Pardon me for the excessive use of “I” but I guess writing this in first person will make more sense.
I like to work really hard and get exhausted and then take an off. So for 6 months or so I would work my ass off, mostly on weekends too and then get exhausted and take a break! I took a break about 6 months back where I was on a no-laptop, no-phone trip and had truly enjoyed every bit of that 7 day off.
This time around I am traveling alone – yes, all alone. I had decided about a week back that I will take a break and put a leave notice to the company immediately. I needed time for myself. In fact all of us do but most of us never realize it.
In the daily rut of life: clients, partners, colleagues, bosses, friends, parents, siblings, GF/BF, spouses, kids and some other stuff (like Facebook, Twitter) we don’t find time for ourselves. I have an identity of my own and if I am not spending time with myself, I am not nurturing that identity. I feel, in this fast daily life, if I don’t stop and take care of myself, after a few days I feel lost. Completely lost. So much so that for every task that I do I would ask myself, why am I doing this? And before I could even find the answer, I would have another task lined up and would rush to that without putting in much thought or answering it. We normally kill that voice and move on. After a certain time, either we will stop and say “wait, let me answer that first” – which is what I do or we say “aah, let that question be there. It keeps coming back, “we will answer it later or not answer it at all” – and the voice – gets a slow death.
By the time we realize that voice again, its too late. In some cases, these turn into what this nurse disclosed as the Top 5 regrets by people while on their deathbed.
So I took a lone break, primarily for three reasons:
- To think about my own identity. Whom am I? Am I doing what I really want to do in life? Why do I do what I do? If something needs to be stopped? Whether something needs a course correction? Whether I am fulfilling all my roles and responsibilities (being a son, brother, boss, partner, colleague, friend etc) or being just myself? Where am I lagging? What am I overdoing? So I answer these and a few more of these questions. And more importantly, I take decisions – some of them tough ones.
- To actually take a break from work. Being in a client servicing business, there’s barely a moment when I don’t worry about a client deliverable, irrespective of whether its on track or not. Being an entrepreneur and not thinking about getting more business all the time, I feel, is a sin. To be a manager and not think about the growth of your team is another impossible task. So a few days off without worrying about answering calls, replying mails, sending texts, discussing new opportunities, making proposals, getting more business, conducting more internal trainings – is a blissful time. You forget all this and focus on other things in life. It could be anything. Even a small cup of tea (without worrying about the things I mentioned above) seems W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L.
- Its about getting out of your comfort zone. This is a complete complete blog post in itself and I’ll write about that in the next few days. [Update: Wrote Getting out of my comfort zone]
So then what I do on these lonely trips?
First and most importantly, I switch off my phone. And keep it that ways until I return back to base. How else would I avoid those calls, texts, mails? I’ll be honest, this time I had to switch it on midway because it was new year time and I had to make a few calls, and was expecting a few too. So 31st eve, I switched it on and got back connected to the world. But during my previous trip, I kept if off for an entire week!
Secondly, keep minimum gadgets with yourself. You may or may not agree here. Last trip I didn’t carry my laptop either. This time I did, will explain below why.
So now that I was disconnected to the world, here’s what I did:
- Explore the place, obviously. I purposely chose a place which I hadn’t visited earlier. I strongly feel the best way to explore a place/thing is to visit/do it alone. You just have to do what your mind says and if there is any element of curiosity in you, you’ll end up exploring a lot more than with anyone else. Alone, I can keep walking and exploring stuff and not be dependent on the people who are accompanying me. I am a great lover for long walks, especially when on unknown paths. And often I’ve found myself in a position where I have not been able to do this when I am with others. It becomes difficult as I/we have to take care of everyone’s wishes. Not everyone can walk long distances, or is inquisitive enough and in a group it becomes difficult that ways. Please don’t be offended if you have been with me on a trip and are reading this. Its not that I always want to travel alone or that I don’t enjoy the company your company, but sometimes, I do need a lone journey too, as it gives me “freedom”. I walked almost 5-6 km daily (on days I could step out) and stopped at random places, noticing weird things, clicking (un)interesting pics and doing foolish stuff. When with others, you can’t do all of that, believe me.
- Made some plans for the next year – no these are not new year resolutions before you think that. I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish during my lifetime, so this time of the year, each year, I take calls on what needs to be done next. Not that I achieve all of them, but at least I know what my destination is. Helps me reach somewhere instead of being nowhere. And it keeps me aligned to my life goals as well. Just had a look at my last years’ list, I’ve achieved 50% of that – which I feel is not bad I feel. It kept me focused and has shown me my path for the next 12-18 months actually. Some of them turned unimportant during the course of the year and now I can strike them off, easily and not be guilty or regretful about it either. Knowing what you want to do is important but I feel its equally important to know what you don’t want to do! So I worked on my goals, hope I accomplish more than 50% this time. [This is the reason, I carried my laptop]
Important thing to note here is that, like in the previous case, where wandering alone helps me explore more, in this case where I need to plan, I need to be alone too. Disconnected from the world. Its because all these answers come after a lot of time, when you’ve been thinking uninterrupted. So often I would see that I would start thinking something, then move out of hotel for anything, then carry on to explore the city and during this city exploration I would see something or something would happen that would give me the answer to my original question with which I started from the hotel. Amazing! Isn’t it?
And this cannot happen when you are in your own city, even if on a leave. Distractions would keep occurring and you would never get that “me time” or “mind space” to think all this.
Obviously, these are things that I chose to do. And I chose them because I wanted to nurture my identity. You may find your own reasons and find a lot more other things that can/should be done. Meditation is another thing you
should must try.
By the way, guess what? I am not the only one who travels alone:
@AbhinavSahai it sure is fun. Done lots of Goa and Rajasthan alone in my youth.
— Gopi Narayanan (@BelladonnaIT) January 1, 2014
Oh and one more thing, I heard (and learnt) from Freeman Murray – traveling alone allows you to meet more new people and make more friends, because when you are in the group – you talk to only that limited set of people 🙂
View outside my hotel room in Dalhousie
If you are a lone traveler too, do share your thoughts, would like to learn more from your experiences.