At the beginning of this month I flew to India for ten days to attend a friend’s wedding and take a much-needed vacation. It was my first trip abroad in two years, and I spent the time meeting new people, exploring rural Indian villages, experiencing farm life, and trying awesome new dishes made from amazing vegetables and the freshest butter and yogurt I’ve ever had.
Now I’m back, and I feel awesome.
I was pretty stressed out before I left because of too much Secret Office Day Job-related overtime and having a shit ton of things to do in general, but I guess I hadn’t realized how much this was affecting me until I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. To get more specific, three things really helped me while I was gone:
- Stepping away from all of my Secret Office Day Job tasks, duties, and responsibilities
- Not working on creative work of any kind
- Breaking up my home life routine
Since leaving Nebraska in Fall 2016 I’d been working pretty continuously on a lot of things, and my pace got cranked up even more when I started my Secret Office Day Job last June. While I did take a lot of short weekend breaks during that time, even during these shorter trips and break periods I was still thinking about work every day, so that my mind was constantly focused on making plans, carrying them out, and tracking my bigger progress.
In India, all that changed. I didn’t have my computer, didn’t have my schedule book, and didn’t have a to-do list of any kind. I didn’t have any editing projects or deadlines for this blog or side projects coming up and I wasn’t making progress on my novel—hell, I wasn’t making progress on anything.
Instead, I sat back and looked at the world around me. I explored a new place, learned phrases in a new language, and lived in the moment every day. I rode on a motorbike through crowded village streets, visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar (see top pic), flew a kite, danced at a wedding, and shelled peas while singing campfire songs, and all of these things were important because they took my focus away from the future (i.e., the things I have to do and want to be doing) and back on to the present (i.e., the things going on at the moment).
It also helped that life in an Indian farming village is pretty slow: people take their time getting ready in the morning, eat a leisurely breakfast, take tea about three dozen times per day, stop to talk when they meet each other in the street, and in general spend a lot of time sitting outside thinking quietly …which in turn made me want to spend a lot of time outside thinking quietly too.
Since the weather was nice I spent a lot of time on my host family’s rooftop terrace writing in my travel journal or just reflecting. I probably spent more time reflecting during those ten days than I have during the past year, and I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it because I’d gotten so used to grabbing a book, pulling up Youtube, or turning on a podcast whenever I had a free moment—all things designed to fill the time, rather than give us space for thought.
The other thing that helped A LOT was that I checked my email a lot less frequently, rarely pulled up Facebook, and avoided Twitter entirely—and as such, I kept my mind (mostly) clear of the social media noise and political news that’s been the bane of my existence this past year, which gave me a LOT less stimulation to cloud my judgement. (I find it a striking coincidence, however, that I was enjoying a fun time and wonderful hospitality in what Trump would certainly call a “shithole country” when he made his now infamous comment, thus making the remark feel even more offensive and demeaning toward people in developing countries worldwide.)
As much as I was enjoying the time away, by the end I was starting to get excited about my novel and other creative projects again—it was the kind of excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time, the kind that comes not from obligation, but from genuinely wanting to sit down and work on something. And I rediscovered that energy again because I took a break.
I’m not sure what kind of messed-up, overworked state I’d still be in now if I hadn’t taken that vacation—it’s very likely I’d still be stressed out and flying along at a frantic pace, not thinking clearly or doing my best work while worrying about a lot of unnecessary burdens. The peace of mind I gained after the trip alone was worth the cost of both the plane ticket and the unpaid time off (!) I took from my Day Job, and as I write this I feel more clearheaded than ever before.
The other great thing is that the India trip gave me a WEALTH of new ideas for the blog that I’ll be posting over the next few weeks. Watch for the rest of this series of India Trip Reflections inspired by what I saw on my travels, with pics and a few local stories that gave me some real perspective.
Because now that break time’s over, it’s time to get back to work.