How full time travel makes appreciation harder, and what to do about it

Full time travel appreciation

A common issue for those traveling full time is that when you’re seeing a ton of different places, they can start to fade together in your memory, and you start to have less appreciation for new places and adventures. I’ll write today about why that happens, how it feels, and share some ideas of what one can do about it

VACATIONS FROM WORK – SO SPECIAL!

When I used to work all the time, going on a trip or vacation was a special. In my last few years of work, I traveled a lot for my job. On a few trips, when I went to Flagstaff or southern California for work, I made the weekends before and after the work week into camping trips..

These trips took me to places I’d never been. While driving, I’d often pull off road, get out, and take in the view. I’d daydream about having all my time free to do this stuff much more – to do it all the time. These places – these landscapes – grew to be where my dreams took place.

Those trips had a huge impact. I looked forward to them for a month before they happened. And I’d think about them after, enough to work those places into my daydreams. I’d imagine going back there with my van, retired and able to stop for a week or more. I can still remember many small details of these trips. The campsites, what at I ate, hikes, how I felt, and what I was thinking.

I appreciated these trips tremendously. Because I had time to think about them before and after going, I set the details into my long term memory. Also, I had my early retirement dream (and the actual point when I could retire fast approaching), so these trips were a peek into my future life. 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado - Landscape Photography Sunset
Camping in Colorado with my dad and brother

IMPACT OF FULL TIME TRAVEL ON APPRECIATION

Now, I’m about one year into realizing that dream of retiring and traveling.I’ve been through 10 states and all kinds of wonderful places. Mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, beaches, cities.  I’ve enjoyed it a ton. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have grown less likely to feel wonder and amazement. 

After about 6 months, I began to notice a couple things. First, that compared to when I went on trips while working, it was now much harder to remember the details of my adventures. Second, I’m not feeling as much wonder, or amazement – or basically appreciation of my travels as on those other trips. This is a common experience among long term travels.

To be clear – I love doing this. I’m having a wonderful time. I just notice sometimes that I’m not appreciating this like I know is possible. I’d say on an appreciation scale of 1-10, I average 6. I think I should be closer to 8. (To be clear, I consider a 6 to be pretty high, and a 9 or 10 would be too high because it would dominate my thoughts and make me act weird) 

Hiking with friends in Oregon

WHY THIS HAPPENS:

There are a multitude of reasons for this ‘appreciation challenge’, but I believe the main ones are straightforward:

1 –  When I’m moving on from one great place to the next, I don’t spend all the time I used to thinking about them before and after going. Now, It’s just on to the next one.

2 – Since I’m traveling full time with no specific end in sight, I don’t feel I have to go all out to make every day really special. (And I shouldn’t. No amount of trying could make that happen. Real life doesn’t work that way – partly because #3 below)

3 – Hedonic adaptation. I’ve gotten used to spending my days at leisure in beautiful places. It’s now the norm.

Full time travel and appreciation
A redwood grove in northern California

HOW TO INCREASE APPRECIATION?

Here are things that I’ve been doing, or may start, that help increase appreciation and enjoyment:

1 – Go slower. Stay in one place longer. Leave and come back to your campsite many times (on hikes, bike rides, drives into town for supplies, etc.). Ideally, stay more than 10 days.

2 – Journal about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Translating thoughts into words helps clarify or highlight them.

Full time travel appreciation

3 – Stay aware of bad feelings. When they happen, don’t fight them. Accept them as they come. Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. 99.9% of the time, bad feelings are created in your own mind. Mostly they are from responding to an event negatively – and that mental response often does much more damage than the actual event.

4 – Being able to separate yourself from your feelings – to almost look at your emotions as a third party – helps to realize how trivial the bad ones often are, and to recognize when you’re feeling great and why. When you’re upset, ask yourself ”I’ve got all these things going great, and I’m unhappy about THIS?” (in a comedic way rather than judgmentally)

3 – If you take pictures or write about your travels, look back through them regularly. Set those places and days into your long term memory bank.

Full time travel appreciation

4 – Regularly think about what you have to be appreciative for. This could initially be forced – like forcing yourself to list 3 things each day. When you develop a habit of it, it works better. (For example, whenever I’m driving any significant distance, it usually crosses my mind how great my van has worked out so far and how amazing it is that I can get something so useful for so little money)

5 – Talk to other people about this stuff. It doesn’t have to be a cheesy “what are you thankful for?” type thing, just reminders here and there of how great many things are.

Do you have other methods to increase your appreciation? What are they? 

 

2017 Goals

2017 Goals

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting together some 2017 Goals. I’ll share them here. I still don’t consider them final, and one should always be open to changing their goals, so if you have feedback or advice, I’d love to hear it. First, for those who don’t know me personally, a little bit about me.

 

Self-Actualization. It’s different for different people

Some people feel like they’ve found the meaning of life when they first make a big positive impact on the lives of other people. Others feel like they’ve found their passion on their first extended travel. Some people see the miracle of birth and are sure that raising children is the most important part of their life. Some feel best when they are meditating on or spreading religion.  Me, I love improvement. I like making ‘progress’ – getting better – learning new skills (and information that I’ll benefit from knowing). 

 

I like Improvement so much, I chose it as my career

I studied Mechanical Engineering in University. While at school, I got a job in R&D at a big factory in town. I was doing life testing and failure analysis of their product. I also did a bit of product development. The product I worked on was really big and took many months just to test it once.Changes and improvements came slowly and that job was boring.  I also had a research job working sort of for the military (a strictly defensive focus, a type of passive bomb defense). That took over 6 months just to design and build the first test device.

After school I started my career in manufacturing, at a factory with a much quicker pace of production than that first one I worked at. I was in management for the a few years. It was mostly dealing with problems, problems caused by people.

Someone messed up….

We need to hire more people….

Two ladies got in an argument and one of them grabbed the other by the face…  

The new supervisor crashed his car into the building….

Hey Travis, I have tickets to the Kenny Chesney concert next Saturday and the production line I work on on will be running but I’ve been working every Saturday and can’t I get this one night off?

I was not inspired by this work. As they realized how good I was at solving problem and improving things, they let me spend more time choosing my own focus. Soon, I had near free reign to investigate and solve problems I found more interesting (and that saved a lot of money). Or, at least it felt that way because the things they asked me to do were things I saw as fun. Like,

Why are we getting high product moistures without anyone being able to figure out the cause?  What the hell is happening and how do we get it to stop?

or things that people hadn’t really considered a problem, but that I wanted to improve, like:

We can only run that one product half as fast as the others.  How much extra money could we make per year if we could use a second machine that’s normally idle and get the output from two machines combined before the next production step? [Millions]

Then I got a promotion and did that kind of work full time. And then I got a promotion to advise numerous factories on how to do it.

In the second half of my career, I facilitated the leadership team of my factory when it was time to set goals. I’d help them review the needs and challenges of the greater business, the factory’s current performance. We’d find which aspects of our performance we had the capability to improve, and that would make a big impact for our business. Then we had a bunch of other work we’d do and tools we’d use to make the goals actually come true.  I liked this kind of work. It was interesting and fulfilling.

 

My own goals

I like learning things from work that are useful in my “real life”. And I like to actually apply them. One of the materializations of this is my habit of setting goals each year and tracking my progress vs them. I’ll typically do this:

  • Decide Key Priorities (which areas I want to make improvement. Typical categories for me are Financial, Fitness, Social, etc.)
  • Determine Goals.
  • Measure/track the quantifiable goals. Make charts. Update them as the year goes on.

I expect to make a series of posts within the next 6-12 months about this kind of stuff, and one of them will have details and steps of how to set goals for yourself that are important, challenging, and motivating.

Ok, GOALS!

Here were my goals and results for the first half of 2016:

2017 Yearly GoalsMy goals for the second half of the year were not as formal. It was my first period of retirement and I spent the time traveling quickly, seeing friends and family, improving my diet and fitness, etc. Here’s what I have for 2017

2017 Goals

It’s a lot of different goals. I would’ve tried incredibly hard to get a factory to make fewer, more focused goals. But since I’m only one person, it’s easier to control my focus and move in the direction I want. Since I don’t work now, I have a lot of time to spend on these. Below are details about most of the categories

Fitness and Health:

These are a little tricky for me now as I don’t lift weights in a gym, so I can’t use a measurable target like “Squat 285lbs 5 times. I’ve crafted a good strength training routine using bodyweight exercises (that I’ll share in a future post), so I figure if I just do it regularly, I’ll be strong enough.

The cardio-vasular goal is not an ideal measure. I was spoiled back when I was into bicycle racing. I had a power meter for my bike and a computer. So I could capture and analyze a ton of data. I could do all sorts of different fitness testing using the bike and power meter. I sold that power meter after I stopped racing. I don’t actually run very much, but running one mile on a track is a very repeatable test and has little noise. By comparison, seeing how far I can ride the bike in one mile is impacted too heavily by other factors than fitness – wind, whether there is any altitude gain, traffic or having to slow/stop at intersections, and the smoothness of the road. I might actually be able to run a 6:30 mile right now, so there’s a good chance I’ll reduce the target to 6:00.

I’m currently at about 12mm on the fat caliper.

 

Financial

This will be my first full calendar year of retirement. I saved up money while working and have some investment income from that. I should be able to live off that entirely, so maybe I should drop the “+hobby income” from the spending target.

“Hobby Income” is money from things that I consider fun. I started making shirt designs a few years ago and get some income from those. I haven’t made any new designs for almost two years, so I want to get back into that. I expect any income generation related to this blog to be slow developing and limited, but I put a small target for it anyways. Increasing my Instagram followers won’t create any income itself (Instagram isn’t monetized like Youtube), but having a lot of followers opens up the possibilities of getting deals with companies to make posts there that are also ads.

 

“Inner Happiness” stuff

Meditation is a good idea. I’ve had some good results in the past from meditating before sleeping (and getting very restful sleep) and using meditation to help with athletic competitions (when I was bike racing). I want to start general meditation now to become all zen and tranquil and what not.

Lucid dreaming, for those who haven’t heard of it, means to have dreams and while you are dreaming, be aware that you’re dreaming. Then you can control your dreams in fun and interesting ways. I’ve worked on this in the past, when I was dreaming about work too much, and made progress. I stopped dreaming about work, but didn’t get to having regular lucid dreams.

 

Things to Learn more about

Most of these are to help with skill development. A few are to add to my general knowledge. All of these will be fun for me, also. But none of them are purely for fun only. I expect that they all will also benefit me in the future.

2017 Yearly Goals

 

Request for feedback

I started a first draft of these goals on the winter Solstice. I’ve added and taken away things. Having them written down has given me some more energy and excitement about doing things. If you have some advice/suggestions/feedback on the goals, I’d love to hear it. Everything on the list is there for a reason, but none of the specifics are sacred.

 

2017 Goals

And.. do you make goals like this? What are your 2017 Goals?

Improving My Daily Habits

Improving my Daily Habits

One awesome thing that has happened since quitting: I don’t have to spend any “decision energy” on work. Now, improving my daily habits is way easier. I’ve made changes to other things much quicker – so far: diet and exercise. Even in the van with a very minimal kitchen, I’m eating as well as I ever have. I’ve also started exercising almost every day.

Diet Improvements

I hadn’t been eating that great over the past two years. My job required a lot of travel, and it was much more difficult to eat well while traveling. Also, I let my diet go a bit over the last year while I was building the van, getting my house prepped for and selling it, spending time with a girlfriend, and getting ready to quit my job.

After quitting my job and that “last first day” (hitting the road for good) – it only took about a week to change my diet.

When I moved into the van in late March, I was eating food that I could prepare without cooking: mostly sandwiches and salads. I started cooking gradually. Now, I’m eating almost the same as I would with a full kitchen:

  • Most meals are a sort of stir-fry, always including chicken*, bell peppers, rice, and 2-3 other types of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, etc.). Then I add some type of sauce – these days it’s mostly green chili sauce. Using different sauces makes the meal seem very different. I also use some types of indian and asian sauces.
  • Smaller meals are typically an apple, orange or banana, and either a can of sardines or a whey protein shake.
  • When out on a long hike or bike ride (2-3 hours or more) I bring along peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – using some wonderful jelly and jam that my brother’s girlfriend makes.

The only other thing I eat is a bit of dark chocolate. mmmmm. And some tea occasionally. About 65% of the food I eat by volume is now vegetables and fruit. Then about 25% meat, and 10% bread or rice.

* Chicken — when I had a kitchen, most of my meat (including for sandwiches) came from buying and roasting whole fresh chickens. I don’t want to carry and clean a solar oven, so roasting meat is out of the question now. I’ve started buying the rotisserie chickens at grocery stores. I know these aren’t the greatest chickens, but they’ll work well enough for now.

Exercise Improvements

I’ve been exercising nearly every day. I’m doing a lot of hiking, some bike rides, and some strength-training calisthenics. I’m hiking about 5-10 hours per week, running 1, bike riding 1-2, and doing the strength training once or twice.

For the strength training, I’m currently doing:

  • One-leg squats, while holding onto something static to give more resistance
  • Sort of one-arm pushups (I put the other arm out further and keep that arm straight. If there is a way to do it with my feet up higher, I do)
  • Pull ups (pronated grip, fairly wide. I switched to these from supinated grip which I I’ve used for years because it is easier on my tendons)

I do 4-5 sets of each. Sometimes the pull-ups are a challenge – it can be tough finding a tree with a good branch. In cities it’s easy – find a pull-up bar in a park, or use playground equipment. I imaging after some time I’ll need to add more resistance for all three of these. I can wear a backpack with stuff inside.

Improving my Daily Habits

There are some things I want to add to this regimen:

  • Replace overhead press – I’ll probably start trying handstand pushups
  • Grip/hand strength. I have an Ivanko Super gripper. Need to start using it. Plus other things I can do without needing equipment.
  • Stomach/core strength
  • Foot raises – for the muscles on the front of my lower leg.
  • L-Flys
  • Neck strength (I haven’t done them much, but I’m not a fan of bridges. I can figure something else out – I could use the weighted backpack)

[Note in December 2016: I’ve started all of these except the OHP replacement]

I’ve gotten to be what I consider too fat over the last few years. When I use a caliper on a certain spot of my stomach (about 2” above the top/front of my pelvis) I’m at 18mm. I expect to get down below 10mm. In very ballpark conversions, that will be less than 10% body fat. I’m quite good at gaining and losing weight, but not having a scale makes it significantly harder. In lieu of that, I’m using the fat caliper, and body dimension measures.  I feel like I may be losing weight a little too quickly, but it’s hard to tell without a scale. I should check the caliper and measurements again soon.

[December note: I went from 18mm caliper to 12mm in just one month! Then, I stayed there the rest of the year. I’ll go lower, but I’ll probably wait until warmer weather in spring]

I’ve ridden my bike exactly one time on Forest Service roads. It did not go well. One issue was washboarding on the road – when I went down some too fast, I got a flat tire and my saddleback attachment broke (it has a plastic part that was already cracked). The other problem is riding my road bike tires on gravel/dirt/sand that is too soft and too deep. I’m going to take a look at how wide of tires I can fit in my current bike, but I expect to be buying a different type of bike soon. I’m looking at cyclocross bikes right now, which will allow tires of at least 35mm, and in some cases up to 45mm. I want a bike that I will also be happy riding on roads.  I think a flat-bar bike will be harder to store than one with road/curved handlebars.

Reading

I’ve started reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. It’s about the Lewis and Clarke expedition. It’s incredibly interesting for me. There are some very specific details  – starting with how the trip originated and the relationship between Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson. I’ve been learning about Jefferson over the last year or so from listening to the “Thomas Jefferson Hour” podcast. If you like podcasts, you should check it out.

There are some interesting similarities between their expedition and Vandwelling. The beginning of the book has a lot of details about Lewis’ preparations – from building boats to use as their main means of transportation (at least for much of the trip), deciding what provisions to bring, and studying various subjects before leaving.

I’m writing this Bozeman. Today I went on a bike ride – on a road that someone here recommended. It’s funny, I’d spoken to her last night about the Lewis and Clarke book, and she knew a LOT about them and their trip. What she didn’t tell me is that on the bike route she had already recommended, there is a sign noting that Clark and the other men camped right there on their return trip. Awesome!

Vanlife Manifesto: A strategy for Nomadic Vandwelling

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

32 is supposedly the age where creativity and output peaks. So maybe it is fitting that a couple years ago, at age 32, I drafted three manifestos to capture some of my life strategies/plans. The first is a Vanlife Manifesto: goals and strategy for how I want to spend my time while living and traveling in the van.

The manifestos are:
1 – Vanlife Manifesto:  A nomadic phase. Includes primarily Vandwelling, but later likely living in Central or South America and/or Southeast Asia. This manifesto is below
2 – Slowlife Manifesto: A “Settled down” phase.  Buy or build a small home or cabin. Dive into hobbies like gardening/permaculture, construction, fishing, building social capital, etc.
3 – Life Purpose Manifesto: This one is difficult to draft and is currently quite vague

 

VANLIFE MANIFESTO – EXPLORATION AND ACCLIMATION

 

PERIOD GOALS

  • Explore and learn about the United States (including our history)
  • Study and enjoy “nature”
  • Find good locations to settle in later
  • Meet people with similar outlooks and interests
  • See how little space and few things I need to live well

 

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

VAN (home)

  • Big enough to be comfortable enough to feel like an option for permanent living. (this may require buying a high top van in the future or adding a  high top to mine)
  • Able to go/stay in a wide variety of places.
    • Get to many remote locations.
    • Blend in while in cities.
    • Not restricted from going to certain areas by van size or type (I don’t mean parking garages here, I mean parks/forests or parts of cities)
  • Reliable – not needing frequent repairs
  • Relatively fuel-efficient, if possible
  • Equipped to allow living remotely for at least one week
  • Space for carrying hobby equipment
  • Not so expensive that it causes me stress
  • Clean and organized inside – so that when things are in their place, I feel calm and without urges to clean or reorganize

 

BELONGINGS

  • Low amount. High usefulness/quality
  • Things that serve multiple functions
  • Not so expensive that loss would devastate me

 

HOBBIES

(some are current, some are things I want to get into at some point)

  • Exploration
  • Sightseeing
  • Learning the history of areas
  • Learn about nature – plants, animals, earth, weather, survival
  • Photography (landscape, nature, wildlife, travel)
  • Fitness – running, strength, injury resistance, health
  • Hiking
  • Swimming / Snorkeling? / Surfing?
  • Bicycling
  • Animal watching/tracking
  • Fishing?
  • Hunting?
  • Pens and writing
  • Graphic design (on computer)
  • Drinking good tea
  • Writing/Blogging?
  • Reading

 

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

REMINDERS FOR MYSELF

  • Stay in good shape – don’t let muscles atrophy
  • Eat mostly healthy – find ways to make this work and to make it easy
  • Spend a lot of time with friends and family (because I may not want to travel while I’m settled down later on)

 

DO YOU HAVE A LIFE MANIFESTO?

For those of you dreaming of Vanlife, preparing for it, or currently living in your van, do you have a Vanlife Manifesto? If so, what does your have that mine doesn’t?

Need some inspiration? Here are 10 Famous Manifestos, and a short guide on How to write a manifesto.