by Niall Doherty

We’re pretty good at adapting to things, us humans. Often a little too good.

I’m now six months into my full-time travel lifestyle. In that time I’ve visited eleven countries, about double the amount I’d visited in all the previous years of my life. I’ve been doing the self-employment thing and earning more than enough money to cover my expenses. I’ve become more adept at navigating foreign streets, handling frequent challenges, and befriending random strangers.

It dawned on me just a week or so ago how this lifestyle has fast become my new normal. Which I expected it would. I’ve been willing to take on scary challenges in the past because I know it gets significantly less scary once you take the leap. Worrying is replaced by doing, because you leave yourself no other choice but to move forward.

Before you know it, you’re out there living the life you set out to live, wondering what you were so worried about in the first place.

But our propensity for adaptation is a double-edged sword.

I found myself chatting with a friend on Skype the other day, trying to convince him that my lifestyle wasn’t as cool as he thought it to be. I was in the middle of listing off several things that could be better, when he, being the good friend that he is, told me to shut my ungrateful cake hole:

— You know how many people would kill to be in the position you’re in, traveling around the world as you please, working remotely, possessing an ass that would make a nun blush?

(Okay, so he may not have said the last part, but I like to make believe that everyone is secretly infatuated with my ass. My ego digs it.)

With that admonishing I snapped out of my unappreciation. I took a step back and realized that this lifestyle had become so normal for me that I’d begun to take it for granted. I’d let slip the only intelligent answer to that all important question, “When will you be happy?

Since that conversation I’ve resolved to make a couple of changes to help keep things in perspective.

For one, I’ve taken up a gratitude journal again1. I try not just to write out a few lines and be done with them, but to also take a few minutes and really feel that gratitude pulse through me. Works wonders.

The other change is still a work in progress. I too often find myself with an aversion to just “hanging out.” Every time I take an hour to chat with a good friend on Skype, or spend an afternoon with a cool Couchsurfer or the like, a big part of me feels rejuvenated, all that’s good in the world having been reaffirmed.

But a smaller part of me feels guilty for some reason. I hear internal whispers that the time would have been better spent working on some project or answering emails.

It’s dumb, I know. Projects and emails always appear urgent, even though most are unimportant. Whereas taking time to connect and kick back with real people, that’s the vice versa. So I’ve resolved to do more of that, and tell that smaller part of me to go fuck itself when it proposes a guilt trip2.

Adaptive You

How’s your relationship with the sword of adaptation? Do you trust that you’ll adjust to a new normal if you take that leap you’ve been contemplating? Or perhaps you’ve already taken that leap, landed on your feet, and now find yourself struggling like me not to be one of those ungrateful types with a fantastic ass.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I used to do this back when I worked 9-to-5, each day in a Google Doc listing out a half dozen things I was grateful for. Finding that old list recently and reading back through it gave me a dose of the warm fuzzies.
  2. Here’s hoping you didn’t just skim this post and read that last sentence out of context 😛
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