I’ve always wondered why travelling is so much fun. Is it the new country? Is it that the people are better in another country? Is it because it’s new and exciting? It’s possible that it’s all of the above. But I think one of the main reason travelling is amazing is because time is finite. It puts a start and an end date on your life in that country. And it makes you more urgent to do the things you want to do, because if you don’t you’ll be sitting in your cramped economy class airplane seat stewing in a sea of regret. And no one likes seas of regret.
My most exciting trips have always been the ones where I’ve only been there a short time. A short enough time that I have to make everyday count, but long enough that I still have some breathing room for some serendipity. This realisation also made me think about finite time in relation to the more general topic of goals and habit building. It’s far easier to motivate yourself to do something when you have short, manageable, time-sensitive goals. If your goal is ‘fluency in Spanish’, that’s a really bad goal. It needs to have some qualifying statements to make it more manageable, and then you can break it down into more achievable goals. So it could be:
Conversational fluency in Spanish within 2 years.
This is a much more qualified goal and with that you can start to think about how you’re going to achieve it. With travelling it’s very much the same. Except it’s less about learning and more about consuming and enjoying life. The goal sets itself up once you’re booked your tickets. It’s like you creating a microcosm of your own life, but in another country. You can be anyone you want to be, anyone you choose to be for those days because you live and die in that city. And before you know it you’re sitting back at your desk in your office wondering why you’re not doing this every month not every year.
Travel and experience Paris in 3 days.
Learn Kung Fu with monks in China for 6 months.
Couchsurf around Taiwan for 3 months.
With a goal as qualified as that it puts pressure on you to do the things you want to do in that time. I think this is why everyone likes travelling without really knowing it. I mean yes of course the new country, people and culture is exciting. But can you really say you’ve experienced even your own country? Your country is just as exciting to foreigners as you are about their country. I certainly can’t say though that I’ve full explored England or even London! I feel like it’s the automatic time pressure that makes people push themselves to be who they want to be, do what they want to do in that short period of time. And it feels good.
When I was at home, working 9-5 without any real short-term goals in my life, only routines I couldn’t tell between night and day. Weeks shot by, then months, then it was a year and I knew I was in some kind of stasis. Hypnotised. Melancholy. I feel that air of pensive sadness every time I feel I’m being inactive, undriven and lazy. Travelling throws that all to the wind.
So for me now I’ve been in Taiwan for a couple weeks and I really love the city so I think I might stay longer than I planned to, but what I’m afraid of is melancholy. How do I keep up the motivation, drive and passion when the time is undefined? It’s going to start with short-term goals. Everyone needs to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And without goals it’s like you’re stumbling around in the dark. You need to find the light.