Mondays tend to be the day of the week when I dream about doing something else the most. If you’re familiar with sitting at your desk staring at the screen or the wall behind it imagining yourself some place else (a cool bar in Oslo or a white beach on the Bahamas) but you end up returning to whatever it is you’re doing only half convinced it’s the right thing for you, let me share with you a few reasons why packing your bags and going somewhere new maybe just the thing for you.
I came to these profound conclusions yesterday when I tried something new and painted my bookshelf (yes, I know you can stop giggling now and hear me out.)
Before I start I’ll share my definition of travelling versus holidaying, which is two different cups of tea. By my definition the purpose of a holiday is to recuperate, enjoy life, forget the daily hardships and in the end return to where you started. To me, the idea of travelling is to expose yourself to an experience that enables you to learn something new – particularly about yourself. So here are my thoughts on why that’s a good idea:
1. Things don’t always have to match
So, I have this bookshelf and I was ready to toss it. Why? I liked the shape, but I didn’t like the look of it and couldn’t imagine it fitting in with the rest of my things.
“What other things?” Thorsten asked looking around our half empty living room. See, we’ve only just moved in after a long period of travelling ourselves.
“Well, I mean the pieces of furniture that we might be getting in the future,” I said
“But why not try to make something out of this, it could look really nice?” he asked.
Well, he had a point. I don’t know what our place will look like in half a year or twelve months. This is one of the few pieces of furniture I do have and I can change the look of it so that I like it. If it doesn’t fit in with the rest? But it will! Because I know I will choose pieces of things in my life that I like. Even if others consider my living room a space filled with mismatching things – I don’t care, because I like it.
The same goes if you pack your bag and go: Others might think A three months travel through the Andes, that’s a bit weird for an HR consultant…Well, who cares. It’s your life, stop worrying about other’s judgement focus on what you like.
2. Get inspired. Think outside the box
So, here I was with my ugly bookshelf contemplating what to do with it. Did I have any ideas? No, I did not. I’m not a crafty person and I can count the number of paint jobs on furniture I’ve done on one finger. I browsed around to see what others do. The internet is a good place, but I found visiting furniture stores much more interesting. After a few shops and a few gathered ideas we went to Ikea for some cheap shopping and here of all places I found a desk I really liked (and by all means, should I ever buy it will certainly NOT match the other pieces of furniture at our place).
“Why don’t you paint your bookshelf the same?” Thorsten asked. God, he’s so clever. The desk was covered with dark varnish that showed the wood’s texture and I had never applied varnish. “I’m sure it’s not that hard to use,” Thorsten said and off I went to buy varnish.
So, if you want to pack your bag and go think about what sort of travels you’d like. If nothing comes to mind find others that you can draw inspiration from and try something new.
3. Stir it, don’t shake it (or following the instructions doesn’t hurt)
Although you can shake a tin of paint to mix the contents thoroughly before opening you absolutely should not shake a tin of varnish. Why? Because the liquid becomes bubbly and you can’t apply bubbly varnish because it looks shit! Also, you really shouldn’t apply varnish if it’s warmer than 32 degrees. It’s what the package says and, ahem, I read that all after I had finished shaking it wanting to apply the first coat in the midday heat (it was 40 degrees here yesterday).
So, when you pack your bag and go acquaint yourself with a few rules before venturing out. It’ll save you the wait for the temperature to cool down and the bubbles to vanish.
4. Lift your horizon
Did you know that a dark coconut brown varnish actually looks purple when you open the paint canister? Well, I didn’t. In fact I had a heart attack when I saw the colour. I didn’t want a purple bookshelf. Despite my heart palpitations I tried the paint anyway and realised that the colour changes considerably when it dries. Phew!
So, when you pack your bag and go you will inevitably learn something you didn’t even know you needed to learn. Sometimes it requires a leap of faith…
5. Less pressure, more patience
I admit I’m not very patient. Waiting for the cooler afternoons was stretching it already and once I was ready to go I thought I had to catch up with the lost time. But the more I pushed the paint out of the brush and the quicker I applied the liquid the worse it got.
“You need to apply a thicker layer, love.” Thorsten said frowning at my job. “Also, if you slow down your movements it’ll be a more even finish. A lot more even.” Urgh, I thought, but did as I was told. And voila! my work did improve.
So, when you pack your bag and go remember that the more pressure you put yourself under to have a great experience the harder it’ll be. A little more patience and you’ll probably see a big change.
6. Allow yourself distance
Despite my improved technique applying the varnish to the bookshelf drove me mad. As diligently I was following the advice it just didn’t look right and I wasn’t satisfied at all.
“Looks great, love,” Thorsten kept saying but I was ready to through in the towel, I mean brush. This morning I looked at the bookshelf again and thought Wow, it doesn’t look as shit as I thought it would. Well, yes, there are a few imperfections here and there, but overall it isn’t too bad.
So, when you pack your bag and go allow yourself time before you judge. You do need a bit of distance to be able to view your life “back home” and see what’s good and what can be improved. You also need a bit of time to come to terms with your travel experience. What seems as a bad journey might still teach you something new and hey, that can’t be a bad thing, right?
7. Get to know yourself
“You’re too critical with yourself,” Thorsten keeps saying every time I point out where I’ve made a mistake and finished the brush stroke too early or too late. It’s true, I’m very critical of myself, but I’m also quite proud that I’ve completed something which I was ready to discard half-way through. While I was painting my mind went something like this Oh I hate this, it sucks to there’s no way I just give up then hey, a half painted bookshelf might not look too bad and then Oh my, I’m creating a piece of crap that I’ll have to look at for the rest of my life and oh look, this side doesn’t look too awful.
So, when you pack your bag and go your journey won’t be a linear experience, but more like a rollercoaster ride. And that’s ok. It’s part of learning more about yourself.
8. Learn what you really consider important
Look, my work is by all means no-where near perfect. There are dark spots, bits of wood I missed, drops that have dried in a darker shade. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. I accepted the fact that my first piece of painted furniture won’t be a masterpiece. What’s really important is that it still looks so much better than before! I can now look at a different shelf or desk and appreciate the amount of work it takes to have an even finish, but I’m happy with what I’ve created at the same time.
So, when you pack your bag and go the experience will enrich you and allow yourself to acknowledge that life isn’t perfect. If you come to the conclusion it’s really not what you want you can always apply different paint, or through out the bookshelf altogether.