Hello. It’s a new month and a new season and whether it’s all the pollen in my eyes or the thoughts in my mind, but my life seems aflutter. I’m using this month to get back on track so you might see some new types of content popping up in this here blog. Notably things like the below. So here goes…

sleepy time
From my bed I just stare at maps of the world

This morning I woke up more than a bit nostalgic. Nostalgic for a life I haven’t lived in a long time. I woke up with a familiar craving — my typical Sunday morning routine from years ago when I was living and working in Boston. I remember waking up, cooking some breakfast, picking up a copy of The New York Times and reading it for hours. I’d take the newspaper with me to the nearby park, and along with the grandmas and grandpas of my neighborhood, I’d sit on a park bench reading the paper all afternoon. I’d start with the news headlines, but would eventually find myself skipping over stories and making my way immediately to the NYT Magazine. I’d read that one nearly cover-to-cover. Maybe later in the day I’d have a picnic, or I’d go for a run around the nearby lake.

My Sundays were lazy but productive. I didn’t spend much money because I was saving for my big trip…but I always made sure I was doing things. I had a routine and I liked it. Then I took $20,000 and changed everything. Everything.

* * *

Sometimes I wonder if taking my big trip around the world was the right thing to do. I left behind a life in Boston. And while I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I definitely abandoned some friends in the process. Eventually I even abandoned my city. Boston had been my home for seven years. It was where I became an adult, albeit slowly. And while I don’t regret my 15-month trip around the world, I do wonder what would’ve happened to my life otherwise. If I hadn’t taken all that money to spend on a trip around the world, where I be now? Would I have fallen in love with the world? Would I crave travel? Would I still be a book designer?

I don’t know what would’ve happened to my life had I stayed put. I’m certain there would’ve been changes, yes. Because I’ve always craved change. But where would I be? If I’d kept my 9 to 5, would I still be working regular business hours, taking (short) holidays and using my weekends and evenings for fun, rather than strategizing, writing, freelancing?

There’s no doubt I love my life today. But I can’t help but wonder if I’m on the right course. I love the flexibility of working my own hours, of owning my own business. My success is nearly 1:1 correlated to how hard I work. There’s a lot of excitement in knowing that. But then because I know this, I tend to work a lot. I spend too much time behind a glowing screen. I know this. But yet I can’t stop. I want to succeed on my own, and my success is dependent upon me working, working, working.

How does one force oneself to take evenings off from work, to take a break?

life is confusing
Sometimes I just feel like I’m going in circles

I get so many emails from people asking how they can do what I do. Those that want to travel the world, live the freelancer’s life. Make money and see the world. And while I like what I’m doing right now. I don’t know if it’s for everyone. I don’t know if it’s even a good idea. Is working 24/7 — even on something you passionately care about — healthy? Is it viable long-term?

I don’t know. But what I do know is about prioritizing. I’ve found that for the most important things in my life, making lists is how I deal with the stress, the worry, the planning. I make lists for everything. My to do lists regularly go unfinished, my life goals‘ lists are rarely completed 100%. But by writing down what I want, it helps me to solve at least some of the problems.

So, with that, I share with you here a little bit from my list of what I want from my past. The things we can all do to stay sane in an increasingly fragmented world.

The Little Things That Make Me Happy

Listening to new music

I used to regularly buy new music and seek out new bands (all part of that hipster thing). These days I spend more time looking for the newest blogs to read rather than the newest bands. New goal? Seek out more local bands rather than faraway blogs.

Reading contemporary authors

I worked for five years in a bookstore and used to read books almost religiously. Then while backpacking, I went through some books by the day. By. The. Day. These days I spend my time reading Gawker and Queerty all day, and then my evenings watching movies and addictive TV series.New goal? More time with my nose in a book (or my Kindle) rather than streaming HBO dramas.

Sleeping next to someone

Maybe it’s my fear of being alone, or that “fear of missing out,” but I’ve found life is just so much better with someone beside me.

Experimenting with cooking

Food is one of the top reasons why I travel. And besides eating, cooking is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m certainly not a culinary master, but I do love playing around in the kitchen. When I worked a 9 to 5, I would often leave work and head straight to the grocery store on my way home. I’d pick up some food and then spend my evening cooking with a half-open bottle of wine. And this summer I plan to start that up all over again.

jump jump jump
It’s the little things in life which make me smile – namely jumping.

Shopping for clothes

There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to shed my possessions. I embraced the idea of minimalism and gave up much of my stuff. But now I have a home again and while I travel frequently, I still love to come to my home. When working 9 to 5, I’d estimate that my expendable income was evenly split between new clothes and new music. These days all my expendable income just goes into savings or back into my travel fund. New goal: spoil myself when I can.

Visiting family

One of my favorite reasons for traveling has always been to visit friends and family. But looking back at my past several trips, they’ve almost exclusively been for other reasons. All reasons are valid, actually, but I seem to have lost sight of one of the most personal and meaningful reasons for travel: visiting loved ones. It’s one of my things to do before turning 30 and yet I haven’t taken a single trip for that purpose since I wrote that blog. Uh-oh. New goal: book a trip home ASAP!

Time away from computer screens

Ah this old goal…. I’ve occasionally managed to step away from my iPhone for hours at a time but I still haven’t mastered the art of disconnection. This is a tricky thing because it’s not just about giving up the access, but wanting to give up the access. (And managing to not think about the Internet while you’re doing it…) Summer means more time outside and longer days, so with my phone battery dying more and more regularly, giving up my iPhone screentime shouldn’t be a problem. It’s giving up that itching thought that I should be online, I should be working right now. Sometimes time for yourself is the hardest thing to find. But I’ll keep looking.

Please note some posts do make me some money but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

21 comments

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  1. I don’t make a full-time living from freelancing and/or my own projects, but I’ve been putting more energy into that sort of life/career over the past 6 months or so, and I can at least somewhat relate to what you’re saying about working too much. The lists do help a lot. I have a white board where I write out what needs to be done this week and things that are in the pipeline. I don’t often get everything crossed off by the end of the week, but it’s still incredibly helpful. And just having it all written down makes it feel more manageable and I don’t feel as overwhelmed with all the things I need to do. Time away from the computer screen…definitely need some of that. It’s weird to take something that was once a hobby and slowly turn it into a job, because suddenly I don’t know where the line is between the two. It’s hard to figure out what’s enjoyment and what’s work. I think the key is getting out of the house and away from the computer for a more clear break.

  2. Let’s put this on the table for dinner discussion next month? :)

  3. Not sure if it’s your thing but I’ve recently fallen in love with Spotify’s Indie playlists. Especially their “Peaceful Indie Ambient” playlist is awesome to have playing in the background.

    Anyway, great post! It’s true while many of us aspire a life of constant travel, it’s necessary to at least try and keep some routine in life, something to hold on to. A reason to return to that special place called “home”.

  4. I love your list of little things that make you happy. It’s so easy to get all consumed with what you’re doing and forget about the simple things in life that make you the happiest. I unfortunately don’t have the freedom to travel much anymore but have two wonderful children and am always conscious of breeding bad habits by having my iphone and ipad by my side while I spend time with them!

  5. I like to cook in my free time as well – nothing like art you can eat when you’re done!

  6. Great list! It actually reminds me of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits…” especially the word — prioritizing…

    • It’s been a while since I looked at that book but I think you’re right to recommend it. Probably could use a bit of a refresher course!

  7. When you’re a productive location independent entrepreneur, you gotta schedule in free, “nothing” time like a project. Ironic, I know, but it’s so true dude! Congrats on everything you’ve done so far…!

    • Ugh – good point Jeremy! Scheduling free time is a sad way to do it, but it seems to work!

  8. great article! one of my favs of yours. I really enjoyed reading and can relate to the wondering if the grass is greener thing. The main thing is that your happy which is what a lot of people are not. Can you imagine if you had not of made the big trip, I bet you would be burning inside and always wondering what would of happened had you of taken the trip!

    Would love to see a post or something on what you tell people who email you asking how to do what you do.

    Good luck with those goals, I know the cooking one is certainly one of mine

    • Thank you Rebecca – glad to hear you enjoyed it and thank you for the great feedback. Great idea to think of the reverse – and that certainly gives me some scary thoughts!

      Taking your feedback and will post soon about your suggested topic!

  9. Oh yes the elusive ‘time away from the computer’. It’s something I’m constantly chasing. I find it takes more discipline to relax than to work!

    • You’re so right, Victoria – I forget how much effort is needed to take a break!

  10. Great article! it is the little things that count, i totally agree, thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for commenting Mike!

  11. It’s always good to take some time and reflect on life. Good or bad. I’m new to your blog, just discovered it a few minutes ago but am liking what I see so will be back… In the meantime I could do with a lot less screen time myself!

    • Hi Simone :)

      I feel “reflection” is one of the things we make less and less time for. Sometimes I feel like I’m moving so fast forward that I don’t stop to think about what’s just happened. Thanks for discovering my blog and hope you’ll stick around!

  12. I think it’s really great to reflect and check in on the direction our lives are taking, even when things are pretty amazing. I can be strange to live a life that many others dream about and still be thinking something needs to shift a bit.

    If you really want to get away from technology… you could try a silent meditation retreat! My husband and I are trying our first 10 day Vipassana this month – no technology allowed. I’m nervous but excited! Might be something you’d like too?

    • Hey Allison – thanks for commenting. I actually was really intrigued by silent meditation when I was backpacking through India a few years ago. It’s something I think I’d like to try at some point but might come as a big shock if I did it anytime too soon.

      Will be really interested to hear how your retreat goes – will definitely tune in to yoru blog afterward to check it out!

  13. Great post Adam. I feel like I’ve neglected things too recently and I’ve just finally got back into listening to music (why didn’t I download spotify earlier?!) and reading (I haven’t read a book in monthssss).

    As much as the online life is self-motivated, that might not be the hardest part. Maybe it’s the ability to maintain balance and sometimes just say no.

    • Aww thank you Jessica! And ZOMG I am obsessed with Spotify these days. Pretty much constantly on, actually.

      You’re spot on about the “online life.” Saying no is so difficult for me!

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