“What are you doing while I’m gone?”
Jessica was heading to New York, leaving me the keys to her house and car. I planned to do a vanishing act and get back on the road before she returned. But that left me almost a week alone at her place: a week to hermit up and write.
She was skeptical.
New Orleans holds an infamous number of distractions, plus good friends I haven’t seen in months. The idea that I would be locked at my laptop morning, noon and noche was a little hard to believe.
But it was a chance to recharge my secret introvert nature. During our Caribbean trip Jess and I had been together almost 24/7 and we were “on” all the time, straining our intermediate Spanish any time we left our room. Then our return flight landed us right in the middle of my birthday celebration.
I needed solitude. And a chance to just write.
So my days have taken on a delicious monotony. I wake up and start writing immediately. I make coffee, I offer to the lwa, and then I go back to the computer. Once I’ve finished at least one project I eat a breakfast of granola and yogurt, and I usually listen to philosophy podcasts or read my twitter while I eat. I might do yoga.
In the afternoon it’s more of the same: I write. Or edit, design, or otherwise create. I’d do this everyday if I could.
By 3 o’clock I do need a break. I go out and walk, either to the grocery store to get a fresh salad, or just around the neighborhood. Often, when I come back it’s time for some lighter lifting: still working, but on things that don’t take much concentration.
These idyllic days aren’t sustainable. I do have to work on, you know, paying stuff—stuff that keeps me fed. But this week of free lodging happened to line up with a week where I could get all my client work done right at the beginning, and reserve the rest of my time for me: my readers, my hopes, my writing. It’s like a mini-sabbatical.
Night brings more productive time. I try to do things that don’t require the screen, since my eyes get tired eventually. I might go for another walk and chat with a friend on the phone. Otherwise, I have no meaningful human contact all day.
For someone who adventures as aggressively as I do, this sedentary and oddly private life might seem like a paradox. But while adventure has required me to develop social skills, I suspect I always will be an introvert at heart. I delight in time with my friends, but it takes effort and eventually I run dry.
To be sure, my capacity for social time—my introvert “battery,” if you will—has grown. An hour at a crowded event, a conversation with a stranger, a day-long outing with friends: none of these is nearly as draining as it once was, and a life of embracing the unexpected has give me tremendous adaptability. To the introverts out there, yes, you can strengthen your people muscle, and it feels good to be strong.
Yet my love of quiet time is magnified by the art of adventure itself. Adventure requires living reactively; it requires constantly re-adjusting to unexpected surprises and difficulties. For any adventurer, finding an interlude of simple, unbroken peace and quiet takes on a special significance. It becomes a sanctuary. We see this in the Odyssey and we see it in hitchhikers and explorers today.
So I often find myself bouncing between adventure and creative solitude. Even in the Dominican Republic I insisted that Jess and I have at least two “adventure days” a week, whether that be renting a motorbike or just hiking to a remote beach (that we never reached). It’s a mix I’ve come to savor.
And it’s done its job. While I still have doubts, I find myself much more excited now about the next leg of the Adventure than I was a week ago. I can’t say for sure that I’ll live in Corpus Christi for months—not when I could just blow right past it and go straight to Mexico. But I do know that the prospect of the next three weeks of roadside camping, limited wi-fi and relying on strangers is starting to look less like a self-imposed prison sentence and more like, well, an adventure.
Wherever my next long-term stay may be, my eternal hope is to find a living situation that offers both types of fuel: three days a week to strictly cloister myself to write, meditate and rejuvenate; and the other days to wildly explore, celebrate with friends, and enjoy the world. It’s a balance I’ve never quite struck.
The day Jess left I filled up her whiteboard with a to-do list of all my projects. It had 37 items.
“Do you think you can finish them all?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “If I could finish my whole list I’d worry I aimed too low.”
I guess I feel that way about a lot of things.