I had a great trip last Friday on Amtrak traveling to Colorado. The purpose of the visit was for a mixture of work, pleasure, and simply experiencing a change of pace. The pace of the JOMY (Just One More Year) household has been nothing but frantic over the last few months. The train trip has given me some much-needed time to reflect.
Our lives have been filled with work, moving, and anticipation. Saying it has been hectic is a huge understatement! We downsized by selling our home and buying a townhouse. We made repairs to the original home, accomplished Phase #1 of a remodel to the townhouse, and became debt free. We had a thousand details to manage, which quickly became the most intense week of my life from a Personal Finance perspective.
It is imperative for me to take time to reflect and daydream
I can remember in the third grade my mother having to meet with one of my teachers to discuss my daydreaming in class. This is the kind of meeting that can strike fear in a child, having an active imagination and only a 10-year-old brain. Am I in trouble? How is Mom going to punish me?
Fortunately, I was a great student and my K-12 school years were a breeze for me. (College was a different story.) Staying ahead or grasping the content quickly enabled me to daydream. I would finish my assignments promptly and progress on to more pleasurable mental pursuits that did not involve schoolwork. The teacher and my mother resolved this problem by giving me additional, more challenging work, making sure to call on me frequently in class to answer questions. I had to pay attention.
I think that was the origin of my daydreaming habit. To this day, I attempt to have at least 30 minutes of time set aside each day to simply let my mind wander.
A long, slow trip puts my brain into an alpha state
There is something unique about living in the west. You can go on road trips and gaze into the distance for miles in all directions. The road sometimes can stretch in a straight line until it is lost in the horizon. This atmosphere helps put me in a meditative, relaxed state. It is an ideal time for my mind to wander, daydream, or process some problem that has been lurking underneath my consciousness.
Train trips put my brain into an alpha state, creating the perfect condition and opportune time to reflect. I have had many “aha” moments from these trips. That is usually one of the first things my wife asks me when I call her at the end of the day. She often asks, “What breakthrough or new ideas have you come up with from daydreaming on your trip?
My “aha” moments on the trip
This trip has covered new mental territory for me. No more debt snowballs and home purchasing scenarios to occupy my mind. This has been one of the best trips ever. I got a chance to complete some tasks for my employer, daydream, and enjoy reading a good novel based on New Mexico – appropriate for my trip through the state.
My “aha!” moment on this trip: My life has been too focused on reaching financial goals at the expense of other areas. I am now re-committing to spend more time on my health, marriage, emotional/spiritual development, my children, develop new friendships, nurture existing relationships, and to create some “playtime” in a hobby. Erine Zelinski does a great job in his book The Joy of Not Working describing all the fun things we could be doing with our lives instead of working.
Some immediate changes around the amount of time I spend on personal finance will be a great start. The hours normally reserved for research and brainstorming will now be focused on a variety of activities, giving me a more balanced approach. A first step is to not renew two PF publications that I have read for years. I also plan to keep a narrow focus on my blog reading based on those people I am following on the JOMY blogroll.
The return trip
I will be reversing course with my train travel, going back to Sedona on Friday. After missing my wife this week, I look forward to seeing her again.
I have another full day to enjoy taking the time to reflect on the long slow trip. I get to be that third grader once again – without the teacher finding a reason to have a conference with my Mom. I can’t wait to see what happens when I can allow myself to be in the moment and dream!
How about you, do you enjoy slow travel? Is personal finance consuming your life?