17 July 2016

I have been traveling for about 40-something days now, and I don’t feel the way I expected. I hadn’t traveled around the northwest USA nor much of Europe before so I expected that I’d want to spend every day exploring around, to see the local history and culture. On previous, short vacations, I had spent most of the time going from one attraction to another.

And I did explore for a while. I drove around between cities and national parks, I took a plane across the Atlantic and I then I took public transport and trains. I saw lakes in volcanic craters, hiked up in snow, and in sauna-worthy heat, and then in snow again. I drank beer from local breweries and had a dinner on a revolving restaurant. I had a close encounter with a black bear and saw Mormons getting wed. I saw how bike-friendly Amsterdam is and how cosmopolitan Berlin is. I saw that German trains work until they don’t. I saw people who are nice in your face and remain nice when the incentive is gone, and I saw people who change their skin as soon their business interest is done. And most people are of the kind type.

And yet, while I was gorging on exploration, in my mind, I gradually started feeling malnourished. Traveling was a feast, but the meals were all sweet. I had a cookie for appetizer, pie for a main meal and a tiramisu for dessert. All the exploration I’ve done was stimulating like sugar, but I was lacking the salt.

I needed to take some “salty” time. Time during which I process all the excitement from the sweet times in order to assimilate it and preserve it. Time to write down my thoughts, and time to reflect. Time to be creative. Time to learn, and time to code.

From the beginning of my travel, I started writing essays more actively. This scratched my creativity “itch” and provided a dash of salt to balance the sweet high of travel. Yet, it wasn’t enough. Three weeks in, I felt excitement for coding. Few days later, in Amsterdam, me and my wife made our own hackaton. We spent a day coding and playing. I learned about TensorFlow, coded up convolutional neural networks to recognize digits and learning more about recurrent neural networks and LSTMs. I hadn’t tasted computer science and math for a month and its saltiness was delicious, like a home cooked meal I hadn’t eaten for a while.

The hackaton brought creativity and learning and made my day. The day before, the Van Gogh museum brought exploration and learning which also made my day. I needed both of them to balance my information diet. When I was at work, I had a lot of coding and a little bit of creativity and exploration. Now, during travel, I get plenty of exploration, and more creativity at the expense of coding. Coding and writing make my day exciting.

I like the mental travel of writing and coding. Writing helps me develop and clarify my thoughts and coding means going to they gym for the mind. Removing them from my life temporary made me realize how I miss them and need them. In the search to maximize travel and exploration, which I appreciate, I also learned to appreciate creativity, thoughtfullness and problem solving.

Travel has been an experiment about my lifestyle diet. It proved that I need exploration, and reading, and writing, and coding, and relationships. Currently, I have more travel time and I can experiment with different proportions and see which combination I want the most. I’m excited to learn about my preferences, so I can organize my life to meet them, when I get back to working full time.