Adaptability While Traveling

Riding a Shinkansen outside Tokyo with my new backpack.

One of my favorite aspects of travel is that it makes me more adaptable. When I had an apartment, local friends, and a steady Internet connection there were many things that I could control: things that I could make perfect if I just put enough time into them.

Today almost nothing is in my control. I can’t know if I’ll get a good night’s rest, can’t figure out if a meal will fill me up before I order it, and have a lot of trouble eating healthily. Some of my desire for control is expressed through an obsessive selection of gear, but a bunch of it is lost in all the shuffle of moving around constantly.

I have the kind of mind that likes to solve problems. On the road many of those problems have to go unsolved. I’m realizing that I don’t need a perfect solution to problems. I don’t always need to wear clean clothes or always be dry or warm or cool. I’m learning to train my brain to ignore minor discomfort and pain in order to make life more pleasant.

We can get so used to having things working just right, just perfectly, that we lose track of what we actually need. Over time the very tiny things that are going wrong become more frustrating when everything else is so reliable.

I could spend all day planning the perfect trip to a new town, stay in the perfect hotel, or eat the best local food. Or I can just go there and see what I like and try to smile when things don’t turn out.

One of my favorite books is On Writing by Stephen King. In the book King stresses that you can’t make your working environment perfect and eventually you just have to sit down and get to work. He writes in a windowless room facing the wall so that his mind has to create a world for him. To me that’s perfect adaptability: doing something instead of endlessly fussing over getting it just right.

As I’m writing this it’s late at night, there’s loud music coming through my door, and mosquitoes are biting me on the ankles. To stay productive on the road I’ve had to learn not to care and just sit down and work.