Today we’re talking about the importance of slowing down, no matter whether you’re already work optional or on your way there, but first…
PORTLAND, OREGON – Meetup next Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 6-8 PM at Avid Cider, 121 NW 9th Ave. This is a casual hangout with no agenda and no RSVP requirement, just a chance to meet other FIers in the PDX area. I’m happy to sign Work Optional if you have a copy. Watch my Twitter that evening if you have any trouble finding the group.
WASHINGTON, DC – Book event and meetup Thursday, May 23, 6:30-7:30 (book event) and 7:30-9:00ish (meetup nearby). Stay tuned for specifics! (I’m soooooooo excited about this one!)
RENO/TAHOE – Stay tuned for an upcoming event, and if you live in the area or frequently visit, consider joining the Facebook group.
When you travel to a new big city, there’s so much to see and do that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You simply cannot process all of it, so your brain makes choices about what to focus on and what to tune out. That’s true all over the world. I’ve seen that deer-in-headlights look on countless tourists’ faces in DC and LA when I lived there, and I’ve seen it every time I’ve traveled to New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo. I’ve seen it in the backcountry, too, when there’s simply too much beauty to take in. And while that paralysis by overwhelm may be a natural reaction, it’s borne of trying to do too much or to do things too quickly. To Do. It. All. But if you can instead give yourself time to slow way down and truly look around, it’s amazing what you can see.
For example, in Paris, if you stay above ground instead of riding the Metro, and you walk at a leisurely enough pace to be able to look up at the buildings on street corners, instead of rushing from one tourist attraction to another, concerned you won’t make it before closing time, you may just spot one of these:
“Huh, is that a space invader?” you wonder to yourself, before continuing on, not giving it much thought. But then, a little while later, you notice another:
“Wait, was that the same design as the first one, or was it different? Is this a thing?” Now you’re curious.
And before long, you see more and more. It is a thing. You realize you’re saying pew pew under your breath to yourself.
You go back to your hotel later on, and Google “Paris space invaders” (because free wifi is close to impossible to find in Paris, so this is your first chance to search), and learn that an anonymous artist known as “Invader” has been secretly installing tile mosaics around Paris since 1998, and even around all of France, and has built so much mystique that thieves are now stealing the mosaics.
A day ago, you had no idea any of this existed, but now you’re suddenly in a different world. And this world is filled with illicit art and intrigue. Imagine if you’d spent your whole trip without ever discovering this parallel universe! How much less fun that would be.
And it’s all made possible simply because you took the time to stop and spot the space invaders.
Giving Yourself Permission to Slow Down
Even though we spent nearly all of last November in France, and we focused on a fairly limited portion of the country (mostly Paris and Provence with a few outliers), we still had far more we wanted to do than we had time for. We didn’t get to taste every wine we wanted to try in Beaujolais. We barely scratched the surface of the food scene in Valence. We could have tripled our time in Avignon and been happy. We skipped Nimes altogether. We saw only the old parts of Lyon and not the contemporary sections. We missed out on the dramatic cliffside drives between Nice and the Italian border. The list goes on.
Knowing that there was a ton we hoped to see and do, we could have let ourselves feel hurried, but we refused to. Not because we have amazing powers of self-control, but just because we have learned the hard way that when we let ourselves hurried, the trip is invariably worse. We feel stressed and end up focusing on all that we didn’t get to instead of relishing what we did. It’s the same reasoning behind our decision to stop using the word “busy,” and to ban all complaining about work. And, just as importantly as the stress and focus part, when we let ourselves feel hurried, we miss those little details that make a trip special. Like the space invaders.
As we traveled from town to town in France, we had an idea of things we could do in each place, but we took it day by day. Some days we felt like doing a lot of touristy stuff, and other days we felt like doing very little. We missed out on all the museums in Aix-en-Provence because we felt like spending a leisurely afternoon drinking wine and eating snails in the market plaza instead. No regrets. And when we discovered that there were space invaders in Avignon, we spent a few hours wandering the old city, looking for those little mosaics, each one feeling like a special gift to those willing to seek them out. They’re right there in plain sight, so not a secret, but each new one we found felt like it made our trip richer.
Find Your Own Space Invaders
Maybe spotting little tile mockups of 1970s video game creatures doesn’t sound that exciting to you, and that’s cool. The point isn’t to convince you to book a ticket to Paris, but to encourage you to consciously slow down, and to look around to see what you might be missing in your current life. Maybe it’s something in plain sight that you’ve just never stopped to notice before, or maybe it’s a reward waiting to be discovered if you’re willing to dig a little.
Yes, this is exactly the same advice as “stop and smell the roses,” but perhaps going beyond appreciating the mundane aspects of life that are always there. Because chances are good that there’s something not remotely mundane right around you that you’ve just never noticed before. Something put there purely for the delight of it.
Don’t Let Work Stop You
One of the biggest bits of advice I give in Work Optional – advice I wish someone had given me early in my early retirement journey – is not to let your job stop you from living some aspects of your dream life now. If you dream of painting in early retirement, what is stopping you from painting now? If you want to travel the world, can you take shorter trips now? When we see this exciting future right over there, just beyond the horizon, it’s easy to put all the good stuff we aspire to into that future, but the reality is that a lot of it could easily be part of our present if we simply prioritized that dream.
So thinking about your life right now, what could you move from the future column to the present column, and where could you slow down overall, so that you notice more about the present instead of letting it pass you by in the interest of getting to that future as soon as possible?
What are your space invaders, and how can you make more time to spot them?
Categories: we've learned