Today is Saturday. My girlfriend J.Y. is working in retail. I could feel guilty for not working, but that is what weekdays are for. Today I intend to seize the day in order to see how that improves an otherwise uneventful, albeit relaxed, day. How long does someone have to work before she deserves to relax? A weekend doesn’t necessarily have to be Saturday and Sunday but my girlfriend works all week long. I write this brief journal to point out three funimalist points:
- Work to live
- Travel is a state of mind
- Riches are a state of mind
9am: I get up as JY leaves, have breakfast and a nice relaxed couple of hours reading Dwell magazine and some online articles. After a while, I inspire myself to do more with my day.
11am: Walk to the library and pick up books on hold. Lovely spring weather. I drop off two books and pick up one more, on increasing attention. While out, I hit up “the People’s Festival” downtown, complete with rides, booths, scooter races, two rock bands and various performing troupes.
12pm: I take in free art at the Denver Art Museum. Nothing new; I still love the Pre-Colombian Spanish art section in the Gio Ponti, castle-like building, but the crowd was low and I mellow at the cafes, the gift shop and the chair exhibit. JY and I have a tradition of listening to simple midwestern people’s reactions to the iconic chair designs of the 20th century. Today: “That purple one’s cool, but the rest just look like normal chairs you can buy.” Eero Saarenin turns in his grave. (Snobbery is decidedly fun).
12:30pm: I jaunted on the B-cycle through Cheeseman park to the Denver Botanic Gardens. I purchase an annual pass for me and a guest ($55), then embroil myself in plant- and people-watching. I meander via meandering paths through tropical, arid, semi-arid, alpine, Chinese and Japanese regions. Notable was the sudden open spaces and hidden spots that welcome me to stop and gather moss, read, photograph and jot in my notebook. Architectural design within the park is exceptional, especially for Denver.
2:20pm: The B-Cycle awaits me just outside the gardens. I pedal through the historic district just south of the Botanic Gardens to take in the old Victorian-style mansions, a hidden treasure sheltered from tourists. I was starting to feel the heat, so I returned to the resort (my apartment building), walk through the courtyard garden and into my cool retreat.
2:45pm: I lunch, shower, clean the kitchen so my girlfriend wo think I was home all day, take a fifteen minute nap, and pack for a camping trip with my brothers. 15 minutes of tai chi to relax and center. I’ve been rushing about all day.
4:15pm: I get my stuff together, load the car, and get on the freeway. My brother calls to tell me he can’t make it tonight. My other brother doesn’t answer his phone.
4:50pm: Back home, I brew some tea and devise a plan. Some beers are still on ice in the cooler, so perhaps Jordan can join me for a short mountain excursion this evening. While I wait, I write this article.
5:30pm: I go down to the resident pool to take a swim. To challenge my homeostasis, I jump from pool to hot tub and back. Rain sprinkles lightly for a few minutes. I feel the water flow around my arms and body, improving my breast stroke. While going alone is typically less exciting, it has its advantages. I can simply enjoy myself without distraction. I grab a free coffee in the lobby.
6:15pm: My brother calls while I am in the pool. He just got off work. I ask him over.
6:48pm: My girlfriend JY gets home. She is exhausted from work and puts in a movie.
7:00pm: I go to the store to get the week’s shopping done and pick up some beef. My brother and I grill some avocado burgers (we would have done it in the courtyard if it didn’t rain). JY asks me if I’m feeling okay since my evening plans were thwarted in several ways. I find the question rather ironic, but I realize most people don’t shoot for exceptional days; too much effort. I choose to view the purely psychological “setback” as a new set of rules to play, a new challenge to game. So, my brother and I take a couple beers on the roof of the building with 360-degree view of the city and mountains, a fresh breeze, all to ourselves, to catch up and relax. It’s far better than dining out. It also gives me the idea of rooftop camping, for the future.
$$$: Everything I did today was free with my annual memberships. I had the riches of exploration—library, museum gift shop—available to me and a day trip tourists could only dream about (and pay through the nose for). Without memberships, the trip would still be under $20. For $80/year I have as much B-cycle transportation and botanical gardens as I desire. I came on this solution because I hunted it out and I made it a priority to wander around. It helps not to have cable television, which costs, for basic, $360/year.
Point 1: Work to live. An unfortunate quantity of people work 6-7 days a week. I often work 40+ hours a week, but these people make me seem like a slacker. My girlfriend is one of them. They don’t have to work so much, (insert slew of reactionary protests here) but they are convinced that they do. They are “busy people,” which I assume means they have some kind of nervous disorder. Granted, they are getting paid a lot less than they’re worth, which is lamentable, and what with the economy the way it is, things aren’t as easy for most people anymore. However, there are ways to channel limited funding to maximize happiness and increase energy levels that they are foregoing out of old habit. One person buys nice clothes but has to work extra hours to cover the rent. Another buys liquor to dull the boredom instead of using the same money to buy genuine thrills. This is not for the purpose of shaming anyone, but to develop a critical eye for time usage, which enables solutions such as I found today. Often I get restless for lack of adventure and exercise, which tells me I will be happier if I allocate some of the time I’m surfing the net to outdoor pursuits. That’s exciting; without guilt.
If you think recreation is just for other people who have the time and money, you can start finding the exceptions to your own rule right now. It’s simple, but not at all easy. First, make time. Ask your employer for a reduction in hours, insinuating you will find another job if you don’t get it. If the job is worth keeping, you’ll get what you asked. Or, if you are so inclined, start (slowly, but surely) on the path of entrepreneurship. Second, stop buying anything but the essential and sock away as much money as possible. Make it a game. Third, and most importantly, think of a bunch of small changes that would make your life more enjoyable for you, pick the best one, and work on that in your spare time. Only work on one thing at a time or it can get too discouraging. For example, you could learn to become a mechanic, you could get connected in your community, get to know some proactive people, learn the habit of focusing attention in order to get work done faster, etc. The options are limitless. The goal should reclaim more time for living rather than mindlessly clocking hours. Then you can use that extra time and energy to continue the process. If you want to.
Point 2: Travel is a state of mind. Seasoned travelers will tell you their best memories were the ones that found them, yet they would have missed it if their eyes weren’t open. Travel naturally opens us up to possibilities we haven’t considered. This same openness can be developed anywhere. Some of the most exciting travel writing was written about the author’s home town, eg taking midnight walks in deserted parts of town, or the adventures of learning a new skill. Furthermore, you can serve as the insider’s guide to your own place, and charge yourself a special rate for the service. It may be difficult to maximize novelty in your home town, but openness to things you haven’t seen before will get you 90% of the benefit of exotic locales, which often go unseen by visitors who don’t leave their “homes of the mind.”
Point 3: Richness is a state of mind. The world is utterly bursting with riches, more than all the people in the world can experience, and one need be only a little bit opportunistic to gorge on the bounty available. I’m not talking about money or gold or material resources, of which you only need enough to survive. I’m talking about the riches of human experience available to all who are conscious.
Because most people assume you need a lot of money to travel, they are busy getting money, struggling to save it, and spending it all on a little travel, which they are too worn out to appreciate. That is arguable, but what isn’t arguable is the fact that while my girlfriend worked all day to pay for a couple dresses she bought this week, I had an invaluable experience for about two hours wages. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
To paraphrase Bertrand Russel, a person is rich in relation to his or her number of available interests: people, things, activities, learning even concsiousness itself. Ironically, the wealthy often dull the senses with extravagance, reducing their abilities to experience the riches of experience. Poor souls. Some of the best things in life are not free, but many of them are cheap.
- Travel experiences abound when you push yourself to wander opportunistically, wherever you are.
- Flexibility, improvisation and contingency plans are the difference between happy accidents and disaster. Consider every plan a contingency plan.
- The mobile lifestyle enables plenty of novelty within day-to-day routines.
- It pays to be comfortable being alone