Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Illusion of Productivity

One of my highest values used to be productivity. I say "used to be" because I recently gave it up. And not for Lent. I gave it up for good. I will no longer allow myself to be hobbled by the illusion of productivity.

So what does productivity have to do with a travel blog? Everything, I believe. Or rather, nothing.

Travel is the spice of life. (Plus, this post needed a photo.)
Traveling for the sake of seeing and experiencing the world is by necessity not a practice in productivity. Although I sometimes see people take that approach. They make a list of places to see and they tick them off as quickly as possible.
I, too, am a list maker, type-A gal that I am. But when I'm traveling it is supremely difficult to decide when I've experienced enough of a place to check it off my list. "Been there, done that," are words I rarely utter. Instead I know I've only grazed the surface of the dozen or so countries we've visited this year. A few of them I deemed Places of No Return. That is, places I don't feel compelled to explore more. But I definitely don't think I know those places through and through. I hardly know my own backyard.*

When I was in Seattle this February for a short visit, several colleagues asked me how it feels to travel and not produce anything. And they weren't being rude. They too were eager to chuck "real life" and explore the world, but feared they'd feel lost without a daily purpose. I totally understand. I feared the same when we started this adventure.

I have always prided myself on being highly productive, a hard worker, strategic, a valuable employee and colleague. But the truth is, for all the hours and heartache I have poured into work, there are very few lasting impacts that I have made in my career. Sure, I have raised money for worthy organizations, helped people get to work and school, created compelling arguments for good causes and given 100% of myself almost every minute I've been on the clock. But in the grand scheme of life, my productivity has created only an illusion of success.

In the last 14 months of travel, I have created new friendships, improved my marriage, expanded my self-awareness and just enjoyed life. I have seen new places, explored distant horizons and tried things I never dared to dream of doing (like kiteboarding, living on a sail boat, and writing a first draft of a novel). I have spent this time enriching my life and finding happiness. And I've even had energy to do good things for others.

And you know what? People still seem to like me. They don't care that I haven't slaved away in front of a desk all day. Or that I have slept in at least every other day all year. They don't hate me for pursuing happiness or for abandoning my to-do lists. I still send cards on birthdays, tell my friends and family that I love them, and help Josh with the dishes and laundry.

At the end of the day, life is about so much more than being productive. And I'm thankful to have taken the plunge to discover what else awaits when I let go of western measures of success and follow my own path. If you take anything away from this blog, I hope it is the inspiration to follow your own heart--down whatever winding and rocky path it might lead you.

* Note: We will be working to expand our knowledge of our backyard--the US West--this spring. A road trip is in the works. More on that later.

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