The Feeling of the Entire Day Unfolding Around You
In JFK I got on the 16-hour Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. It was 3pm in the New York afternoon, and 3am in HKG—exactly halfway around the world.
The Boeing 777 took off, I had lunch, and I took a short nap.
I always set my watch to the destination time when boarding a flight, so it was now sunrise in Hong Kong… with 13 hours to go. What’s next?
I like long flights, but this was pushing it even for me. I had the whole day set out before me, with nowhere to go and nothing much to do except what I made for myself.
I ordered coffee and sparkling water, then set up shop and got to work on a series of tasks. By the time I arrived in Asia, I hoped to:
*Draft a blog post
*Draft a newspaper column
*Revive my desperate-action-needed Inbox from 300 to 75
*Review an upcoming writing project
*Decide on a business strategy for another upcoming project
I got down to work on these tasks and found fulfillment as I go through the list. I also watched half of a movie, which is all I can usually handle, and caught up on an important game of Kingdom Rush on my iPad.
The day in North America faded away as we began our flight across the Pacific, chasing the sun. The day in Asia went by and the sun finally disappeared outside my window.
Did I use this time well? Did I feel alive, and did I do something that mattered?
I remember watching the entire day unfold like this in other parts of the word. I remember the long bus rides through Africa that stretched out over hours that seem endless.
Sure, there are some obvious differences between African buses and Cathay Pacific Business Class. But there is so much similarity too. In either mode of transport, you wait. You keep waiting. And you wait some more.
One time I rode the bus through the night and into the next morning. The day after, the same disorienting feeling: another day passes by outside the window. We change borders and there’s a new stamp in my passport, but the world looks the same.
I feel this way on ferries, on trains, on long drives through the U.S. Always getting closer to something while putting distance behind something else.
But really, what is life but to love and to create? And to keep moving along, always choosing forward motion and never backtracking.
I staggered off the plane at 8pm local time. I still had another flight ahead of me, a three-hour hop to Bangkok, but first I sat on the floor of HKG airport and logged on to the world. Greetings, everyone.
My outbound messages lept into space and a flock of new ones swooped in, the yin-yang of email management.
When I walked to the lounge and prepared to board the flight, I was already moving on. Time to think about the next stop, the next project, the next level of the tower.
What are you working on over there?
Better writing, editing thousands of photographs… and balancing this out with university life and housework. I try.
In other news, I always think I will be so productive on long haul flights (ipad! movies! books! journal!) but it never pans out that way – I just end up sleeping.
You captured another feeling of travel beautifully.
I try to do the same thing when I fly. But I find I can do it as well as home. Communting and lunch hours seem to be very productive it working the details of my lastest art project or getting resources and time aligned for the next.
I find that just starting is the trick, regardless of what I am doing.
I find it interesting that you had to question whether you spent your time productively while on the plane. The act of being transported by someone (or something) else is intrinsically productive in the sense that progress is being made toward a goal. In this case, the goal is to get to your destination.
Anything you do on top of this is a bonus. You’ve removed yourself from the physical act of transportation (think walking or driving) and so now you’re free to do what you want. That’s the beauty of modern technology, it gives back the time that we otherwise would’ve spent.
So many people don’t use this time for something more or, even worse, people are just not doing anything AND they’re not getting anywhere. That’s the complete opposite of pursuing your dreams and passions (or even being productive).
Yeah, good point. In my case I’m traveling at least 100 days a year, with a lot of backtracking involved. So part of the passion is related to being productive on the road… while also enjoying the road, if that makes sense.
I don’t travel, but as always, your comments are beautifully written and invoke a sense of adventure – even in what could be called the boring aspects of a long distance trip, or in the downtimes we experience in life.
Damn! When you mentioned Kingdom Rush I had to check it out–I think my productivity for the next few days will take a bit of a hit…
Great article otherwise!
dreaming, thinking, letting ideas flow and letting time pass by…sometimes simply reading a book and watching people…..not to try to fill out every minute with activities…I fact I use long train rides and flights for making strategic decisions and plans, to write articles (in February I wrote a textbook chapter on the train from Bern to Berlin) because I am away of my usual environment with lots of distractions…things to do and to think about….
I am working at understanding what it is that matters the most, and actually do it…
Travel plans, building a writing style and connecting with the rest of the world.
You sat on the HKG airport floor?
I recently started using Bee Minder to track goals of writing at least 15 minutes a day (baby steps to much larger goal). What I found is that the act of tracking the goal automatically had me writing at least 30-45 minutes a day. If I had sought out instead to write 45-60 minutes/day, I would have probably already failed. But what I struggle with is maintaining creative/physical energy when you have 4-5 writing projects going on at once (blog post, e-book, newsletter, e-mail list, research for next project, etc…). As “willpower” is exhaustible, pushing through isn’t always the best strategy, especially when quality starts to fall. My spirit also suffers from having to just sit in the chair to get it done. Is this a matter of taking on too much? Needing to delegate certain aspects? Is it being in “creative” phase on one project whiel you’re on “editing” or “formatting stages of others?
Is there a process that you use to deal with not just the process of writing, but managing simultaneous projects without going mad?
I can understand even on those long flights how emails can just fill your time. I spend most of my time filtering and writing and deleting and managing them. Nice flow of the piece. It was calming to read.
I find that loading a few audiobooks on my iPhone helps keep any wasted time to a minimum.
It might just be me, but on buses, trains and even planes I can’t work for any extended period of time without feeling mildly nauseous. So instead, I work for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, then just sit there listening to audiobooks for 20 minutes.
Keep my productivity up while spacing things out with learning. Also, I find that sometimes on a train or plane I tell myself I’ll get stuff done, but I really don’t – But it’s easy enough to just play an audiobook and relax.
Preparing for my first day at a new primary school near my house in Melbourne, Australia. I work as a voice teacher, and a performance musician. I dislike working too much because time goes by too quickly, I hate routine. I love being a student though, because when I’m learning I feel like I’m not wasting time, and time seems to slow down. Even when I’m on holidays-I always feel bored and empty unless I’m learning something, about anything….and playing/writing music is when I feel truly forfilled. Thanks for sharing your travel story, loved it!
So beautifully written !…”what is life but to love and to create?And to keep moving along….:))))
Great post. I always enjoy getting in the van with my family and traveling to new destinations. Lately we’ve been taking fun road trips between Oregon/California and Nevada.
I’ve been working on a lot of new artwork recently and also trying my hand at writing my 2nd book. We will see how that goes. 🙂
Here is the tower I am currently building…
Every Monday through Friday a new audio episode roughly five minutes in length is posted. My guarantee is to teach you something new within three minutes.
Since starting the project I have come to appreciate how difficult it is to maintain momentum and hold myself accountable for getting episodes posted on time without missing a beat. The mental energy required to not stop or miss a day is astounding. Its like weight lifting for the brain. Chris, I have a whole new appreciation for what you do. Building is HARD work. If anyone else has current projects they are working on I would love to check them out and perhaps feature them on the show! Drop a line at jasonford1 + gmail + com.
What am I working on….working on a blog post about what keeps us back and holds us down. Then I took a break to peek at email and saw this. Tried to be disciplined, but knowing it would be good I popped over (plus give my eyes a break ya know :)…yep. Good stuff.
It is good sometimes, though, to simply do nothing particularly productive. It’s not good for me if I don’t allow myself “time to process” as I call it, time for ideas to bubble up or gel. That can be anything: meditation, walking/running, lying on the bed/sofa staring at the ceiling. Already did one of those today–and it is time well spent, really–so *zoom* back I go 🙂
Thanks for sharing…
You were experiencing the NOW and projecting into the future at the same time. Tricky for some, but you seem to handle it well. I love your style and appreciate your ability to bring the reader along with you through your posts.
I’m trying to make each moment productive and enjoy it as I travel through life. Thanks for sharing.
Spent the weekend drawing another buddha and feeling very peaceful and accomplished about that
Writing evokes the travel beautifully. Flying between the UK (former home) and Australia (emigrated in 2010) 6 times in the last year creates similar feelings. For me it’s all about living life fully, connecting with very interesting, positive people, being ready for the next opportunity for far from normal experiences. Keep up the way you live – love it.
Working on a piece for a friend’s essay compilation project. It’s turning into an outline of my story – my life story. A visual in words about my desire to become outgoing and extroverted despite my introspective and introverted nature. I now celebrate my intuitive and contemplative skills.
Your comment about always choosing forward motion reminded me of a remark in Jonathon Fields’ book Uncertainty. He said there is no sideways in life. If you stay in the comfortable and familiar eventually you are behind and discontent.
Keep moving forward my friend. Experience and taste it all. Share, and then move on.:)
PS: Actually in my own years of travelling, I enjoy looking out of the bus/train window for hours on end: this is how I connect to a place, not have my head/mind buried in something that tales me away from the moment of “being there’: I think it’s also how I have connected to so many places, and learned so much about places, almost by osmosis !
It’s a good kind of ‘vipassana’ 🙂
And yes, I do agree that is different from staring out of a plane window for 13 hours: not quite as stimulating !!!
What am I doing over here in the supposed winter of my 70th year? Sitting under blazing clear and warm skies up in the NW near Seattle, WA where there are snow capped mountains to the east and the Pacific that stretches all the way to you in the west (5 days in a row now of blue sky and “the mountain/Ranier” being out”). Seals are playing in the water and on the dock outside the home we are borrowing for a week as I write about a new dynamic/creative/transformational model of mentoring people into their future, wherever they may be on the planet. Chris…you inspire me! You are “partly to blame” for why I am here on this leg of the journey called life. I await your next post.
I keep small projects to crochet or quilt for times when I must wait. On my first trip to China, I crocheted a blanket on the way over and gave it to our guide for his mother. I must admit, I try to get in as much sleep as possible on longer flights. Even now, when my travel is just to get my son at school or practice, I have something to make and have become very productive and less stressful.
The ambient music I’m listening to as I read this really fits the mood of this post.
I’m doing my best moving forward, day by day, step by step, blog post by blog post, novel assignment by novel assignment, clean room by clean room, etc by etc.
Got a little carried away there.
Basically, I’m writing a novel, working on productivity skills, cleaning my house, and HOPEFULLY begin a serious art training routine.
“But really, what is life but to love and to create? And to keep moving along, always choosing forward motion and never backtracking. ” You sound a bit like Khalil Gibran here and I can’t help but envy that ‘moving’ feeling when I’m trapped for months at a time in this place called ‘home’. Big plans for next year to get that woozy feeling you get when you change time zones dramatically. That feeling some call jet lag is an extremely pleasant one for me… probably because I don’t get to experience it as much as you do!
Today I’m working on a new fee schedule for my business, preparing for a client meeting tomorrow, storyboarding a promotional video for Thursday and sketching out rough ideas for a new website for an existing client.
I started Freelancing only a matter of months ago and I haven’t STOPPED! Love your work Chris – you inspired me to go after the life that I dreamed about and now I’m living it. 🙂
Wow…13 hours. I have never been on a flight that lasted longer than 4 hours. But I think I would have tried my best to go through my to-do list like you did.
Right now I am working on a revamp of my website to speak to my ideal clients, move my business to new and unexplored heights this year and help as many people as possible at various levels of marketing their business.
How do my days unfold? When I first read this I took a different take on the word unfold, a negative take. In the last three weeks my days have been unfolding with what feels like thousands of things I need to do. The sad thing is I don’t feel like I am getting much done, at least towards my dreams. I have my list of things I have to do (not just things I think I have to do) and the things I want to do.
My hat is off to Chris and everyone else living their dream. I will be there someday. I just have to remember, one day at a time and one thing at a time.
Trying to live the life I want.
Being transported from point A to B is one of my favorite feelings. I feel that every distraction is removed and it’s just me in this time vortex. I find that I’m my most productive and creative actually.
Great post Chris, thank you for sharing this. : )
I sometimes get in a fluster thinking about all that needs to get done to get to a place where I am happier… then this morning I lay down on the floor with my 4 month old baby and witnessed the joy in her face when she discovered she could hold her head and chest up from the floor with her arms and as corny as it sounds happiness was not to be found… it was right there in front of me… sometimes the joy in life is right in front of us… we just don’t recognize it in the rush 🙂
When my husband and I flew to Hawaii for our honeymoon, the long plane rides were one of my favorite part. On the way there (9 hours), we read and discussed “The Five Love Languages.” On the way back (7.5 hours), we looked through the pictures on our digital camera, talked about how we re-arrange the furniture now that we lived together, and drank far too much free tomato juice! Time well well spent!
Oh the timeliness of this! Tomorrow night I head off to Africa from NYC, and I’ve got 3 punishment papers to write by Friday (long story…I’m too old for this, seriously) and 14 other 200-300 word mini writing projects to do. But I rarely do anything but sleep on flights. The vibration of the plane plus the inability to sleep the night before a trip usually knocks me out before take-off. But 16 hours on plane with a 3hr layover around the 10hr point should mean a very productive journey from Istanbul to Nairobi. It *should*. We’ll see…
I like your idea of “forward movement”.
My Chinese doctor reminded me of a similar truth “Death is the absence of movement”.
I’m working on letting go of my addiction to travel, because everywhere I go, I leave a little piece of me.
I gave Turkish Airways twelve hours of my travelling soul and in return they presented me with an in-seat movie screen (and some very bad vegetarian food…)
I found it such a luxury to sit and indulge in some great movies – with the added bonus of dimmed lighting meaning I could cry away happily and no-one noticed. Well, not many people…
For her part, my daughter sat on the plane and did her homework (in between watching movies!), proving yet again that education doesn’t have to take place behind a desk.
I’m not a globetrotter either, but I love that feeling you describe, of a day unfolding before me and of my work transporting me, rather than my feet, a car, etc. It happens occasionally. I call it FLOW, as have others, and I CHERISH it!
At this time, I am working on getting some non-JLP (my business) things out of the way and managed, so that I can focus back on JLP. The rare times when I do have a good stretch of studio time are very productive.
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