“Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Hope, one feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood… A journey, in fact, appeals to the Imagination, to Memory, to Hope,— the three sister Graces of our moral being.” – Sir Richard Francis Burton
Nowadays with an abundance of apps and tech available to track our time or events in our lives, someone that was never the type to keep a journal can now we surprised or keep recall such moments easily. A classic example would be if you check your “On this day” notifications from Facebook. It is truly uncanny for myself to see in the past what thoughts, places or things I was doing in the past and comparing to what is my current lifestyle. One thing I can say for sure that the places I’ve been to or lived in are always different but sometimes I’m surprised by the wisdom or lines of thought I had in the past. Some vapid and others insightful. These elements bring to light an awareness about whether I’ve taken a step forward or a step back. Sometimes even advice that I need in the present moment – funny how that works!
Though most poignantly is given the massive shift I’ve given myself. Spitting myself away from what is deemed the norm of society which is to work a full-time job, make sure there are benefits and well save money only to spend it all over again. I recall that while I was still living in China working my 9 to 5 cubicle office job describing it to friends as “my soul was slowly dying” and that this rat race was teaching me how to work unproductively and accomplish the bare minimum. Don’t think that’s a type of life any of us want to strive for right? At least I don’t.
What I do now is I’ve actually managed to shift from a full-time into a part-time digital work-life where actually I pick and choose when what and where I want to work. It is throughout this process that I’ve noticed about myself now that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and ventured into the unchartered waters of the digital nomad lifestyle. In between all the newfound practices I’ve added into my life such as practicing yoga and photography here are a few other shifts in how I live life now.
5 Things that changed my perspective after leaving my comfort zone.
- Time. Monday is no longer a weekday to loathe.
The span of a day isn’t measured anymore by clocking in or clocking out. I have days where I feel it’s been long, others that feel short. I don’t even wear a wrist watch anymore! I lost that Sunday-afternoon depression where you begin to dread the upcoming week. I lost that fear of Monday’s. The days of the week are now to me are nothing but just names to keep track of what errands or tasks I have to do along the week.If I feel inspired to I’ll sometimes work on Sunday’s and then my actual weekend days might be a Tuesday or a Wednesday.I now even keep track of things to do on my Google Calendar and it’s not only work-related appointments. I add personal appointments since it reminds me that I am spending time on myself and making time for friends.One of my friends took a jest at me when I told him that I needed a holiday. He said “Your life is a holiday” which isn’t entirely a lie but it’s because I can now make the conscious choice of how to spend my time and when I need to work. I might still travel but for every fabulous looking Instagram pic of mine rest assured there was triple a number of hours completing projects that I’m not taking photos of and sharing. After all, I much rather share positivity than negativity.
- Responsibility. You are accountable for everything.
Working and living abroad has taught me a lot about being independent. It also teaches you to be responsible – especially if you every experience living alone. As a freelance/digital nomad/your own entrepreneur you tend to want to find the time to NOT work and not the time to work. When your alarm sounds off in the morning you groan in bed wanting to hide or leap out of it rushing to get ready to make sure you clock in time. I will wake up and wonder what errands I have to do without needing to immediately rush or feel anxious about tasks that need to be done urgently. What I’ll do now is at least make sure I drink a tall glass of water before starting my day and do something for myself before working straight away. For example, at least check your personal email inbox and reply your friends & family messages if you must already be connected.I had a bit of a learning curve for this particular aspect of a freelancer because when you are placed in an office setting and very likely from our education you are going into space where work needs to be done. When you are the one that gets to control the setting you get a tad generous on the actual work time versus play time. For one, I wasn’t taking myself too seriously on getting work tasks done or committing silly mistakes. That is when you realise that your ‘survival’ is really dependent on a specific type of income you take yourself seriously in taking pride to completing good work. There is no manager or anyone else that you could toss your blame to. You are your own advertisement. Most of my graphic design jobs I’ve gotten them through referrals from people that have met me. Asides from appreciating what I can create they also know my work ethic. I don’t think I’ve had to interview for anything in the past year!
- Humour. Bad mood seldom strikes!
One friend says that I’m a natural optimist but trust me, after my 6 years in China I was sloping down into a more negative aspect of my personality. Didn’t have much patience, had moments where I would snap rudely to my own friends, had become somewhat recluse and was always tired. It was all the stress and from staying in a cubicle performing at a job I had no real passion for. I even found out that my health was taking a hit too, me a Brazilian with Vitamin D deficiency!? No wonder I was feeling so lethargic every day.When you work a full-time job especially if your heart isn’t really in it for some reason you think that the best way to unwind is either binge watching TV, staying in, going out and getting drunk or retail therapy. It might help to some level but really looking forward to a holiday or just living for the weekend isn’t enough. I interpret it as a source of unbalance having such a limited block of time to do something enjoyable for yourself and spending so much doing what you aren’t in. It’s going from a very big high to a slumping low where you just want to over compensate for the high the next time you can.
Which leads me to…
- Materialism. I now want less stuff.
It is really mind boggling how much stuff we need. Sometimes I even wonder why the hell did I even bother or why did I think I needed to buy such item so badly. It’s really intriguing to see how your purchase process happens. Have you ever sat in your office or while working hours suddenly have a urge or need to purchase X item/object cross your mind? I know I have and usually, this is where you are purchasing something that isn’t necessary but it’s more for those pleasure points in your head as you try to escape the trap of unfulfilling work. When I was preparing myself for the move I am always surprised by the amount of ‘stuff’ I seem to collect. An array of little bits and bobs that essentially I threw or gave away because they didn’t really provide much use.
When you are constantly travelling and trying to recreate your own life you are left with a blank slate where you can really pick consciously over needing something or just buying it superficially. Since I am not earning as much as a full-time job yet my relationship with money has changed. I give it more respect when I know it will be going to something that is indeed useful. Whenever I go window shopping or have some random idea of needing to buy something I ask myself “Do I need this or do I want this?” But also I used to buy things that I wouldn’t immediately use which meant waste – you wind up collecting objects that aren’t really even giving you any delight but sit tucked into your drawers.
- Humility. You appreciate the simpler things of life.
I always find myself being astonished when my awareness or how I can sense something that could be very trivial in an entirely new light. In a way, I guess it means how my mind has shifted into devoting a different level of attention on activities or gestures we otherwise take for granted. For an urbanite such as myself, I find it very relaxing to actually just being in nature for short periods of time, taking the time to just sit back and listen to the sound of the air. It has made me slow down in life as I got off the fast lane.You are even able to be more compassionate to others, to not left your ego interfere. Being able to give a little of yourself freely to others without expecting anything in return. I honestly feel because I have been compassionate and loyal to all relationships that they have blossomed because I wasn’t driven by a payout. That there is kindness that we all can share instead of bolting into an agressive response.