Do you ever find yourself stuck between the balance of enjoying whatever it is you’re doing in the moment, and being lost in hopes or fears about the future? This game seems to play out constantly in my own mind. When I’m not enjoying the moment, the wonders of life tend to pass me by unappreciated. But if I live without structure and planning, little gets accomplished. Establishing a few good habits and meaningful routines tends to enhance my ability to focus on being present, but it can be a challenge to strike the right balance.
After spending the last 6 months traveling from country to country without any kind of long-term home base, it feels so good to be somewhere we can stay for at least a year. And I can’t imagine a place I’d rather settle long-term than Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, with its delicious cuisine, low prices, rich culture, happy people, beautiful landscapes, and perfect climate.
I feel like I’m done with travel for a while, and am ready to focus more time on personal growth, creativity, learning, giving, relationships, health, and simply enjoying every moment of being alive. The trouble is, because we weren’t able to get an Indonesian visa in Japan (we discovered after we arrived that they only issue them to Japanese residents), we have to take a few extra trips this year. And as fun as I’m sure it will be to visit Malaysian Borneo, Vietnam, and Thailand over the next four months, in honesty, I wish I could just stay home.
In the past, I’ve been really excited about our travels, but planning for it is extremely time consuming and I often spend way too much time researching places to stay and things to do. But I don’t feel motivated to do that now at all. Short of booking the first night or two in a hotel, and having a list of recommended activities from friends, I feel more inclined to just show up and wing it once I get there. I justify this by remembering that part of the adventure of visiting new places is not knowing what to expect. And often, the most rewarding travel experiences are not found in brochures or at famous landmarks, but in the unexpected moments that make up the journey.
So as I consider our upcoming travel plans, I want to resist the tendency to think about them too much, and instead focus on enjoying these weeks at home to pursue things that are more important to me in this moment. When it’s time to travel, then I’ll focus on enjoying that. So, to help me focus more on my goals and enjoy the time I have, I’ve established a few priorities, most of which have become routines. Otherwise, I might end up spending all day on the computer.
- Stretching and tai chi every morning. Lately I’ve been adding in a bit more qigong and meditation as well. This helps wake up my body and also relaxes me at the start of the day, keeping my mind more at peace through whatever comes up.
- Creating music and recording it. Normally, I’ll sit down to play the piano, and amidst some strange sounds I’ll have a few really nice segments. But I immediately forget what I played, losing it forever. So I’ve made it a habit to hit the record button on my piano whenever I sit down to play. That way, I have a record of it and can copy it to the computer in a midi file and use the good parts. I’ve been recording my playing every day this week and it’s been a lot of fun. I hope to take some of these ideas and create some music I’ll be proud to share.
- Family badminton. The weather here has been so perfect lately, and we’ve enjoyed taking time each day to play badminton together in the yard. It’s a great physical activity. Sometimes we’ll go swimming together, too.
- Couple time. With two homeschooled kids and a 1 year old, if Jen and I don’t schedule time together, we often don’t get it. But we really enjoy the time we take to talk and read and cuddle together in the afternoons, and our relationship is continuing to blossom in beautiful ways.
- Work and Email. My mind is still full of ideas for improving my businesses and they’re continuing to grow in exciting ways. I’ve also enjoyed helping the consulting clients who’ve contacted me. It’s been surprisingly fulfilling work.
- Reading. I love to expand my mind with interesting books, and I have a long list I’m working on. Sometimes I struggle to get away by myself to read for more than a few minutes, but I always enjoy it when I do.
- Writing. I take time every day to write down my thoughts and process the things I’m learning and experiencing. This has been immensely helpful. If this is a habit you’re interested in, check out 750words.com for a good motivator.
- Friends. We’ve spent a lot of time with friends since we got to Bali. We’re very excited that our good friends, The Kings, who we met in Costa Rica, have moved here and are renting a house not far from ours. We’ve also met several traveling families for lunch, and have hosted some parties and dinners at our house. With how many wonderful people there are to meet and enjoy, I have to make sure I balance this with the time I need to recuperate from social encounters and fulfill these other needs.
While I think even the most mundane and tedious tasks can be performed with mindfulness and appreciation, I know where I want to place my energies and how I want to spend my time. I also want to make sure that when I’m doing what I love, I’m enjoying it as much as I possibly can.
What ways have you found helpful for being mindful of what you’re doing, while still balancing the necessary planning for the future? Or do you enjoy planning so much that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in the moment? Or do you feel like planning takes care of itself if you just focus on living in the moment? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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We fell in love with “baddy” in Penang! Great fun for everyone. We may just have to head to Bali to set up a rousing badminton tournament:)
Penang is where we fell in love with it, too. It seems so popular there. Yes, come on over and we’ll have a good time swinging rackets around.
I find that planning is sometimes one of those things that the present moment calls upon me to do. As long as I can go with the flow and enjoy the process, it can be a practice in mindfulness as well. I want to work on being more aware in each moment of how best to spend my time, and not get stuck in a rut of doing the same things continuously, at the expense of other things I value. So, while I value the future and the past, I want to spend the majority of my time focused on the present, because that is where my life is currently unfolding.
Beautiful, Jennifer! (Of course, because that’s just who you are. :)) Sometimes when I get into “work” mode I stop enjoying the process and just want to get through with it so I can move onto other things. It’s important to remember that I can enjoy the process if I’m willing.
Living in the moment has always been something I try to do. I have always been a firm believer that those who live in the present moment are much happier. Unfortunately, there are times when I start getting anxious about the future or about things I need to do/haven’t done. It’s nice when I have wonderful people in my life who write blog posts that remind me to snap out of my “worry mode” and back into my “living in the moment” mode. :)
I’m not a huge planner. Not that I don’t ever plan, just that I don’t thrive on it. I do like to plan for fun things- like vacations, and such. And I like to have a bit of a schedule. But for the most part, I just kind of like to “go.” Let things happen. It seems to work just fine for me :)
Worry really doesn’t help much, does it? I envy your natural ability to live in the moment and let things happen, as it’s something I’ve had to work very hard at to even catch a glimpse of, but I’m making a lot of progress.
Thanks, Brandon. It is definitely something I am having to remind myself to do. It’s very easy to get caught up in the stresses of life. You seem to be doing much better at it than you ever have before. And you seem much happier :)
I like a schedule or a plan I function better and I’m happier with it. I can go with the flow, but appreciate a plan of some sort.
You have some great goals and send out some good reminders.
I think routines help me function better, too. The tendency I’ve had to overcome is getting so attached to the schedule that I’m not willing to bend as new opportunities or interests arise. I’m glad I’m a bit more settled now, though, so I can enjoy these routines.
You’ve come so far with this. I recall that when we’d visit a friend’s home you’d always want to know if you’d be back home in time to read your scriptures and do your pushups at the appointed time… and you’d start pacing as that time drew near and I wasn’t budging off the couch to go home :)
So to see you being able to relax and go with the flow has been delightful. I wish I had some of your natural ability to create structure because I have a hard time committing myself to any schedule!
I’ve lived my whole life vacillating between a philosophy of setting goals and “going with the flow.” I’m by nature a planning person, especially when it comes to travel. I feel that if I don’t plan for them, important and worthwhile activities get missed. But I do see the value in letting loose and letting life surprise you. Balance is best, I think.
On my recent trip to Japan, our days were planned as far as where we would go and what we would see, but I did leave enough time, I think, just to wander and explore (or rest, which is what we ended up doing quite a bit. We don’t have as much energy as we used to have.)
I still would like to take a trip to a place I’m already sort of familiar with, where I could just spend a few weeks and relax, explore, meet people, and be surprised. Pretty much what you’ve been doing. But I’m glad there will always be a home to return to when I’m finished. To me, the purpose of travel and the purpose of life are similar. As my favorite poet wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I’m like you — a natural planner who also sees value in “going with the flow.” In recent years, I’ve allowed myself to be in the moment more often and more fully, and it is wonderful, but it does have limitations. There has to be a balance, as you say. And it probably needs to lean to one side or another for different people at different times.
Glad you got some time to rest and explore on your trip to Japan. In travel and in life, there is an endless array of worthwhile activities; too many to experience in a lifetime. I think it’s important to take time at least occasionally to let them all sink in and see how we’ve changed through them.
I like having a home to return to as well. Even if for no other reason than that I can leave some of my stuff there so I can travel lighter. :) I also find it much easier to get into productive routines when I’m not in travel mode. But then the need for balance comes in again and I — oh look, it’s 12:35. Gotta go. Time to appreciate being alive!
I find that the older I get the less spontaneous I am. I felt guilty for a while when staying in became an every weekend choice. Graig’s an over planner. Over the top planner. On the one hand we’re missing out on a lot of life. On the other hand we’ve been there done that and love enjoying our house and each other. No more guilt.
I sometimes feel guilty for staying in, too. And sometimes also for going out, because I’m not getting done with the stuff I planned to do at home. There’s too much to do in life and I’ll always be missing out on something. Time for me to kill the guilt and be happy with whatever I choose. Thanks Paul.