I like to think I know what I like.
I haven’t always known, which is normal I guess. In high school I liked what everyone else liked, which was pretty much whatever was available in the one-stoplight town where I grew up. When I moved away to university I just went with the flow for the first couple years, processing all the potential. I think it was somewhere around third year of my undergrad that I started selecting things that fit and discarding things that didn’t. I loved Vancouver so I stayed after I finished school. I picked a profession I still enjoy. I got a dog and was like, where has this been all my life?. Same thing with yoga. I figured out that I was a decent cook and I liked pretty things, but not too many of them or I felt trapped. And back in 2000, I went to Thailand with a backpack and a month’s supply of hand sanitizer and I’ve loved travel ever since.
This list (plus more) of likes, and a corresponding list of things I can do without, drives how I spend my time and money and helps me find my people. If you like what I like, at least we’ll have something to start the conversation.
But a *few* years have passed since university and in the last couple I’ve started wondering, do I really like these things, or are they just habits? Are there other things I don’t know about yet that I might like more? Do I want what everyone else (whoever they are) wants? Is it time to change anything?
And so the existential hamster wheel spins.
When this trip shaped up I thought, I’ll experiment. I’ll temporarily remove most of my grown up responsibilities and go far away from everything and everyone familiar – create a clean slate of sorts – and see what happens. So now I’m here, a lab rat in a very pretty tropical cage, watching what I do when I don’t have to do anything.
Well it turns out I’m not a hedonist or a thrill seeker. In fact sometimes I don’t really feel like a traveller at all, and I certainly have no street cred as a tourist. I don’t have a guidebook; I have yet to say yes to a tour. So far, in this travel life where I can choose to do anything I want, I choose to do a lot of the same things I do at home.
I eat eggs for breakfast. I do yoga. I walk around, smiling at strangers, but with my earbuds in so I don’t actually have to talk to them. I search out a good Americano each morning, usually in the closest thing I can find to a hipster cafe. I go to the bank. I pick up my laundry. I watch pirated HBO before bed. I make lists and plans and then change them. I try to figure out why I did what I did that time I did the wrong thing.
I know part of why I like the ordinary here is that it isn’t my ordinary. Just going to the grocery store is an adventure – what’s that pink fruit with spikes? And wow, rose-flavoured toothpaste. I also like that any structure and repetition is entirely self-imposed. I have lots of to do lists but I still feel free, because every item on every list was my idea, and I can delay or remove each task without consequence. I can do whatever I want tomorrow, including the same things I did today.
Each day I spend a few hours doing what I call work, but it’s not. That’s just me, feeling like I need a purpose other than pleasure to justify how I spend my time. I read books and blogs about writing and meditation and web-based startups and lifestyle design. These books make me think new things and write new things and connect ideas that I haven’t mashed together before. Sometimes this “work” turns into a blog post and sometimes it just adjusts my world view. I do all of this in coffee shops, or on my front porch, or in air conditioned hotel rooms when I end up in big, messy cities.
These days I have a lot more ideas than I usually do, in large part because I’m spending a lot of time on my own. My INTJ nature agrees with Nikola Tesla, who said:
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
Who knows if these ideas are any good, but it’s nice to have some new ones.