Unplugging from Technology

I recently read a few articles about how addicted my generation is to technology. Everything from nomophobia (fear of not having your mobile phone with you), to the experiments done with students going mobile phone / TV / and computer-free for 24 hours or a week.

And the results were consistent around the world. People felt disconnected, anxious and often at a loss for what to do with themselves. One article described teens having anxiety attacks and failing to get through a whole day. There were definite withdrawal symptoms similar to drug cravings.

Personally, I’ve also felt the eerie feeling as though I was missing a limb when I’ve left my phone at home on a workday.

So, very simply, I’m probably just as bad as most of the students in the studies. But, being the perfectly capable person that I am, I was convinced I could get through a day without technology better than most. So my flatmate and I did a tech-free day.

24 hours without using smartphones or computers. Midnight Friday night till midnight Saturday night. And, just for fun, we scaled back the technology available to be used to only be things that have been around about 30 years ago. So the microwave was out, as were my soft contact lenses and electric guitar tuner etc.

I did still have my phone with me, for emergencies and in case my family called. My family had been allocated a specific ringtone so that I knew it was them.

Here are some of my learnings:

 

There are countless compulsions to turn to technology for entertainment throughout the day

You don’t realise how addicted you are to something till you try to go cold turkey.

I had repeated inclinations whenever I wasn’t doing something specific to grab my phone or my laptop. For example, apparently I have a strong urge to use technology (Netflix and Facebook) to decompress at the end of the day. It’s low-energy entertainment. I didn’t realise how strong this compulsion was until I was in a position where I “couldn’t” do it.
Wanting to grab my phone or laptop was also a thing that occurred first thing in the morning, or whenever we’d just finished cooking, or cleaning up, or eating, or any other discrete activity. Something was done, so you turn to your phone to see what is going on in the world. It happened A LOT.

 

Technology is also used as a utility a lot of the time

The one time I grabbed my phone and just started using it during the day was after Sarah had accidentally started using the microwave. She had forgotten the microwave was off-limits. I laughed, and made a sign for the microwave to remind us not to use it:IMG_0234
Having made the sign, I was amused and wanted to grab a quick photo of it for this blog post. I had whipped out my phone and was in the middle of unlocking it before I realised what had happened and stopped myself. The behaviour was just that ingrained.

What was interesting for me was that I didn’t feel guilty for almost using my phone as a camera because I’d been trying to use it in the aid of something practical, not as entertainment per se.

Similarly, later on in the day we went to look at some of the sights recommended in our area as recommended in Hidden Treasures of London by Michael McNay. It provides a very low-detail map of the area with the sights marked. So we needed a map with greater detail to find it. Normally this would involve a quick search on Google Maps or Citymapper.

Instead, we resorted to the tried-and-true London A-Z. (Our version was hilariously from 1995, but not too inaccurate!) Navigation is a little stressful when you don’t have a “You are here” icon, we found. 😉

Navigating with technology-free methods was ok, we got there without any major issues, but it’s far far more efficient with a phone. Similarly, one of our desired destinations was closed on Saturdays, which we would have found out from a quick Google search, had we been using a phone. We were left to just gaze in through the windows. In this case, I feel like not using technology had been a disservice to us because we hadn’t been using its potential utility.

So there was clearly a difference in my mind about whether I was using technology for entertainment or as a means to getting something else done.

 

We became far more efficient without the technological distractions

When you don’t have an excuse of “just checking your email quickly”, procrastination subsides dramatically. For example, usually, one of us would cook, and the other would eventually get around to cleaning up the dishes within an hour or two. Without a laptop or phone to turn to, that excuse vanished, and we just did things pretty much as soon as the need came up. Recycling went out, rooms got tidied, washing up happened and they all got done faster than they would have been done otherwise. We also left for our explorations far earlier than we might have done on another weekend day.

 

Communication anxiety is a thing, but perhaps it need not be for me

My phone was switched on and in my vicinity for most of the day. I was contactable,  but chose not to look at or use my phone. Had my family called, I would have picked up. Had anyone else called or messaged me in another way, I would know, but not necessarily know who, or why. This may not have been the best way of conducting the experiment (Sarah had just switched off her phone). Foolishly, I had forgotten to mute all message notifications. So my phone occasionally buzzed from across the room.

This was reassuring in that it was nice people were still reaching out to me, but anxiety-inducing because it made me wonder whether people thought I was being rude for not responding.

As I lasted till midnight before looking to see who had messaged me and what about, I am now moderately confident that if I repeated the experiment, I would experience less anxiety. There had been nothing of particular note or urgency. And not a single phone call.

That being said, in today’s hyper-connected society, it’s interesting how compulsive it is to respond to people immediately, or at least find out who is messaging you. I looked forward to checking my phone at midnight. However, once I had seen who had messaged me and why, my anxieties were assuaged and I happily went to sleep without responding until the morning.

 

Being technologically-addicted is a completely socially-accepted behaviour

When out and about, catching the Tube back home you notice how many people are constantly on their phones. At work drinks when the conversation came to a lull, we all had our phones out, checking messages for a good minute before conversation resumed. I’m not judging it as good or bad, it just is as it is. It’s a comfortable thing you can rely on.

A man stood on the stairs blocking part of the way at the station, but because he was staring at his phone while doing so, it was acceptable. No one said anything. Should that be acceptable?

 

I did a lot more of what I wanted to do by cutting out technology

The day was a lot of fun, overall. We:

  • cooked
  • cleaned
  • went out exploring and saw bits of London we haven’t seen before
  • practiced musical instruments
  • read a lot
  • wrote a lot
  • figured out different ways to get things done with less technology involved
  • interacted with more people while out than we would otherwise

It was a very full day, and towards the end of it, I was pretty tired. Around 8 or 9pm, I started finding myself at a loose end, just craving a bit of mindless entertainment. I ended up picking up a book to read, but I had certainly  wasn’t sure what to do with myself for a while. But compared to an average weekend day at home, this one was quite productive.

In fact, the day felt a lot longer. I had so much time to do what I wanted to do.

 

Binges happen

At midnight, I had a solid 20 mins of checking that everything was fine with the world before going to sleep. I felt far less anxious afterwards. Today, once I started responding to messages from yesterday, I had a few instances of getting sucked into the internet. Arguably this blog post is the continuation of doing technology-focussed things. But this brings me to my next point…

 

Consumption of vs creation of something using technology is quite different

One of my main take-aways from yesterday is that I think technology is better or worse for you depending on how it’s being used. When used as a utility, a means to help you do something (e.g. write something, find a recipe to cook, how to get somewhere, the tabs for a song that you want to play on a guitar), I think it’s a much better use.

Using technology as mindless entertainment is something I’m clearly guilty of, and going to try and reduce in future. It’s far far too easy to start doing it and not realise how long it’s been. If you’re creating something or doing something constructive, it’s more intense and I know I’ll naturally limit the time taken doing it. There’s only so many hours in a day I can spend writing or practicing guitar before I get mentally exhausted, for example. Netflix binges, however, can last far longer, and they’re much less constructive.

 

I am implementing more limits on technology

Another learning I think is important, is that I want to explictly plan in time for communicating with people digitally. A lot of people recommend only checking email every few hours at specified times, and while I’m not sure I can do that at work, I certainly want to apply this on weekends. So I’ll start bringing in messaging time-frames. Perhaps twice a day, e.g. at 9am and 6pm, unless it’s something urgent. But urgent things would probably be better done via a phonecall. This should help condense my “oh, I wonder if someone replied to my message” checks considerably and I should be more efficient at checking emails texts, Whatsapp, Messenger, and other apps all at once.

I will probably also allow for low-energy entertainment time, but only if I can’t think of a good non-technology-based way of entertaining myself first.

 

It comes down to me controlling my behaviour and making better choices

What I appreciated most about this experiment is the sense of control. It was like I was taking back my autonomy and not just giving in to urges to check things online one more time. I was honestly telling myself “no, I don’t want to do that now” whenever the inclination came up. Today,  it’s become easier. I’m using technology to work for me again, rather than be a slave to its every beep and buzz.

As I’ve written this blog post, I’ve had my phone buzz a couple times. Firstly, I ignored it. Secondly, I then went in and switched off the visible/audible notifications for those apps. I will read them in a few hours when I feel like it’s time to check in with the world again. But writing has been much more efficient because I’m not multi-tasking and I don’t have any email or facebook windows open in the background. This alone is satisfying enough to continue this behaviour in the future.

I’ve also combined this with making a concerted effort to use technology in a constructive way whenever possible, rather than simply as entertainment. Having perpetually made resolutions to spend more time creating rather than consuming entertainment in the past, I now look forward to spending much more of my spare time being creative.

To my friends reading this: I apologise that I will probably be slower at responding to messages in future. If you want an immediate response, please call me. 🙂

I honestly believe I will be better off this way.

 

2012-11-26_mobile_relationship(credit: Manu Cornet)

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Pedestrians, please don’t make me hate you.

I’ll admit it, there are times when I am the most clueless tourist there ever was. But, as a rule, I don’t consider myself a tourist. I’m a traveller. I go places, I immerse myself into a location and try to coexist with the existing population. This means embodying the “When in Rome” spirit. In cities always on the go, such as New York City or London, this means walking quickly and being aware of the thoroughfare.

Unfortunately, many people do not do this when out and about in the world.

I was recently in Oxford Street’s Primark in London. That was my first mistake. Even to get in, there were people who were walking 3 abreast, ridiculously slowly. I should have realised this was a bad omen. Please, get out of my way.

I managed to overtake them once we were inside, but then I was faced with the amblers who stopped without notice to look at products beside the aisle. Or they weaved back and forth between the left and the right side of the walkway, preventing people behind them from passing. I grew frustrated and took a detour between racks of clothing to get to the escalator leading to the floor I needed. On the escalator, people blocked its entirety, instead of leaving the left side free for people to walk past, and spoke loudly of their new-found bargain-basement treasures. I excused myself and they let me through, grudgingly. Really? You’re the ones annoyed by me wanting to not spend more time in this hellhole?

Once at my destination, I grabbed what I needed and dashed to the check-outs… where I was greeted by a 20 person line ahead of me. Le sigh. The 2 sales assistants at the check-outs looked worn out and completely apathetic. Given their minimum-wage and unrewarding roles, I couldn’t really blame their attitudes. They were slow, but did things. However, the line seemed to be moving at a pace which makes political progress seem fast. I realised it was the people in line who weren’t paying attention to when the next check-out was available. A sale would be completed, the sales assistant would say “Next customer please”, and the people at the front of the line were often oblivious to this, needing to be beckoned a second, sometimes even a third time. Or they would just look up and not have any idea which counter to walk to. Come ON, let’s go, people!  Watch what’s going on! 

My blood started to boil when, having completed my purchase, a family (parents, pram, baby and two little ones) stood blocking the pathway to the door. Lemme out, lemme out, lemme out now! I can see you have to adjust your family and strap everyone in, but must you block the entire way?? At every turn, more shoppers blocked my way completely oblivious and uncaring to their surroundings. They just saw shiny things and price tags.

I weaved in and out, and skirted around this obstacle course known as “shopping” and finally reached the door to the street. There, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had a metre of space in front of me. I fell into the pace of the pedestrians on the footpath. This was more tolerable. Until people walked out of stores in front of me, turned in my direction but kept talking to people behind them. Not surprisingly, they walked straight into me. LOOK where you’re going! If anyone tried doing that in a car, there’d be constant accidents and fatalities.

I’m generally such a chill person, but experiences like this make me wish many curses upon my fellow man.

As such, the general rules which apply to driving should also apply to high-pedestrian-traffic areas as well:

  • Watch where you’re going.
  • If you need to stop while walking somewhere, find a place on the side of the thoroughfare where you can pause to answer your phone, check the map or dig out your metro card, ie DON’T BLOCK THE TICKET GATE, PATHWAY OR STAIRS.
  • Don’t block the entire walkway. This means leave space on the side for people going in the opposite direction to pass by, or for people wanting to overtake to use.
  • Be aware of the people around you, and roughly what their intentions are.
  • Stick, roughly, to the side of the pathway which reflects the side of the road that people drive on. Eg on the right in the US, left in the UK.
  • If you are waiting for a space to open up for you to move into (eg a sales counter), watch what’s going on. Imagine what would happen if all cars at traffic lights needed to be honked at when the light goes green. The world would be a much more irritating place.

Is this really so much to ask? Don’t make me wish you a horrible, fiery death just because you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. 😉

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The adventures of Me and the French Part of My Brain

For me, learning language has two key components:

1. Being able to understand the world around you.

2. Being able to interact with the world by finding out information, contributing information or just making jokes and sharing your personality.

So far, understanding the world around me has improved dramatically over the past few months of being in Paris, as expected. Understanding the conversations around you feels like the auditory equivalent of the world coming into focus. The world is much more focussed now. 🙂

Interaction with the world, however, takes a LOT more effort and learning. As such, it often feels like there are several parts of my brain. The primary, English-speaking part (Me), and the part that interacts in a foreign language. While the primary part of my brain is mostly consistent in its playfulness and interactiveness with the universe, the French Part of My Brain (FPoMB) seems more temperamental. Sometimes they play well together. Sometimes, not so much.

Months ago, when I first returned to Paris, they had this exchange:

Me: Oh hey there, French Part of My Brain, long time no see! We used to be so close!

FPoMB: Oui. Qu’est-ce que tu veux? (“Yes. What do you want?”)

Me: Well I know we’ve drifted terribly, and it’s been over 12 years since you had a proper French lesson… but now that we’re in Paris, it’d be super awesome if I could return to that state of near-fluency we were at.

FPoMB:

Me: I’ll give you more French lessons!

FPoMB:

Me: I’ll immerse you in the culture!

FPoMB:

Me: I’ll ply you with French wine?

FPoMB: Peut-être. (“Maybe.”)

And, admittedly, after a drink or two, the French does come out more easily, though I don’t rely on it.

More recently, since I’m understanding more of what’s happening around me in the world, the urge to interact with it is much stronger. Especially telling jokes. I love making people laugh. And I honestly believe that a good indicator of your strength at a language is whether you can make jokes in it. So, these days, it feels instead as though there’s me thinking up all these witty and informative things to share with the world because I understand more, and the FPoMB is there as a gatekeeper.

On good days, the interaction is like this:

Me: Oh, I understood what that person just said. I know how I could respond, potentially in a funny fashion!

FPoMB: Si tu veux. Vas y. (“If you like. Go ahead.”)

Me: Yay! (I run out to play and frolic in the land of successful interaction).

On other days, it is a bit more like this:

Me: Oh, I understood what just happened! Lemme out and play!

FPoMB: Non.

Me: But I could make this super-funny joke, it’d be awesome!

FPoMB: Non. Le moment est passé. (“No, the moment has passed.”)

Me: Aww, but pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease? I want to be out there! (Face is pressed up against the glass, whimpering sounds commence.)

FPoMB: J’ai dit non! Tu ne passeras pas! (“I said no! You shall not pass!” FPoMB is Gandalf-esque, dressed in a cloak, dust is swirling, and the staff in her hand is slammed down at the appropriate moment.)

you-shall-not-pass

So, yeah. To my French friends reading this, when we’re talking and I have a blank expression on my face (or perhaps one of frustration as I try to think of how to phrase something), the above is most likely happening in my head. I thank you for your patience. 🙂

How do you learn French? ALL THE WAYS!

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One of my favourite things about travelling is learning the local language. And while previously I’ve mentioned the basics you should learn when arriving in a foreign country, I’ve been in France long enough to start focussing on more sophisticated conversations with the hopes that I will be able to work in French soon.

There’s a standard framework used for European language learning called the CEFR. This explains some of the competencies expected at each level. Language schools tend to teach you a curriculum based on particular levels. My French, to my knowledge, is somewhere in the B1-B2 range, depending on what I’m talking about, and with whom. For work purposes I should ideally be in the C1 or C2 range, so there’s still a lot for me to work on.

Meanwhile, I seem to be able to function in French, more or less. I can buy things in shops, order food at restaurants, have basic conversations about who I am and what I’m doing in France with minimal issues. I am starting to ask more complex questions and I surprise myself with the concepts I’m able to convey. I can understand most of what is said to me, at least the general topic area and the sentiment.

So far, my French education involved 6 years of classes in school (ages 12-18), and when I first arrived in Paris in April, I took classes at the Alliance Française for 3 months to try and bring back what I’d forgotten from my teenage years. I was away over the summer, and didn’t practice during that time at all, really. (Bad me!) So there was a little backsliding in terms of my skills when I returned in November. But after a week or two I think I was back at where I had been in June.

In November I decided that I wanted to focus on my spoken French for a while, since I can already read and write reasonably well. I needed to get my verbal French up to the same standard.

Of course, I don’t have the money for a French tutor to really work with me every day, or even French lessons so I have to find other solutions.

So, what have I been doing other than lessons?

  • I have moved in with French flatmates. Even if the daily conversations are only a few minutes of ‘Are you using the washing machine now?’ or ‘By the way, I will have a friend visiting for a few nights next week’, every little bit forces me to think about how I would express myself in French, and they speak only French to me. Even finding a place to live was an adventure of calling up in French and meeting them speaking only in French. Deciphering ads on Le Bon Coin (the French equivalent of Craigslist) was entertaining, too.
  • I ALWAYS try French first. At the bank, at the supermarket, at the train station, at the internet café. Everywhere. I assume the person I’m interacting with knows no English, even if I know they speak some. You’d be surprised at how much you can express if you just try and use a few key words. Also, I’m very good at gesturing. In fact if they respond in English (because I’m a foreigner with an accent), I often keep trying the French despite their English efforts. I am determined to communicate in French if I possibly can!
  • I found a wonderful conversation group: l’Arc. It’s a group of native French retirees who provide an environment where you can go and practice your French with other non-native French speakers from all over the world. At each table there’s a French person to guide the conversation, welcome new people to the table, and to help provide corrections when required. It’s on 5 afternoons a week, and they even organise weekend trips every few months to see more of the countryside. I try to make it there most days for at least 2-3 hours at a time. It helps to have some degree of fluency, though. To begin with I sat and listened a lot, but these days I interact much more.
  • The Polyglot Club has also been incredibly useful. This is an organisation where you can get in touch with people who want to participate in language exchange events. You can find native French speakers who want to learn English, for example. I go semi-regularly to some of the evening events and over a beverage I chat with French natives in French, then in English. Or Polish, or whatever other language I want to practice. The website also provides resources to help correct written works. But be careful because not all of the corrections are done by native speakers.
  • Also through Polyglot and My Language Exchange I have connected with people for one-on-one language exchanges. We meet for a drink, or lunch, and spend half the time speaking French, and half English. The one-on-one nature means you get more personal feedback, but also it means you need to be lucky to click with the person so the dynamic works between the two of you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Thankfully, as a native English speaker I’m in demand and could probably meet someone new every week if I needed to.  Exchanges can happen in person, via IM, phone or Skype, depending on your preference.
  • I consume lots of the media. I watch French TV and news, I listen to French radio, I read newspapers. Usually, I’m terrible at keeping on top of current affairs in English-speaking countries. Here, I’m better simply because I’m using it as yet another resource to help understand the language.
  • I love watching French films and reading books which I already read in English before. Currently, I’m making my way through Bridget Jones’ Diary 2: The Age of Reason. In French. Booyah. Lots of slang, but because I’ve read the book and seen the movie, I think i understand a lot more than I might otherwise.
  • I do local courses. In an interesting twist, I’ve been volunteering at a swing dance school. So I attend dance classes, even beginner ones which are well below by skill level, to learn French. Arguably, much of the vocabulary I learn is specific to the domain of dancing, and I’m not sure how often I will need to describe keeping your core straight but rotating your hips in other circumstances. But I’m sure even the brief interactions with the teachers and other students are helpful from the perspective of learning French social interactions and how interactions differ here. I’m also finding it interesting to try and diagnose the beginners’ mistakes, and attempt to explain how to do it better in French.
  • I plan to also join a ukulele practice group when it stops conflicting with my schedule. And in that vein I’m listening to and learning to play some French songs.
  • There are dozens of mobile applications to make use of too, for vocabulary and to practice grammar. These are great when you have a few minutes to kill on the train, for example, or waiting for a bus.
  • I’ve dabbled with online resources like Duolingo and LiveMocha, but honestly, for me interactive activities work better. Online stuff rarely retains my attention for long.
  • I have also listened to a lot of mp3s (Pimsleur, BBC Active Talk 2) especially while walking somewhere or working out at the gym. Definitely good ways to make the most of your time.
  • Finally, one of my evil plans is to translate these blog posts into French, too, (with the help of my French friends, of course). Stay tuned!

What am I missing? What have been your most effective language-learning techniques? 🙂

Protests.

protest

France is known for being a country where people stand up for what they believe in. It’s a country of protests. It’s a country of going on strike when necessary. That makes sense to me.

Today, there’s a large anti-gay-marriage protest happening in Paris, and, to be honest, I just don’t understand.

Can someone please explain to me how being against gay marriage makes sense?
The arguments I’ve heard are that:

 
1. Marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman.

Really? The bible spoke of many forms of marriage, often with many wives, or the sale of people being involved. A more recent flavour of the week has been marriage between a man and a woman. Perceptions and beliefs evolve. Surely we should promote ‘marriage’ as a union between two individuals who want to be committed to each other and potentially raise children together in a loving and committed environment?

2. Children should be raised by both a father and a mother.

Firstly, why? Countless people have been raised in non-traditional households and been fine. Also, countless people have been raised in a ‘traditional’ household and turned out to be gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but arguing against gay marriage suggests that there is), or much worse.

Secondly, studies show that the best thing for children is a stable household. Single-parent-raised children have more social issues growing up, as do children of divorced parents. There is NO research suggesting that being raised in a same-sex parent household affects the quality of their upbringing. The main factors that contribute to child wellbeing are stability of  the caregivers’ relationship, and other factors such as family income and time spent with the children. It happens that most ‘stable’ families with consistent family structure tend to be of the traditional structure. But that’s because most people tend to be in heterosexual relationships. That doesn’t invalidate the quality of the potential family in a same-sex parent situation.

If you want to argue that it’s so that children are shown both aspects of gender, you’re horribly misguided. ‘Gender’ is a complex term these days. And even if there were only a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ version, does that mean the man has to be the family breadwinner and the woman the homemaker? Are you implying that families where the man is the stay-at-home-husband are no longer fit to raise children? Or single parents? Should we take these children away from their parents because these families do not conform to the stereotypical view of a ‘family’ that you are trying to perpetuate? Should we ban divorce?

And if these family examples are ok, why not same-sex parents? People who are ready for parenthood (emotionally, financially and otherwise) and who want to raise children are probably much better suited to parenthood than a traditional couple who fall pregnant by accident before they have the resources set up for a family.

3. A man and woman family is the ‘natural’ thing.

What do you mean by ‘natural’? It occurs by itself in nature? Gay people aren’t made in labs, you know. They occur naturally in society and have done for thousands of years. Not just in humanity, either.

And since when does humanity only do the conventionally ‘natural’ thing? Should we shun all medications because they don’t grow on a bush? Since when is it ‘natural’ to sit in a plane seat for 6 hours or more and move at close to the speed of sound to go visit another country?

 

4. A man+woman family is the truth.

I’ve seen posters for the anti-gay marriage movement which say ‘On ne ment pas aux enfants’, ‘We don’t lie to the children’. I take issue with that concept. By telling your children that families only exist as a man+woman+children = family concept, you are lying. There are other options.

Also, you’re implying that same-sex couples would lie to their children. They would have no reason to. In fact, if anything, they’re being more honest by saying that people sometimes don’t conform to convention. A child raised in a same-sex parent household would surely be told that it has a biological mother and father, but that the parents it has at the moment are the ones that love it most and look after it, no matter what happens. If anything, a heterosexual adoptive couple would have more motivation to lie about the child’s biological parents.

———————–

A question for you anti-gay-marriage conservatives, too:

Why do you care?

Why would you go to the point of protesting this issue? It doesn’t change or invalidate heterosexual marriage. If anything, it promotes the idea of long-term commitment, which is by far a more useful and heart-warming concept than anything else on the table here.

It doesn’t improve your marriage to stop someone else getting married! Nor does it make it more worthwhile. Why would you be against people who love each other officially committing to one another under the eyes of the law and getting the same benefits as any other couple?

I just don’t understand. From all logical standpoints it just doesn’t make sense. Why do you care?

It just looks like bigotry to me.

 

 

Top 10 ways to look like a tourist. (Conversely, how to avoid doing so.)

These days when I’m out and about in a city, I like playing the game of ‘Spot the tourist’. Some people make this game way too easy. If I wanted to make this a drinking game in Paris, I’d get alcohol poisoning within an hour. 🙂

The most effective ways to look like a tourist are the following:

1. Read your map / guide book in public.

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I’m a perpetual traveller, and so can you.

My friends know me as the Traveller. Always planning a trip here or there, and who knows where I’ll be any given month. They wonder how I can afford it.

A few years ago, I read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It’s an interesting read, and while I don’t subscribe to all of his advice, some things did sink in for me. For example, he talks about the importance of not leaving all your time off to when you’re old and retired and no longer as energetic as you were in your 20s and 30s. Instead, he recommends mini-retirements. 3 months here and there, perhaps once a year if you can do it. It’s been a lot of fun for the past 4 years. 🙂

Now, for many people, this concept seems downright impossible. In fact, if you ask a random American about their plans to travel they’ll usually talk about how they don’t have any leave left after planning Christmas and Thanksgiving and a single week somewhere else.

But taking 3 months off per year is doable. And hasn’t landed me in debt.

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