We’ve been back from our London workation for nearly a month, and I swear these last few weeks have gone by faster than when we were in London! Maybe because it’s been a haze of adjusting back, finishing up the school year, family/friend celebrations, and getting into the swing of summer. All super fun things, but I’m just now settling into reflecting on our time overseas.
We scheduled our arrival in Minneapolis for a Thursday so that we had a three-day weekend to adjust. We needed every minute of that to catch up on sleep, adjust to U.S. Central Time and to simply acclimate back home.
For the following work week, I kept a clear schedule: No appointments, no in-person meetings and not even a trip to the gym to work out. I just wanted a free week to focus on work, make sure the boys were doing fine back in school, and attend to all the little things that come with being away for so long.
The great news is that the boys were excited to get back to school. Our first-grader joked, “What if I forget what my classroom looks like?” and our five-year-old told a classmate, “I think you’ve gotten taller!”
I think our oldest was a bit nervous about seeing his friends again and fitting back into the social picture, but as the week went on he became more and more relaxed.
After each of our three workations, I make a list of lifestyle changes I want to incorporate back into our day-to-day life here in Minnesota. I’ve already made and kept several based on past trips, including:
- If possible, no meetings or conference calls before 9 a.m. This makes getting out the door in the morning much, much less stressful.
- Not worrying so much about our kids getting hurt if they’re playing in a precarious place (climbing partway up a tree or scaling some rocks or brush pile). If it’s unlikely that they’ll seriously injure themselves, I let them experiment.
- Walk walk walk. This is a really tough one to keep in our car-centric lifestyle (our driveway alone is almost a mile long). But walking several miles a day, as we do during every workation in a large city, changes how you feel about your body. Even though I work out 3-5 times a week, regularly walking 2-5 miles just feels different and in many ways, better.
Now that we’re back from London, I’ve committed to few more lifestyle changes:
Turn my clock away from my bed at night. How many times do you wake up at night, immediately look at your clock, and then worry about things like, “It’s 1:30am! I have to get back to sleep NOW or I’ll be up all night!” or “It’s 5:00am, should I just get up or lay here for a bit longer?” and then you spend the next hour or two thinking about the time passing.
For six weeks I used my cellphone as my clock and most times it was plugged in out of reach, so I couldn’t see the time when I woke up at night. And yet I felt like I had to know the time….but why? What would that change? The only time I should care about is whatever time I get up for work – in which case my alarm helps me with that! So now that we’re back home, I turn my bedside alarm clock away from my bed at night and I don’t worry about the time unless my alarm is going off. In a world where we seem to live and die by schedules, this small act is surprisingly freeing.
At night, prep everything for the next day. This means kids’ lunches, their backpacks (or better yet, have them prep their own bags), my work materials, my purse, my gym bag, etc. It’s bit of extra time at night, but the time saved in the morning is so much more valuable to me. I’ve been able to sleep an extra 20 minutes or so, and that small amount makes a big difference psychologically if not physically.
Attempt to schedule all non-work appointments in one week. This is definitely a personal preference, but I find that having one disruptive week of haircuts, oil changes, dentists visits, etc. is better than having four weeks of disruptive days that are all spread out. You could also do this with networking meetings, client appointments, etc.: Attempt to schedule all of them in one week and have the other three weeks of the month relatively free to just focus on work and/or other projects.
Walk walk walk. See above.
Get fluent in a language. There’s nothing like being in a cosmopolitan city to remind you that a lot of the world speaks multiple languages. A friend of ours who visited us in London spoke German, English and Spanish fluently with three random groups of people over the course of one lunch and later remarked to me, “I should really learn an Asian and Middle Eastern language to cover my bases.”
I want that too! I was a Spanish major in college, and for a period of time I was decent at it. But since 2002 I’ve mostly gone downhill. I’ve committed to finding someone or some program to tutor me starting this summer so that I can confidently gain fluency in a second language.
On a final note, there’s nothing like an absence to make the heart grow fonder. I saw our house with completely new eyes when we got back – with an intensity and appreciation I haven’t experienced when coming back from other trips. I’m not certain of why it was different this time…maybe I was especially “present” in London, I’m not sure. Regardless, I was absolutely amazed by the large and little things of our life here: The size of our kitchen, the green of our yard, the beauty of the Mississippi River out our window and even the depth of our junk drawer. Although I consider myself a very grateful and “glass half full” person, my final lifestyle change is to focus even more on the absolute beauty of what’s around me and less on what needs to be fixed or changed.