Freedom is a privilege, an opportunity, and a responsibility. Being able to wake up everyday and practically do whatever you want is amazing and I wish it for everyone at some point in their lives. Yet, like most things in life, after awhile the awesomeness wears off and we find ourselves mentally shackled by our good fortune.
Back in May, my wife and I hopped on a train for a weekend trip to Granada, Spain. At this point, we had been a month into our round-the-world trip journey and living in Sevilla, Spain. As someone who has been location independent since 2011, I am a very accustomed to the peaks and valleys of this lifestyle. On the outside, it appears you’re on a permanent vacation but anyone who has done this long enough will repeat the same refrain…
…it’s not a vacation, it’s just another way to live life.
That said, such is life that one finds themselves perplexed with the same doubts, fears, boredom, etc that one feels with they live the “normal” life.
The City Whisperer
Years ago I visited Granada on my golden birthday trip (my 29th birthday as I was born on the 29th of December). On that trip the city spoke to me. It entered my soul, warmed me up, and gave me a cup of tea to reflect. Since that spa-like experience, I knew I had to return someday. And when I returned, it spoke to me again. Though this time I would simply place its words in a time capsule, only breaking the seal when the time was right.
After weeks of hopping around Spain, Portugal, Croatia, and Italy during our 3.5 months in Europe, I finally opened the mental capsule and decided to ponder the words Granada spoke to me back in May. As more long-term travelers and independent workers know,
…one of the most important things for sanity and success is structure.
And it’s very easy to lose structure on the road. Yet, Granada whispered a suggestion to me that I now call, “30-Minute Mondays.”
30 Minutes to Reflect and Build Daily/Weekly Practices
For years, I’d spend Sunday afternoons (preparing for) and sometimes Friday afternoons (reflecting on) my work week. There was structure in this practice, as it allowed me to stay on top of client projects and plan for hurdles and adjustments. It gave me peace of mind. Now, Granada whispered essentially, “why not do the same for yourself.” So while the thought emerged in early May, I didn’t put it into practice until nearly 8 weeks later.
So here’s how it works for me. Each week I set aside 30 minutes on my calendar (Mondays at 7:30 am to be exact) to reflect on how I feel and any changes or personal challenges I seek to try during the week. This practice started at the tail end of our European adventure and so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to start too intensely until we arrived in Montreal.
While in Europe, I started simple. My first challenge was to simply drink 1.5L of water per day. While that may seem pretty lame, trust me, for someone who was only in the habit of drinking water after exercising or when absolutely nothing sweet was available, it was a simple action with huge results. It allowed me to have simple moments each day focused on my body/health. Other challenges that came to mind, were simply logged in the Notes app on my iPhone with start dates scheduled in the future. Some of my other changes/challenges included:
- Eating meat 1x/week
- Running 2-3x/week (15-20 mins)
- High-intensity workouts 2-3x/week (15-20 mins)
- Reading a book in a different language 1x/week
- Setting aside time to reflect on my thoughts negative/debilitating thoughts
- Starting the daily practice of affirmation actions/language
- Rethinking my social media presence and blogging (which emerged into my 4 Year Gap blog post)
- 30-day investment challenge
- 30-day Vietnamese writing challenge
- 30-day Twitter challenge
- And much more…
While some of these I’ve started, others have simply been added to my Notes app for future implementation when the time is right. As I go through the week and try new things, read new things, or having interesting conversations, I can simply whip out my phone and add a new idea/challenge. And as I try new things, others emerge and build off the energy of past actions.
Make It Your Own
Now for someone else, “30-Minute Mondays” can be 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 60 minutes. There’s no right answer…it’s whatever works for you and your life schedule. The main reason I chose Monday was because I love alliteration and “30-Minute Mondays” sounds sooooo much better than “1800-second Sundays.”
But whatever you choose, make time to focus on you. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway). We can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves, and sometimes self-care also means taking small actions towards implementing new behaviors or learning new things that push us forward. You may not complete every action or succeed in every challenge, but at a minimum you did something and you learned something new about yourself. And THAT is the true purpose of the process.