Today while taking a shower during the last day of my trip to Japan, I was thinking about the different approaches to traveling, and I came to the conclusion that when getting to know a new city one either takes a deductive or an inductive approach.
Deductive would be when you make extensive research on the city prior to experiencing it, you have an idea of where the important places are at, and it’s after visiting them that you get the feel of what that city is about. This is what most of us do when traveling.
I want to talk about taking a different approach. Instead of doing prior research of the city, just go. You’ll find yourself feeling the city first, and as it unfolds in front of you, you’ll easy figure out what are the important places. Feeling first, important sightseeing afterwards.
I like this approach because:
- You’ll interact with locals. You practically are forced to, since you have no idea of where to go, they’re your best bet at figuring it out. This has worked brilliantly for me in the past, I’ve found many little places you’d never hear of otherwise, the best little bars and hostels. Sometimes I’ve been invited to someones home for food and I’ve even been offered housing, which often results in friendships that continue well long after the trip.
- You’ll be more observant. Since you need to be alert to any opportunities, your senses will be awake the whole time, and you’ll absorb the city more openly.
- Adventure. The obvious one. When you’re up for anything, you’re up for an adventure. In Cuzco, after jamming in the streets for a couple of hours with two musicians I was invited to their home in the mountains, which was a once in a lifetime experience.
When I traveled to Barcelona earlier this year, I had no idea of where to go or what to do, I did zero research on the city. All I knew was I’d get the bus from the airport to the city center, I could take it anywhere from there. During my 1 week stay I slept in three different hostels, played guitar on the streets, drank wine well past midnight and had brilliant conversations, all with people I intend to stay friends for a very long time. And most importantly, I believe I grasped a great feel of what Barcelona is all about.
For the last couple of years I’ve been perfecting the art of traveling light. This time I’ll be away from home for three months and I’ve managed to fit all the necessary into just one 33Liters backpack (The North Face Big Shot).
Here’s what I packed:
- 2 pants.
- 2 Oxford shirts
- 3 Tshirts
- 1 Sweater
- Extra pair of shoes
- Dress pants
- Hygiene bag (containing toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant)
- 5 Boxer briefs and 5 pairs of socks
- 13′ inch Macbook and the small charger (without the extension)
- Notebook and pen
I went to the airport wearing jeans, the blazer that matches the dress pants (so that I have a full suit), and an oxford shirt.
I’ll be buying shampoo and any other stuff I need when I settle down somewhere.
I recently doubled my reading speed, and here’s what I’ve learned.
How to read faster:
- Don’t sub-vocalize. Pronouncing the words in your head slows you down significantly.
- Less eye movement. The eye is blind while it moves, it can only see when it stops. We often fixate our eyes up to 5 or 6 times per line, when we should be doing 2 at most. Our mind is so powerful that it can actually process a whole paragraph with a single eye ‘fixation’. This is what has helped me the most in improving my speed.
- Use your finger as a pointer. Use it to maintain speed and to tell your eyes where they should be ‘fixating’. Move your hand a little faster than what you can read right now and notice how after a while your eyes and mind start keeping up with the new speed.
- Active Reading. This is the most important one. Reading fast requires a lot of effort and concentration. Focus. You need to be completely into the reading, forget about your surroundings and become one with the written word.
Something very important to remember is that speed reading is not as important as the skill of knowing when to read at what speed. There are texts that are meant for more intense thinking than others, you wouldn’t speed-read poetry for example. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
About six months ago I developed the habit of carrying a notebook with me everywhere, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Seriously.
For many of us, our best ideas come when we’re having interesting conversations, but to write them on our phones or computers is too distracting and would probably come across as rude. Not writing them down is even worse, we forget them almost the instant after we conceive them.
“When I get drunk with staff, I won’t remember, so I’ll definitely write it down” – Richard Branson
The other moment when I feel the need to write an idea down is when I’m alone, doing some deep thinking about my life. Using technology is too much of a temptation to get back in touch with the world.
Carrying a notebook has been the perfect solution. Heres why you should have one too:
- Never lose a thought. You think you’ll remember but chances are you won’t. In under 5 seconds, you can already be writing down your ideas.
- More freedom for your thoughts. Drawings? Maps? Lists? Prose? A combination? When you have just a blank page and a pen, the sky is the limit.
- Review the past. Who knows when past writings will spark a new thought?
- Because these guys carried notebooks too. Twain, Darwin, Picasso, Beethoven, Hemingway, Franklin (Benjamin), Branson, and the list goes on.
The only recommendation I give is to focus more on your reactions than on anything else.
I use a pocket size soft cover black Moleskine and I love it because it fits perfectly in my back pocket. I have even used it as my wallet, since it has a rear inner pocket.
‘No’ has to be one of the toughest words to hear. When someone starts a sentence using the word, we know that what’s to follow will only hurt us more and we’re immediately predisposed to close ourselves to what the other person will say. Think about it. It’s like the word ‘no’ serves as our queue to shut our ears for the words to come.
The word ‘no’ is often used to express disagreement, ‘No, things should be done this way’ or ‘No, you’re not understanding my point’. It is also used to deny permission or a request, ‘No, don’t put your mug on the table’ and ‘No, you cannot go spend the night at your friend’s house’.
Controlling vs Relating
What we don’t realize is that it implies a position of authority, opposed to someone trying to understand and relate. When we let go of trying to control the situation and start listening to the other person and relating to them, we let go of the need to use the word ‘no’.
Imagine how differently you would perceive the statements above if they were ‘I think things should be done this way because…’, ‘What I’m trying to say is…’.
When you’re not being imposing, people will receive your comments much more openly because they will feel you’re actually trying to relate to them, not to control them.
Try it for a day
Try it just for a day, not saying the word ‘no’ and instead finding phrases that make the other person fill included, and notice how differently people will react. I can assure you that afterwards, you’ll cut your doses of ‘no’s significantly.
“We will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it.” – Plato
Tacit knowledge is that kind of knowledge which is not easily transferrable. For instance, you could explain as clearly as possible to someone how to ride a bike, but they won’t acquire that knowledge until they go out and do it for themselves.
How to be a better person requires a lot of tacit knowledge as well. Someone could explain to you how to be a better person, but you wouldn’t actually get it until you live the experience for yourself. So, what is it exactly that we need to do?
Well, there’s no one right answer for this, there are many. I’ve come up with this list of suggestions:
- Realize you don’t know: Once you are humble enough to accept this, you will be free to open your mind and start learning from places you never thought you could learn from.
- Get out of your comfort zone: Go out and do. When you put yourself in situations you have never experienced before, you are opening the doors to learning. We don’t learn from what we already know.
- Surround yourself with people you admire: There’s a saying that says that you’ll end up being like the five people you hang out with the most. When we spend a lot of time with someone, we start imitating their gestures, their thought patterns, their views of the world. Much of this learning is tacit.
- Pop-out of the system: It’s hard for us to understand ourselves, to objectively look at our actions, because we’re in the system. By asking others for feedback, we’re able to somehow pop-out of that system and start looking at ourselves from an outside perspective. We need to build a group of people we trust and that we can go to for honest feedback.
Tacit knowledge on how to be a better person cannot be taught, it can only be learned. The first step would then be to cultivate the will to learn.
It’s incredible how little time people dedicate to thinking what it means to be a better person, or what actions they can take to start working towards it.
Now, stop for a second and realize that just by starting to think about how you can be better, you’re already on the road there.
The world appears still. I am slowly becoming one with my surroundings. Once I close my eyes the sounds of the birds singing and the water moving become my only reality. Opening them reveals the inherent beauty in life, if I open myself enough to see it. I have never been less annoyed by bugs.
With the passing of time I start seeing less what I expect and more of what is. I am impressed with the amount of things I often leave unseen. Colors start resembling more light and darkness, red is light and blue is night. It feels as if I’m living in a world of light. I experience something I had never felt before, and for once, I feel deeply fortunate for having perfect sight.
And as the night falls on me I realize that in my life, it’s been too few times when I have really opened my eyes and seen the world.