I don’t want to go back to who I was. I was too rigid, too scheduled. And yes, schedules are necessary. And I still loved what I was doing in D.C. Outside of homework, I pretty much spent all my time hanging out with friends, reading, writing, working on magic, or training. But I didn’t have enough time to be spontaneous. During my trip, I learned how lovely it is to not only have a day where you have nothing planned, but to not feel guilty about it.
Because if you’re working hard, there is absolutely nothing to feel bad about when you have time off. In fact, the time off is precisely what allows you to approach your work with the vigor and concentration it deserves.
For example, my guide on my Everest Base Camp trek, who was literally doing manual labor every day (trekking and carrying people’s bags) is about to have two months off where he’ll hang out with friends in Kathmandu. That balance is critical.
So, can I take the two very different lives I’ve had this year: College student training for a Half Iron Man and producing magic shows on one hand, and full-time traveler on the other, and combine them once I move to New York?
Can I perform magic, write, network and explore and find stillness? Can I make plans, but leave several hours open so those plans can morph into a trip to a museum or a spontaneous adventure? Can I remind myself that we just don’t need much to be happy?
Since August 25th, I wore the same six shirts and two pairs of shoes. I shared a bedroom and bathroom with strangers almost every night (my record was sixty consecutive nights). And all of that was totally fine. Approximately none of my happiness had anything to do with my clothing choices or if my bed wasn’t perfectly comfortable.
Now that I’m home, I look at my bookshelf, and despite the fact that I love flipping through my books, it’s overwhelming! This morning, I pulled out seven books I want to read right now, but I can’t consume them like potato chips. I like that when I traveled, I could read only what was on my Kindle. It took away the choice.
And this is what legitimately scares me about moving to New York. I’m going to one of the most overwhelming cities in the world, where the sheer number of opportunities is cranked to maximum capacity. The city is electrifying and magnetic, and that’s great, but anything in excess is generally unhealthy.
I’m writing this post partially as a reminder to myself to slow down.
To find stillness in the city.
To take breaks.
To say no.
It’s the only way I’ll maintain my sanity.
This is, of course, the project of a lifetime. It’s certainly not easy. But I've seen the light. And now I've gotta chase it.