Monday, April 3, 2017

Purposeful Project: Conclusion

In short: I failed. I suppose it did not bode well for me that I was behind on my monthly projects by month 2. By month three it totally went out the window and by month three I hadn’t even looked at the list to see what I was supposed to be doing that month.

In November, we decided to host family for Thanksgiving, and that was equally fulfilling as checking all the boxes on the list I never got around to creating. I originally intended November to be the month I wanted to be more intentional about spending time with the kids in my life – nieces, nephews, and goddaughters. It’s tough for me to want to give up free time, but especially with kids, time just goes so fast. It wasn’t exactly intentional the way it lined up with my “purposeful project” goals, but I did end up seeing the kids on Jason’s side a few times that month, took Claire shopping for her birthday, and went ice skating with my goddaughters. Though I didn’t exactly set up a checklist, having that goal in the back of my mind helped me recognize that time spent with people I love is so valuable that I don’t need to feel guilty about what isn’t getting done.

I got really busy with a new work assignment in December, so, instead of my purposeful project for this month, I consider it a success that I used the free time I did have to help a friend, do what I needed to keep myself sane, and enjoy holidays with the family at the end of the month. By the way, the focus that month was going to be on the home. That’s a big category, but specifically I wanted to be intentional to make it a place of refuge and treasured memories. Really, the main goal I had was to get some photos on the walls. (And in my dreams, I wanted to transform our house into a hotel, complete with housekeeping staff.) I want our house to be a place that is a relief to come home to. So to me that means taking steps to make it a clean, calm, and pretty place to be. The pictures didn’t happen, but the Christmas decorations did make it nice and cozy, so that kind of hit the mark.

January was going to be my month dedicated to food. I know, I know – basically my whole life - or at least a disproportionate amount of my time and brain - is dedicated to food anyways, but specifically I wanted to get more organized with it: declutter the pantry, do something about the stack of recipes on the bookshelf, and maybe even create some kind of grocery shopping checklist. I did get the pantry organized with Jason’s help and a trip to the Container Store, but the rest of it fell by the wayside when Jason bumped some other house projects up on the priority list. But even that I was fine with, because I spent time getting tasks done that were important to Jason, so I knew it would bless him.

February I wanted to use to focus on marriage. One thing, according to studies, that contributes to happiness is surprises. Jason and I are really not that into surprises – I am a control freak so usually would rather plan things myself, and as an introvert, Jason is not blessed if surprises involve unexpected social situations (or leaving the house). However, I did want to try to surprise him more with things that really would bless him: notes in his lunchbox or maybe a favorite food. I also wanted to have a more charitable mindset towards him. I find that many of our conflicts come when we disagree about things that aren’t morally right or wrong – we just seem to approach things the most opposite ways possible. Instead of letting this frustrate me, I want to recognize that “our differences make us stronger” or some other sentimental mumbo jumbo. But – eh, as should now be clear, I failed, so... Jason’s loss..(err.. I'll try next month?). The closest I got to surprising him was taking a running leap onto the couch he was sitting on and yelling, “Surprise!”

March was going to be the month that I got some of those nagging financial things done – look into various insurances, create a will, etc. For now, if I die, Jason will have to make his best guess at my banking passwords.

I've only got two months left to go.  April's theme is work/job and May is spiritual life.  I'm not that optimistic.  But you know what? Despite totally “failing” at my lists, I think I still succeeded anyway. I did have a bunch of goals that I wanted to stick to, but when I didn’t, I was more aware of the choices I was making. I think I’ve come to realize that one of my biggest frustrations is wasted time. I didn’t mind skipping the to-do list as long as the time was still well spent.

One part of this was recognizing when other tasks were more important.  I was more aware that leaving things undone in order to make relationships with others a priority, not burn myself out, and enjoy time with Jason was ok.  It was like I gave myself mental permission to enjoy whatever I was doing, even if it wasn’t on my list or kept me from getting to said list. Because if I was doing it, it was probably more important, right? I didn’t have to feel guilty about what didn’t happen, and I could more fully engage in what did.

I think without realizing it, I also ended up just not doing things I didn’t want to do. I tried to stop feeling obligated to do tasks that, for me, were not worth the time. So, I spend a few dollars more to go to the grocery store that is more convenient, but doesn’t have the best prices. I’ve gotten better at making dinners that are easy, even if we had the same thing a week ago. When appropriate, I’ve even left meetings once I start to feel that antsy/ frustrated feeling that comes when the discussion is totally irrelevant for me.

Finally, I realized that a big time suck for me is that I am a maximizer.  In the age of the internet, literally every decision could be researched, price checked, and polled on social media.  There is a great quote by Voltaire in Candide about “Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.”  All the information and choice we have access to can create the idea that there is a “perfect” option out there – the perfect hotel to stay at, the perfect recipe for angel food cake, or the perfect luggage to buy.  For me, this can lead to researching every decision ad nauseum.  You think this would make it better, but it doesn’t.  It often leads to frustration over time spent, agonizing over minor decisions, and constant second-guessing.   So I’m trying to be ok with “good enough,” though this one is still really hard for me.

I don’t have high hopes for the remaining few months, but that’s my update. I didn’t do most of the things on my lists, but I do think I’ve managed to be more purposeful with my time anyways, which was the original goal. I guess life kind of jumped on the couch next to me yelling, “Surprise!” and science is right – it did make me happier.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Purposeful Project: Hobbies

One of the cruel tricks about being an adult is that having fun sometimes takes work.  (But you also get to eat cake for breakfast as an adult, so it kind of evens out.) I used to get annoyed by the question, “What do you do in your free time?” because I never felt like I had any.

The thing is, I have started to realize that I do have free time, I just don’t see it that way because I feel like the things I spend time on are obligations, even though I’m still making the choice to spend my time that way. For example, I would have a lot more “free time” if I stopped spending time with friends and family, exercising, purchased more pre-made foods, and quit my love/hate relationship with DIY projects. (Side note: I never realized people don’t DIY everything until we moved into this neighborhood. Pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone else holding a tool, and we are always cleaning paintbrushes, sanding, or sawing something in the driveway. We’ve started to get a bit of a reputation as “the project people”, but it’s actually a great way to meet neighbors.) However, if I didn’t choose to do those things with my time, I’d also probably be less healthy and wouldn’t enjoy the accomplishment of conquering a tasty dish or installing tile, so I really am spending my free time how I want - it’s mostly that I just want more free time so I can get to the things further down my priority list, things I deem as “hobbies.”

I just started my "Purposeful Project" in September, in which I pick a different area each month for the next year to be more intentional about. This month, I picked “Hobbies” because this is actually one of the hardest areas for me to be purposeful with. I’m not talking “hobbies” like what I described above - exercising, cooking, or cleaning, which even though I enjoy (mostly because I like the results), are is easy to justify spending time on. Rather, I mean the things that are purely for fun. I’ve let things I enjoy slide, thinking I’ll get back to it when things “slow down,” which I’ve come to realize may be decades away. It’s hard for me to make time for these things because I feel selfish spending time in ways in which I'm the only beneficiary. However, the more I learn about how our brains work, the more convinced I am of the need for rest, enjoyment, and time to let your mind wander. “Play” helps the “work” times be more productive, and maybe you could even make the argument that being happy makes those around you more happy, so it’s not totally hedonistic. Plus, if I’m on the go all the time, I eventually burnout and end up useless anyways, so I may as well balance out the fun stuff to begin with. Work hard, play hard, or something like that.

Your hobbies may look different, but for me I specifically wanted to focus on music, blogging, and painting. In order to implement the principles I made the following resolutions (relevant principle in parenthesis):

Take an art class (learning) – Reuben talks a lot about how learning new things and mastery of something contributes to happiness. While I will likely never master painting, I do agree that learning is really enjoyable to me. Plus, you enjoy things the more you gain a mastery of them. Chasing after a tennis ball all the time isn’t as fun as when you have the skill to have a steady back and forth volley. Learning really does make me feel like I am conquering two birds with one stone – entertaining myself and educating myself. I don’t think of it that way, but when I started to reflect on the fact that I often choose nonfiction books, podcasts instead of music, and documentaries over sitcoms, it became pretty evident that I should make learning a big part of my principles. (Don’t forget, a parallel principle is to be yourself, so if you aren’t a nerd like me, embrace whatever it is you do enjoy!) I’ve often talked about taking an art class, but always found a reason why I didn’t want to commit the time or money to it. The city I live in holds classes on all sorts of things, and they usually send the course catalog in the mail twice a year. On a whim I looked an art class up that only lasted 5 weeks and wasn’t all that expensive. Because I looked at the very beginning of September, I had just the right timing too since the class started the week after. It is a watercolor class, and although I normally paint with acrylics, I figured I could still learn a lot, and really, it was the perfect timing.

Results: This was fun, and I learned that watercolor is way harder than it looks. I skipped one out of the 5 classes since it was the night before we went out of town and work was busy. Overall, I am glad I did it, and now I have all these watercolor paints to practice with.

Spend 2 hours a week painting (organization) – especially when it comes to discretionary ways to spend time, I knew it wouldn’t happen unless I made a specific goal and carved out designated time. I never spend time on these hobbies because there’s usually something more pressing that has to get done, or weekend schedules aren’t always consistent. I decided the one time every week I kind of had free already is Sunday morning. We usually go to church at 10, so never schedule anything for Sunday morning. I love Sunday mornings sleeping in, drinking coffee while I putz around, usually on the internet, but the quietness of the time also made it the perfect time slot to schedule some creative time.

Result: I’d give myself a C on this task. I did paint for 2 hours one Sunday morning, but the other mornings in the month of September, I was either sick and slept in, or only spent 20 minutes prepping for my watercolor class.

Buy music every month (nagging task) – I used to carefully curate playlists, felt like I had the perfect song for every moment, and loved discovering new sounds. My sister and I could basically have a conversation using only song lyrics, and while part of my love for music was mixed with all the emotional zeitgeist that is high school and college, I still loved music. I came to the realization recently that all of my favorite songs were made before 2006. First, I now understand why my parents just kept listening to 80’s music growing up, because that is me now! Second, it’s kind of because I stopped really caring enough to buy music that I liked. You would think that in this digital age, where you can buy one song at a time, buying music would be easy – hear a song, like it, buy it. But I then either forget, or overthink it (i.e.: feel like I have to listen to the whole album to decide if I want to buy that, and then just give up). Hence, the fact that I actually need to make this a resolution. Yes, it cost money, but I kind of have a built in “allowance” for this. For better or worse, I have an Amazon Prime subscription and buy most of our non-grocery items that way. Amazon has a shipping option where if you choose the slower option, they sometimes give you digital “credit.” So I really have no excuse to at least buy a few songs a month.

Results: I did pretty good with this, even though I only bought music once, but one was my goal. I really liked a song we sang in church, so on the drive home, I added it to my Amazon wish list, and bought it next time I made a purchase.

Listen to more music at home (mindfulness) – So really, buying new music isn’t going to do me any good if I don’t listen to it! It’s become a bit of a ritual for me to play a song once I get into work as I’m booting up my computer and settling in. It’s just one song, but it’s been a fun way to start the day. Though it can be a little bit more of a challenge to find music Jason and I both like, I think it’d be an easy way to set a fun mood at home too.

Results: I did awful with this. I think I only played music twice the month of September at home. One thing I did realize is that I often assume Jason doesn’t like some of my go-to music genres (think women singers and 90’s punk), but that really isn’t the case. “I wouldn’t listen to this, but I don’t mind it,” Jason said when I made an excuse for playing Regina Spektor in the car one day. (He said he still does not like the Beastie Boys, so I guess they will stay confined to running music.)

Blog more (organization – and hey, now you have this blog post! Win win!) – Years before I even started this blog, I loved the idea, but never wanted to pull the trigger because I didn’t want to start something I’d give up on. Well, I started, and I kind of gave up over the past couple years – exactly what I was trying to avoid. But I always mean to blog more. I’ve always enjoyed journaling, writing, and feel like, at least for a while, I can start committing some brainwidth to blogging again. As with the painting, I just needed to make time for it. So, once a week on my commute, I bring my tablet on the train and just write. And I’m doing my best to stop taking so long with the rewrites, edits, and other time-sucks that have kept me from blogging, and just hit “publish.” So apologies in advance for the less-polished posts, but I am seriously always surprised and flattered to the point of embarrassment that anyone would bother reading anyways!

Results: I actually did stick to the writing once a week on the commute part. I just didn’t account for how long it would take me to write each post, and more importantly to post it to the internet. I would probably not make a good reporter.

So! That was my first month. Not great, but not the worst. I think one reason I did worse on the daily goals such as music is that 1) it has not yet become a habit, and 2) I still don’t have a great system for making it one. I made a spreadsheet, but unlike my to-do notebook which I look at daily, I put the check sheet in my closet and never once looked at it, much less checked anything off.

One final note, Jason has been amazing with all of this. He fully supported me signing up for the art class, making time for myself, and his practical help around the house truly is the main reason I can even attempt to spend a bit of time on "fun" stuff. He wouldn't do his own "project," but he also doesn't crave the goals and organization in the first place like I do. Hmm... I may need to reflect on this more when "Marriage" month rolls around!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Whole30 Part 3: Results

I had this post totally written a few months ago, it just took me so long to post it! See parts 1 and 2 of my Whole30 experience here: intro, recipes.

Whole30 has come and gone. It’s good it didn’t last much longer than 30 days because I was beginning to crack. The real stressor is that you think you are done after the thirty days but the reintroduction period can be about two weeks that you mostly still have to eat Whole30. It’s like you cross the finish line of the marathon, but have to run 4 more miles just to get back to your car. I kept fantasizing about the foods we were going to eat and it got harder and harder to resist. For example, the night before “dairy reintroduction” day, we had a little ice cream, since we were about to have dairy the next day anyways. 

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do the reintroduction, but it seems like you can isolate affects of the various food groups best if you add only one restricted food in on one day then go back to whole 30 for two days, then add in the next restricted food group. We did it as follows:

Day 1 – legumes: I added garbanzo beans to our lunch salad and we ate chicken chili with beans in it for dinner.

Result: at the risk of sharing too much information, legumes caused major gas, at least for me.

Day 2-3: whole 30

Day 4: Non-gluten grains: rice with lunch and dinner

Result: About 30 minutes after eating, I was so sluggish. It was like I had just taken a Benadryl, I was ready to take a nap. The funny thing is, while I definitely noticed the energy decrease after eating the rice, I don’t feel like I noticed an energy increase that everyone talked experiencing while on Whole30, but maybe it was just more of an absence the post-lunch food coma that often drives me to reach for coffee too often during the work day.

Day 5-6: whole 30

Day 7: Dairy: yogurt for breakfast, then Greek chicken salad, the chicken was marinated in yogurt, the salad had feta and tzatziki.

Results: We both got stomach aches. I had actually experienced these sharp stomach aches before, part of what prompted me to go on whole 30.

Day 8-9:whole 30

Day 10: Gluten – toast for breakfast, spaghetti and meatballs for dinner

Result: it could have been because this was a weekend, I didn’t feel the tired effects as strongly as I did with the nongluten grains. I definitely felt more bloated the next day though.

Day 11-12: whole 30

Afterwards –

A friend asked what I missed the most. I think it was different things at different times. I always say I crave butter more than sugar – hard candy I can go without, but I always baked goods like cupcakes or cookies. I also missed yogurt a lot. I had gotten into the habit of having a yogurt smoothie in the mornings (yogurt & milk or kefir with lime, a dash of cardamom and teaspoon of maple syrup – so satisfying!) so I missed that. Jason missed pasta at different times, though cravings came and went for him too. 

There wasn’t a “reintroduction day” for sugar, but I guess we did it on day 13. Adding sugars back in was really a shock to my system, and amazingly, it wasn’t as satisfying as I kept day-dreaming about. I ate a mini key lime tart one night and felt like my teeth were disintegrating from all the sugar. I then got a headache afterwards. This happened for probably the first couple weeks any time I had something with sugar. Don’t worry, I pushed through and can now consume copious amounts sugar without the headache! Really, I do try to tone the sugar way down in recipes, or have a smaller quantity, as I don’t need as much to satisfy my sweet craving anymore.

Alcohol also had a much stronger effect. (At least for the first few weeks) I truly felt satisfied with just one glass of wine, or splitting a beer with Jason, plus, my tolerance had taken quite the dip, so smaller quantities of alcohol were best.

Over the course of the 6 weeks, Jason, despite his best efforts lost 7 pounds, and I lost about 5. After we ended the diet, Jason used the word “lighter” to describe how he felt while on it, and I guess he literally was. Another difference that I’ve noticed now that I’m back to “regular” food is that my skin was great while on Whole30 – I don’t think I had one pimple (in real life my skin hasn’t gotten the memo that I’m past adolescence).

We’re glad we did it, though we’re mostly back to our regular diets with a few tweaks. One of the most rewarding parts of it was that I feel like I was really able to recognize my bad habits, especially dependence on sugar and caffeine. It was a huge struggle at times to try to content myself with dried fruit when I really wanted a brownie or cupcake, but it really revealed my somewhat emotional relationship with food, such as the feeling that I needed a food reward after a hard day. It also has helped me to pause before eating “junk” food to consider whether I really want it, or if I’m eating something just because it is there or out of habit. I try to cut back on carbs for lunch since we both feel better that way and am much less dependent on my afternoon sugar fix.

One of the biggest changes is that I no longer drink my coffee with cream. I cut it out since dairy isn’t allowed and at the same time Jason started roasting his own coffee. So I kind of got used to having good coffee and was really disappointed to find that milk just deadened the coffee flavor so much that I really preferred going without it. Plus, because we both had slight dairy reactions, it has been a good way to limit dairy. By the way, the no cream in my coffee is a huge deal for me as my preferred cream to coffee ratio was about 1:3, and when I really wanted to be high maintenance I’d put in a blend of milk & cream. So now I’m just high maintenance about the kind of coffee I drink and try to convince myself that I am not a yuppie even though Jason and I converse about coffee as if it were wine – “Hmm.. I’m getting hints of blueberry and a smoky aftertaste.”

So, that is the end of our Whole 30 experience. I think it’s worth trying, especially if you want to try to improve how you feel, and potentially improve your overall health. And if you are going to try it, I raise the glass of red wine I have been drinking to you!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Purposeful Project - Intro

I read something once about a study on anxiety. A group of student who had a test were measured for anxiety levels. The students who had actually studied, predictably, had lower stress levels than those who hadn’t. But the really interesting thing is, that student who had not yet studied, but made a study plan, also had lower stress levels. So, I came up with a “study plan” for the next year. I’ve mentioned it on Instagram so wanted to explain a little more.

I read Gretchen Reuben’s The Happiness Project while we were in Indonesia (I know, I know, I built up the suspense in my last blog post and then only posted on Instagram about our trip. I haven’t even begun to go through my “big” camera photos!) It was a nice mix of actual studies and her own experience trying to be happier. She had a different focus each month for which she would create “resolutions” to try to follow. The impetus came to her when she was riding the bus with her children and realized one day the kids would be grown and she feared she would look back and realize that amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, she never stopped to just enjoy the unique and precious years. While it can sound a bit selfish to focus on our own happiness so much, Reuben takes the perspective that it really isn’t. Much of happiness is tied to relationships, being generous, and other outward focused aspects of life.

While not everything she said or did resonated with me, I do so often have the experience of wondering where in the world the past few months or years have gone. I always feel busy but am never sure what I’m so busy doing when someone asks what I’ve been up to. Like Reuben, I'm grateful to have a life that is relatively free of major challenges. I am happy or at least have every reason to be, but whether it’s the competitor in me – "She did this project, so I can too." – or just the desire to be more deliberate about areas of my life, I decided to do my own “Happiness Project.” However, I don’t really like calling it a “Happiness” project, because I’m a little less focused on happiness, per se, than she is. It's more that I want to know I’m doing things purposefully and not just reacting to whatever life throws my way. I hate saying that “I want to get more into…whatever” for years on end and not doing anything about it. So I’m calling this my “Purposeful Project.”

(Side note: When I read about how someone else gets their life organized, it stresses me out, because I feel like I need to do it too. I don’t want anyone else to feel like they have to do any of this. One of Gretchen Reuben’s big themes is “Be Gretchen.” In other words, know yourself, and know that it’s OK to do what works for you. Things that make some people happy won’t necessarily make you happy. I think if I had little kids of worked multiple jobs or had some other major happening taking up a lot of my mind and time, I would hopefully have been able to feel the freedom to say, “This project is not something I want to spend my time or mental energy on. I need to cut everything out to focus on my kid/ job/ whatever without distractions.” So I hope you feel that freedom too.)

I know it’s not the beginning of the year, but September always feels full of fresh beginnings with the school and fiscal year just starting up, so I figured this is as good a month as any to start. I sat down over labor day weekend to make my plan for the next nine months (I figured I could take the summer “off”.) I tried to start out by thinking about some “principles” I want to keep in mind for each goal. In asking myself the questions Reuben recommends, what makes me happy and what makes me unhappy? I tried to start out by thinking about what makes me happy and what makes me stressed out.

After writing out the things I want to work on, I realized that what makes me happy is feeling organized in the sense that  I narrowed down a few positive things (organization, learning) and negative things (wasting time, nagging tasks) to use as a framework for determining my monthly goals. I really like lists, so found it insightful when Reuben said what helped her most was her resolutions list which she used by to measure her progress each day. Using the template one her blog, I made my own spreadsheet, though must confess, now that I’m partway through the first month, have been horrible at checking it.

So that is the background of my “purposeful project.” I feel a little self-conscious about focusing on myself so much, so quick, let me know about your goals or what you thought of the book or anything!

Friday, April 22, 2016

TIA take two - This is Asia

“Oh wow,” or “Interesting,” were probably the most common responses I got when I told people we were going to Indonesia. You know, in that way that people say when they think how much they would never want to do that.  It was usually followed by, “Why Indonesia?” Usually I responded by telling people that Jason just wants to go wherever he can get the biggest culture shock. This is true, but not the whole story. Ever since I’ve known him, Jason has been fascinated by the Indonesia. When he mentioned Southeast Asia, I initially had looked into countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but those were a little too on the beaten path for him.  I didn’t know much about Indonesia, but the more I learned about Indonesia, the more it seems like it’s got everything rolled into one country, or rather, over 1300 islands.  It’s got beaches, mountains, volcanoes, temples, coffee, diving, orangutans and komodo dragons.  I told Jason I just wanted to go somewhere “colorful,” and this definitely qualifies.  It had everything I wanted to do, so worked for me.  Honestly I’m a bit intimidated, but if I learned anything from driving a rental car across South Africa and leaving it behind during a flood, it is that going out of your comfort zone can really be rewarding, plus I kind of felt like if I don’t do it now, I never will. 

So here we are our foray to Indonesia, or more specifically, in Tokyo on a layover.  Before booking tickets, we had to figure out where exactly we wanted to go.  The problem is, there is so much to do that we felt like would either have to cut something out, be on a plane every other day or make it a three-week trip. I guess we failed, because we kind of chose all the options. We are cutting out a few things (such as climbing Mt. Bromo & Ijen), taking a lot of flights, and are still going to be gone for three weeks (yes, our bosses are amazing).  We’ve been saving our leave and our pennies for a while, but are still trying to do this on a budget.  The good news is that Asia is an amazingly cheap place to travel, so it’s kind of do-able.  (Also, if you follow me on Instagram, you are probably laughing, because somehow a year’s worth of travel got condensed into the month of April for me. I couldn’t really help the dates though as it was mostly travel with friends. Like I said, my boss is amazing.)

The first step was applying for credit cards that would make our flights free. Jason and I both applied for the Chase Ink, which is a business card.  We will be using it for our rental house expenses, but you could apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred as well if you don’t have a legitimate business. The bonuses weren’t quite enough to get us to Asia (80,000 miles) but I regularly use another Chase card, so in addition to some strategic purchases we made it. 

Because we were waiting for points to post, work and optimizing scuba diving weather, it ended up that we only had about 6 weeks between booking the tickets and leaving.  It was a really busy month, so combined with the short time frame means I’m not as prepared as I’d like. For real – we only booked the last hotel three days before we left.

So we’ll be gone for three weeks and we’ll be going to hike the jungles of Sumatra, see the temples of Java, dive through the waters of Komodo, and sit by the beach in Bali. We’ve got a few nights in Singapore and Tokyo on the way back and I DIDN’T EVEN BRING THE GUIDEBOOKS for those cities.

We were watching a movie the other night and the guy just bought a plane ticket to another country.  All he had was a suitcase, no plan, no return date.

“I would love to do that, just show up without a plan and go,” Jason said. 

“I feel like that’s what we are doing,” I told him. Because in my mind, having so few plans is almost the same as having no plan. But I’m trying to embrace it. I think with all the information out there on the websites, I can often suffer from fear of missing out (also known as “FOMO”). I prefer to research every possible option to make sure we are seeing all the top sites, eating at the recommended restaurants, and staying at the perfect location. And while I do think that some kind of plan is good to have, it can personally be a hindrance and keep me from enjoying where we actually are, if I spend the whole time worried about where we could be instead. 
I kind of feel like I’ve made a good start of embracing things as they come by paring my luggage down to a quantity that could fit in a carry on.  Mind you, I put it I a big suitcase, even though it could have all fit in a carry on.  I would have made a good boy scout as I prefer to be prepared – I still asked Jason if I should bring duct tape, but this is progress for the girl who once packed 30 shirts for a week.  In fact, before the tickets were even booked, I told Jason that this trip I was going to say “yes.” As in yes, to an invitation to join new friends for dinner. Yes, to spontaneous adventure. Yes, you can pray for us – I’m not good at spontaneous yet!