Back From Travels (And What I’ve Learned)


Finally got back from a rather long trip with Lydia’s family. It involved a week around Barcelona, then a week in Morocco - from Marrakech, a road trip through the High Atlas to Fez (with a stop to camp in the Sahara - see above pic). Back in Spain we road tripped through parts of Southern France with a stay in Carcassonne, a stay Vielha  (in the Pyrenees), a day trip to Andorra, a coastal road trip through the Basque region, a stay in San Sebastian and Llanes in Asturias, and a beautiful drive through the Picas de Europa National Park. We finished with a stay in Bilbao before catching the early train back to Barcelona.


But enough about travel (except for some additional pics) - what I actually learned with respects to this project were:

1) Vegetarians are crazy good at sticking to their eating identity. Lydia’s sister-in-law has been vegetarian for a long time and has traveled quite a bit. She makes it work. She buys food like yogurt and nuts and stocks it, eating them in case she doesn’t have good food options. She eats around meat on dishes. 

I’m realizing more and more along this project that the auxiliary actions - for me it’s Sunday Meal Prep, for her stocking up on veggie food items, make more of a difference than struggling head on with eating right (and behaviors in general). I need to learn how to do what she and other vegetarians in my life do.


2) Proper preparation is still lacking in my travel protocol. I somehow didn’t carry a notebook and pen with me. I had multiple chances to change this behavior - I could’ve bought one back when we came back to Spain and had a night in Barcelona. 

Now, the normal old Biju would say - just do it - get a notebook, and continue to fail with this strategy again and again. But I’m not that person - this project looks into the mechanics of why I didn’t get one. And the truth is, I was too busy. I was doubling up on everything about 4 days before our guests arrived so I didn’t have any time or will to do the most important thing in travel prep: implement intentions and get the basic tools necessary for recording my habits.


Because whether it’s my natural growing propensity for self regulation or this newer trick of artificially upping my basic willpower requirements a couple of days before, I’m doing my habits even in the weirdest of conditions. 

I noticed that my Achilles was tightening up while doing a lot of walking every day, so I started doing a few of of Kelley Starrett’s exercises in the back seat of cars (I need to get some more of his tools to do this even better while traveling). I meditated in cars, and even on the back of a camel in the Sahara. What I’m not doing, is recording those instances, which leaves me untethered to a master plan. So it naturally petered out towards the end of the trip.

One option in prep is to have the last day before travel be totally free and dedicated completely to mental contrasting and implementation intention for the trip - sort of like a moment of reflection elite athletes go through before the action, visualization exactly how every part of the race will go. So instead of giving myself time off after the trip, do a brief bit of it before the trip so that I don’t automatically self sabotage. How I’d incorporate artificially advanced minimums into this is something I’ll have to think about. Maybe 4 days of difficult routines, followed by the final day before the trip being completely free? I don’t know, I’ll have to experiment.


3) Lastly, specifically lowering minimums can result in more output. This ties with the last point, but I didn’t even attempt to do any writing on the trip. One of our group journals without fail, and there’s really no reason why I couldn’t, if I gauged how to lower my minimums for writing. And I really haven’t pinned down a specific strategy to do this for all my routines.

On one hand, my ideal is to ratchet forward EVEN WHILE TRAVELING. On the other, there is value in keeping a minimal placeholder for a habit, and often times time requirements prevent the advanced instance of a progressed habit. 

While one day may give me the time to do a long walking session (most travel days are like this) I may not be able to do a full hour of serious writing. It’s more likely to be able to work on my eating than it is to do a 45 minute formal sit for meditation, especially if it’s an utterly full day. And I go back and forth on this - I think that it may well be that having a full habit while traveling is a level of habituation that’s even more advanced than a superhabit, and that skill need to be advanced to this level one at a time.

If that model is correct then the very first skill I need to master is recording, which underscores the biggest mess up I had on this trip.