Nowhere to go but everywhere

The not-so-secret belief behind the Unquantified Self is that once we disentangle ourselves from the impulse to contain and control our lives by measuring everything, all the time, we could refocus that energy on living more adventurously.

Which of course is always easier said than done.

I have the crazy good fortune to work freelance, and to make enough money even if I just work seven or eight months a year. I know I need to be more daring with that non-working time. I used to take on every little job, and dissipated much of that time with half-days and quarter-days worked. I also used to worry a lot, and spent that time obsessing over where the next job would come from instead of just letting go. But after three years of living this unmoored life I’ve gotten more confident.

Which is why I set off to go backpacking in the Republic of Georgia in June, by myself, without husband or child. I’ve loved Georgia from afar for 26 years. I also haven’t traveled anywhere by myself for 22 years, apart from a few smaller North American forays. There was of course some tentativeness to this trip, a trip I have been planning in my head for so many years. Could Georgia live up to my exalted expectations?

IMG_20140613_224503 IMG_20140614_213306 IMG_20140615_225443 IMG_20140616_153754 IMG_20140616_214656 IMG_20140616_214835 IMG_20140618_220334 IMG_20140618_220854 IMG_20140615_223109 IMG_20140617_222112 IMG_20140617_212240106 IMG_20140618_135802425_HDR

The short answer is yes. I won’t go into long detail. This is not a travel blog. A week of small and large revelations, beauty, friendliness, compulsive walking with a cause (over 20 miles a day\). I finally got to use the crummy amounts of Georgian I had still stuck in my head after all those years. I will be back, soon. This was just the beginning.

Later that summer, Scotland and England. Family vacation to a country I once lived in. I went back to Oxford and got my master’s degree [long story]. Stayed in my London apartment [long story].

Europe2014 145 Europe2014 167 IMG_20140726_105237914_HDR

Summer has been brilliant. And I haven’t tracked much. Only my sleep. And distance. Those I cannot help.

I know that this unmoored life can’t and won’t continue forever. I’ll go back to work. I’ll get fearful. I’ll worry. Some things will fall apart.

But for right now I am immensely grateful for a brilliant, flawless Spring and Summer, beautiful, footloose, serendipitous.

Advertisements

Kicking tracking, no picnic

Time for a bit of a personal update. I set out to so confidently last September to get rid of all the numbers, spreadsheets and devices. I mean, how hard could it be to just … be normal?

Not so easy, it turns out. For a while, everything went well. I walked because I wanted to walk and didn’t worry about hitting x steps or y miles. I ate what I merely guessed were reasonable amounts of food. I no longer did complicated regression analysis on my numbers. I stopped reading most health and fitness blogs and feeds and forums – they mostly all just say the same things anyway. I also mostly didn’t step on the scale, just using my clothes to gauge my weight.

This did free up a considerable amount of time and mental real estate. I read more history books (norse, Mesoamerica) and went to see more concerts (early music, experimental/noise) and just generally got more curious about life again.

I started using a teeny little service that asks me once a day to write a short list of all that was good on that day, creating a log of my small and large adventures. It takes less than a minute and there’s no quantification or further analysis.

So far so good, at least until January. I was working a really big freelance gig, for a very large company, helping to create a new program that’s hugely important for them. Crazy hours, lots of redeye flights, living out an admittedly pretty awesome cafeteria (uni, anyone?). Projecting confidence and nonchalance. Transmitting energy and optimism.

No, I didn’t gain weight. But I just had to start tracking and counting steps again. I know it’s crazy and makes no sense. Just that feeling that my life could go out of control made me reach for the comfort of my numbers.

And now the project is over and done, and I’m still tracking. Because after every big project comes a bout of existential angst – will I ever get another gig? Will I be able to feed my family? Why are we here? What should I do with my life?

I love my freelance life, but it is a rollercoaster, and this stupid, pathetic tracking habit seems to be the price I’m paying.

In my defense I will say that I’m spending much less time on it and don’t obsess over the numbers as much. Plus, I’m still doing more adventuring and aimless wandering. And I’ve booked myself for a trip to Georgia, by myself, in June. Which means I’ve dusted off my Georgian phrase books and grammar and been plotting routes. Maybe that’s the next time I’ll un-track? Wish me luck.

Artist: Roman Opalka