Travel is my Kryptonite

It ruins all my normal habits and rhythms and tanks my productivity.

Assumed Audience: people interested in discussions of travel and of maintaining good habits.

An observation on travel (which every trip confirms anew): travel absolutely tanks my ability to maintain my habits. Whether the habit in question is writing 500 words daily, running, or even just eating normal amounts, I struggle to maintain it when away from home.

I think this is primarily a function of how much my place is integrated into my routines. For all that I like change in general, I am also a creature of habit (as are we all, I think!) and my many habits are deeply tied to the place in which I do them — for many reasons:

  • Being in my own place reminds me of my normal routines, of course. Whether that’s grabbing my normal snacks at my normal times from their normal location, or getting up at the normal time from my normal bed when the normal amount of light is shining in my normal windows, or getting to bed at the normal

  • There is no extra mental hurdle to go running from my house because I know all the roads and paths near me quite well at this point. I don’t have to plan a route; I can just run a route.

  • Travel itself is tiring, and fatigue is disruptive to all those good habits as well. None of us makes our best choices when we are tired. This is one reason that sleeping well is so critical to doing well in life more generally!1

The net of all of this is plain to see simply in the numbers in my writing journal for the month. Before we left for our family trip to Virginia to celebrate Thanksgiving with my extended family on my mom’s side, I was averaging almost 900 words per day for my monthly writing project, and I had in fact written every day since starting the project. We left on Saturday, and since then I have:

  • written a few hundred words on the plane on Saturday
  • not written at all on Sunday
  • not written at all on Monday
  • actually managed to hit my goal today as I write this (along with ~140 words of notes in my private notebook

The story for my normal fitness and eating habits looks even worse. I’m hoping that getting this bit of writing done will be one step in getting back into my routine even while I’m here. I’m also hoping that consciously reflecting (in public, even!) on this phenomenon will be one component of doing better on this in the future.

My tentative thoughts on doing better on this going forward:

  1. I’d like to start by designing a conscious plan for how to avoid these doldrums in the future. That goes for each component of life. I have been finding week-level bullet-journaling quite profitable; I can and should extend that to travel weeks as well.
  2. In the context of things like eating and running, I need to set specific goals for the week and check them off… just like I do at home!
  3. I need to remember that some flex is inevitable: the impact of fatigue is not to be understated. However, some of these things can either exacerbate or lessen the fatigue of travel: in particular, eating well and exercising both help a great deal with that!

Those are tentative, though. If you have tips, especially if you’re a more experienced traveler than I am, I’d love to hear them!

  1. From what I understand — and I am by no means expert in this area! — this is an incredibly important component of poverty cycles. An underappreciated factor in middle class success is simply that people’s neighborhoods are quiet and they get to sleep well. This means they do better in school, and later in life they do better in work and social situations — because they (we) are able to be better decision-makers, more focused, etc. These kinds of quiet (literally quiet!) differences are easy to overlook, but they really, really matter. I’m grateful for how well I’m able to sleep, and the more so as I grow to understand more clearly how much a gift that is and how much a difference it has made in my life. ↩︎