In March 2019, I left my job at Tower Research Capital, to take a small break from work and live aimlessly for a while. My mental health had been declining steadily for the last few years, and going away for a while seemed like the only way out.
I spent a lot of this period making small changes to my lifestyle. I started sleeping well (7 hrs is apparently a good sleep for me), and now I’m at a state where I’ve completely stopped using an audible alarm to wake up. Instead I’m mostly able to wake up at will. For really tight naps though, a lightly vibrating smartwatch has proven to be enough.
I think I’ve also made progress at becoming mildly competent at conversations, from being completely inept at it. I am reaching out to more friends now, and make sure to visit at least a few when I’m in their town. Dating, as a result is also much more easier and fun now.
I tried to get physical exercise into my schedule, but so far have failed to keep it up. I did, however, improve my diet a lot. Largely cutting out sugar and snacking did make enormous differences.
Most importantly, after a really long time though, I don’t feel depressed and anxious anymore. I’m able to focus more, and in general be more creative. Being intoxicated has gone back to being a leisure activity rather than an escape.
I’ve slowly incorporated back “work” into this lifestyle, and while it hasn’t been very long, it seems to be going pretty well. I’m working on being better at scheduling, managing stress, and being more efficient — which might be something for a later post.
A huge improvement, however, has been on how I travel. I spent the majority of the this time traveling around India and southeast Asia. While I was used to backpacking for long stretches, they were often localized to a smaller area. Leading a nomadic life on a budget for longer periods had other challenges. Things become expensive when you start covering large distances frequently. I started taking more items into consideration when traveling now. In no specific order, I’m just gonna list things I take into consideration now which I didn’t really before:
- Location of the airport/station - The ticket cost is only part of the cost of getting from city A to B. Most airports tend to be located far away from the inner city or where I’d probably intend to stay. Arriving at odd hours could mean that public transport might not be available at that time, and I’d have to spend a quite a bit on taxis to get to my ho(s)tel. Sometimes, I spent a day for cheap near the airport, to move to a better place the next day.
- Frequent flier miles - While budget airlines would often have cheaper tickets, sometimes you are able to spot cheap flights on full service airlines with rewards programs. If you fly frequently, factor in the value of miles you acquire too while making a decision. They can add up to quite a significant amount.
- Wide open dates - Having wide open dates allows you to be able to choose cheaper options of travel, as cost of stay might not vary a lot between cities.
- Keep day-to-day schedule light - Having too many things to do in a day can get a bit hectic, which might negate why you’re traveling in the first place. Keep a light schedule. It also allows you to opt for slower but cheaper public transport than otherwise.
- Work for stay - I used workaway and worldpackers to find places where I can spend some amount of my time helping out small businesses or organizations in exchange for free stay/food. Worth checking out if you find something suitable.
- Focus on your diet - It’s often easy to fuck up your diet while traveling. You want to try out the local food, dessert, beer, etc; and by all means - do, but keep track of your calories. If you’ve been planning on getting on a lighter diet, it can be a good time to start that too. I, personally feel a lot less hungry while I’m traveling, so I’ve been using that to my advantage. Eating less is cheaper too.
- Fruits are your friend - Complement your diet with fruits. They tend to be a lot cheaper, and pretty good for you. Also, note that these two points don’t mean that you should be starving yourself. Use your brain and don’t fuck yourself up.
- Layer up in colder climates - This is a popular advice which really helps in keeping your luggage light. On a snowy trail I was even able to get by with a thinner sleeping bag by sleeping in my layers. YMMV.
- Invest in lighter/smaller items - When going camping, a very good part of my luggage would be made up of a foam mattress, a cheap sleeping bag and a heavy tent. Investing in slightly expensive tiny inflatable mattresses, denser sleeping bags and a lighter tent reduced my luggage by half in volume.
- Reduce your baggage - A lighter bag allows you to move around in the city without massive pains. Sometimes, you can opt for leaving stuff you definitely won’t need, at a friend’s place, or in rented locker rooms (most airports, bus and railway stations would have them). Eg - work equipment, extra/unseasonal clothes, etc. Also, get into the habit of doing laundry and pack fewer clothes.
- Embrace your laptop - I had gotten far too comfortable with my home and office setup to be able to work on a chiclet keyboard with a single tiny screen again. It took me a lot longer than expected to adapt to this setup. I wish that I had a smaller machine too, as a 15-inch laptop can sometimes be too big to carry and fit in day-packs. If you really like multiple screens, there are many laptop-sized portable USB-C powered screens available in the market which you can try.
- Smaller power banks - It’s far more advantageous to carry multiple tiny power banks instead of one huge one. They are easier to carry around while using the device, and you can charge all off them parallelly in a short period of time.
- Keep track of your expenses - At least weekly, go through your categorized expenses and check for anomalies. It’s quite common for people to save a lot while living in cheap hostels, but spend a huge amount on their pub crawls. I use Firefly III which is really powerful at what it does. But, even a plaintext list would work for a start.
- Work from cafes - I tend to like working from cafes — all the white noise allows me to focus much more easily. On most last days in towns, when I check out in the morning and have to travel in the night, I’d just spend the whole day at a cafe, saving on the stay cost. Though, initially, quite a few times, I did burn myself by spending more at those cafes than I’d have if I’d just stayed at my hostel. So, do take that into consideration.
- Break long journeys up - If your next destination takes a lot of time to get there (I get really restless after spending 4+ hours awake in a closed vehicle), it might serve good to pick a point in between to split the journey at.