Today marks one year since I gave up my job, home, possessions and cosy social world. This was a tough move for a borderline-workaholic socialite obsessed with cool stuff. 365 days on, my approach to life has changed completely and I can honestly say that taking a year off was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Since March 2013 my wife and I have more-or-less lived out of backpacks, staying with family and friends in the UK, visiting new countries in North, Central and South America, encountering incredible new people and sights and trying many, many new things along the way. It has been a relentless, energy-sapping year of life beyond the comfort zone, and if I wasn’t flat broke, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Of course, I’ve missed the familiarity of my own possessions, a solid career, and a day-to-day routine, but I am no longer defined by any of those things.
My only routine this year has been a continuous, delicious binge of novelty. For 9 of the last 12 months, I tried something completely new every single week. Across 37 weekly challenges I opened my mind, body and soul to the importance of newness, and man is that a powerful drug! It was like switching on a side of my brain I’d forgotten existed: trying and failing like a child, short intense periods of concentration, constantly learning, and all the while riding the buzz. The difference between novelty and real drugs is that, instead of enjoying my high while gibbering in a corner, my brain was reaping the associated benefits as each week I injected a different Weekly Challenge into my system and disappeared down a new rabbit hole.
While the fun new skills and health perks are great, the biggest gain I have made in a year of consistently probing the boundaries of comfort is one of self discovery. Through doing things I shouldn’t (hitchhiking in Colombia, drinking far too much wine, nearly killing myself surfing) and attempting tasks I felt I couldn’t (learning a new language, and working with my hands at challenges such as Bookbinding), I was constantly challenging my own perceived strengths and weaknesses, realising all the while that I was not who I thought I was. Of course, this wasn’t always a joyous process; coming to terms with some of the ugliness within has been painful to say the least, but I now find myself cutting through life like a newly sharpened blade, returning to some of the same old tasks, only with more economy and less strain. I use the blade analogy because I now know that one period of flux won’t be enough for me, and when I begin to be blunted by life once again, novelty will be waiting for me in the shadows.
So now I return to the real world, only with some differences: my wife and I are relocating away from London to the rural South West of the UK. We have no idea how this move will work, but we’re going to give it a try. Day-to-day, I’m using my newly-honed productivity system to trial the business plans I wrote on a coffee plant-studded hillside in Colombia. I have no idea whether any of my plans will succeed, but I’m going to give them a try because I now have courage in my convictions, a courage which was born a year ago today as I walked away from almost everything I knew.
Despite traveling many thousands of miles, seeing fabulous sights and trying a dizzying array of new things, I’ve realised that the conclusion I take from My Year In Flux is witheringly simple: a happy life isn’t always about having the right answers, it’s about asking the right questions. Rather than approaching an important decision by asking “When is the right time?”, I now think the correct question should be “Will there ever be a ‘right’ time?”. Almost certainly not. Life is too short and complicated to wait for interplanetary alignment. Do something new today, listen to what the outcome says about you. Rinse, repeat, then turn that pattern into the most positive habit you’re ever likely to form.
I’m not done yet!! Watch this space in the coming weeks for travel highlights and details of my exciting new venture.