Moving abroad is hard.

Whenever someone hears about my plans to move, they are usually taken back as to how quickly I can suddenly ‘make’ a decision.  The reality here is that I don’t tend to make quick decisions.  I tend to do a lot of background research into my options so that when the time arrives to make a decision, I am able to finalize a decision in what seems to be at ‘lightning speed’.

Right now, I am moving to Berlin.  I was talking about the maximum amount of suitcases that I need to pack.  Then the overall comment was that moving was as simple as packing a suitcase.  Not so.  Anyone who has ever seriously moved on their own, especially to a country where English/their own main language is not the main language for that country.

The other issue that irks me is the continued assumption that because English is a language that is widely used and adopted in professional and personal circles, that it’s the default and defacto standard in modern cities like Berlin.  Not so fast.  German is the default and defacto language used.  Sure if you are lost in Berlin and you need to find the nearest train station, then you’ll find someone who can help you.  But when you are poring over tenancy contracts, government websites, and so on, you will realize that English is merely just the guest language.  In this case, I’m looking forward to learning German in my time and stay in Germany.

Last but not least, the one thing that I’ve learnt so far is that moving is hard overall.  Even if you are moving to countries like the UK, Canada, the US, Ireland and so on there are still a lot of major and minor differences and nuances that you need to learn first.  I remember going to an event in Vancouver and someone made an offhand remark as to how Australia and Canada are the same and that because of this, moving is not that difficult.  I used to think the same – that moving to Canada was on the easy level.  But, not so.

Motivation, Control and Consumption.

On Consumption and Time

Ever since I signed up to do a course/certification, I am budgeting (yes, my time to spend) an additional x0 to x0 hours per week for this.  That means spending about nearly three digit hours online, in front of a computer.  This is temporary, but I realize that perhaps this is also an opportunity to improve how I make use of my time.

The reason why I signed up for the course/labs/certificate in the first place was that I wanted to stop learning ineffectively and wanted more structure in how I learn.

Due to this additional time I need to spend, I am taking a far more careful approach of how I spend my time online.

Blocking time-wasting sites

I’ve added an extension to a few of my browsers that simply makes it far more ‘difficult’ in terms of user experience.  The extension also includes my ability to deny certain domains. In this case, I’ve gone ahead and denied the more social network / entertainment related domains.  I would deny other websites that are not that useful for me – from lifestyle to shopping sites.   I am also deactivating a few accounts.

Be more conscious of time spent in productive sites

Despite doing a blacklist approach, I am also more and more conscious of how I spend my time in more ‘productive’ sites.  For example, I very recently signed up to Stack Overflow and contributed a few comments which had some upvotes.  Despite that, I still feel that my time is better spent elsewhere, at this stage at least so, I am putting a pause on that.  As for this blog, I am also putting the domain on a temporary ‘Deny’ list on my extension until such a time arrives that I need to make a post.  This curbs my habit of checking my blog – which picked up when I started blogging again mid last year.

Effects so far

The effects after one day has been noticeable.

I have gone into habits of typing in certain URLs only to find that it’s been blocked by myself.  So, I then close the window and go on to do something else.

I’ve found myself still going down that content ‘rabbit hole’ but I am still working on improving it.

I was doing some study and lab work today (Sunday) and got through about 30 pages of material.  And, I had some time left over for the rest of my weekend.

On Consumption and Physical Materials

I have gotten used to just living in three suitcases and a roller case.  But I still have the urges to purchase and to consume and to take part in consumption.  I once bought Chanel skin care products, only to take them back to the store because I didn’t like the thought of additional things with me (not to mention, I’m in my 20s and do I really need to spend that much on anti-aging creme…).  That I had brought a collection of designer clothes I had amassed in Canada and are currently being sold by a third-party at a fraction of the cost.  And so on.

Even though I was talking about the online consumption detox, I came across a YouTube channel of an early 20-something woman doing a dual Masters in Law and a Bachelors of philosophy with tips for study.  I was looking for study tips and decided to watch one of her videos. I was surprised to see that it was a study tip-fashion-lifestyle vlog at the same time.  Not only that, but she had a really good design taste and I started daydreaming about the time when I can purchase all those things…for my apartment…and stationery for my desk…then I pull myself out of that daydream.

Is it possible to be a tactile/visual person and still be a minimalist? While I find minimalism to be visually appealing, some parts of being tactile and visual would require consumption.  In this case, having a visual/tactile life would counter against minimalism.

I would say that after watching that YouTube video, I did feel some sort of ‘longing’ to have ‘stuff’.  I think that with stuff you can express and build your identity.  Yes, we can make do with having digital stuff.  But it’s just not the same as with the tactile and physical.

Consumption is a state of mind

In this case, consumption is not necessarily bad.

Now that I’ve explored consumption in terms of time/attention and in terms of physical/material, what exactly is consumption?

I think that consumption is a state of mind.

Think about it. You are essentially triggered to go through the motions of consumption until the end – the consume part.

You are hungry. You go through the motions of fixing yourself a meal until you can sit down and eat the meal to satiate the hunger.

You have a birthday party to go to. You go through a mental check of what clothes to wear, makeup and beauty products, whether or not you should go to the gym, what gift to bring, what message to type in what social network is best. Any missing elements, or any elements that you are unhappy about is then researched and vetted. Need new makeup? Think about the makeup set you saw online. Need to send a Facebook message? Don’t forget to hand over some of your personal data as you log in Facebook and send your friend a message. The act of keeping up with friends require some level of consumption.

You are a traveler. You think about what cities are best to go to, for how long, what to do in those cities. You research flight prices, get a travel insurance quote, obtain the cost of living and cost of recreation. You make a flight booking – that’s one point for consumption. You make a tentative accommodation booking – that’s another point for consumption. Your research into the foreign locale all consume your time and energy.

In this case, I don’t believe that consumption is bad (and nor it is good).  Consumption is just a state of mind – something that can be controlled.

You choose to have certain things to affect you whereas if these end up being uncontrolled, then it becomes hard to reach a state of mind to be more mindful of your own consumption.

Changing reasons for my travel

For a long time, I would usually plan my trips around a particular event and the event is usually an art fair or a tech conference or even better if it was both.  There was really only a handful of trips where I would just ‘go’ like a week in Marrakech. It usually worked out well – for example, in New York I would go to a few art fairs very quickly then have a lot of time spent just exploring the city.  In Monaco, I would explore Nice for a couple of days before heading out to Monaco.  But, the last time I did that was in Boston for a tech conference and I really was not happy with the experience I had then of exploring the city. I only had a couple of days off and ended up missing my flight so I had a large chunk of time that went missing.  By the time I arrived and checked in (it was in the historic Kendall Hotel at MIT since the conference was at MIT), I was too tired and cold to explore and ended up staying inside my room.  The conference started and on my days off in a city (that I wouldn’t be visiting for a long time again), I ended up spending most of it inside.  While it was all interesting, at the end of the day I was still inside a large conference hall.  Then, I had to rush off and catch my plane back to Canada.

So now, I am reconsidering how I usually plan.  I have with me a calendar of art and tech events.  I don’t mind planning my travel around art fairs, but honestly…I used to have a full schedule when it came to art fairs and by the time I exit one my mind is completely ‘full’ from the experience.  There are notable exceptions – like Art Basel or the Vienna Biennale – and I don’t think I will completely wipe away any notion of never going to these ever.  But right now, I am not as interested in going to “as many art fairs as I can!”.  My focus right now is trying to get as much of a genuine experience as I can from a city or culture.  There might be an art fair or tech conference thrown into it, but it won’t be the centre of my plans anymore.