With the work of creating and releasing my latest course, How To Be A Full Time TV Composer, behind me, I thought I’d get back to exploring some topics that are a little broader and applicable to all of us, regardless of what kind of music we make or what are specific niche is.
According to the self-help guru and motivational rock star, Tony Robbins, two of the most fundamental needs we have as humans, is the need for both certainty and variety. We long for things like comfort, security and stability. But when things get too predictable, we tend to get bored and crave variety and excitement.
I can relate to these two, seemingly, contradictory needs a lot. I’ve felt this dynamic at work in all aspects of my life; relationships, work, music, business and more. At times, it seems like life is a tug of war between these two opposing ends of the need spectrum. We need and long for stability, but we also need and desire a certain amount of variety and newness to keep things interesting and fresh.
When my income from licensing my music and making money online combined was enough that I was able to quit my job as a guitar teacher, one of the first things I did with my new-found freedom was to start travelling abroad. Travelling helped me scratch the itch I felt for variety and excitement, at a time when my life was starting to feel very monotonous and uninspired.
My first extended trip was to Costa Rica. Then to Nicaragua. Then to Panama and Colombia. Then to Guatemala. Then to Mexico and Peru. Then to the Dominican Republic.
I became sort of addicted to the feeling of freedom and adventure that travelling gave me. There’s something about going to a new culture that you’ve never been to before, where you don’t really know anyone, that is extremely invigorating. There’s a heightened sense of self that comes to the surface when you put yourself in a new, unfamiliar environment. You’re forced to pay more attention to your surroundings and you feel more alive. Travelling to me is a bit like a drug, which is why so many people are drawn to it. It’s intoxicating.
But, like with drugs, the high you get from travelling eventually wears off. The novelty of being in a new place eventually fades to the point that you’re simply yourself, in a foreign environment. “Wherever you go there you are” as the saying goes. New place, new people, new sights and sounds, but ultimately, the same you, (albeit with new experiences).
Eventually I decided to settle down and get back to leading a more conventional life. I realized that as much as I love travelling and having new experiences, I was travelling so much that it was starting to feel at odds with other, larger goals I had. Things like running a business and writing and recording music are much easier to do if you’re established in one place. Even simple things like going to the gym on a regular basis and eating well can be challenging to maintain when you’re traveling from place to place.
It’s much easier to establish a day to day routine when you’re in one place. It’s also a lot less expensive. Travelling is a great experience, and I grew a lot during the period in my life where I traveled extensively, but like with all things, there’s a trade-off to traveling a lot.
So, for the last few years I’ve settled into a routine of working and recording music on a regular basis. My day to day life isn’t quite as stimulating as it was when I was travelling around Latin America and the Caribbean, but I’m much more productive and I’m able to chip away at my goals much more quickly and regularly. That doesn’t feel quite as exhilarating on a day to day basis as my life of a digital nomad did, but there’s a sense of long term satisfaction and pride that I have now that I didn’t have when I was more focused on having fun and living in the moment.
From time to time though, I long for the feeling that travelling used to give me. I long for the heightened sense of self that comes with discovering new places and new people. Because, even though I realized that traveling extensively isn’t really conducive to the kind of life I want to lead, it was a blast! I have so many fond memories from that period of my life and I have no regrets about spending my time the way I did.
I’ve realized though, that you don’t necessarily need to jump on a plane and fly half way around the world to get that feeling. You can, with the right mindset and attitude, capture that feeling today, right now, regardless of where you live. You can take the feeling and inspiration that experiences like travel brings, and apply it to your daily life, regardless of where you live.
I think the great thing about travelling, is that it forces you outside of your comfort zone. By leaving your comfort zone and exploring uncharted territory, there’s a sense of expansion and growth. That’s what’s exhilarating about travelling. You feel more alive, because in some weird way, you are. You’re forced to be more in the moment and aware of your immediate surroundings. Travelling takes you out of your head and forces you to pay attention to what’s happening right now.
It’s all too easy in life to get locked into boring, monotonous, day to day routines, where every day is more or less the same thing. You work at the same place, on the same projects, with the same people. I don’t care how much you love what you do, if you’re doing the exact same thing day after day, year after year, that’s going to get old. It starts to feel like the movie “Groundhog Day” where you’re trapped in the same day, every day. You long for something different and less monotonous.
But, do you really need to get on a plane and go to a foreign country to meet new people? Do you really need to go to another country to try new food from a different culture? Do you really need to travel to another country to try new things? Of course not. There is a world out there, waiting to be discovered, in your own backyard. People you’ve never talked to, places you ‘ve never gone, cafes you’ve never checked out and classes you’ve never taken. They’re all there, just waiting to be discovered.
Recently I started to feel like my life had become a bit too routine oriented again, and so I made a few simple changes that have alleviated that feeling. The first thing I did is that I rented a co-working space a few blocks from my apartment, so I’m forced to leave where I live every day and interact with new people. That move alone, has done wonders for my psyche. Working for yourself is great, but it can get pretty lonely and isolating if you’re not careful.
The other thing I’ve started to do is go to a new café by my place every morning before I start my day. Again, it’s such a small thing, but my mood has been lifted dramatically by simply going to a new place, interacting with new people and starting my day a little differently than before. Sometimes, small changes in our day to day routine can have a huge impact on the way we feel.
I like to think of this approach to life as having a “vacation mindset”. Instead of waiting for that one or two weeks a year where you go sit on a beach somewhere drinking Pina Coladas to escape your life, adopt a “vacation mindset” right now. Talk to new people. Go to new places. Seek out new experiences right where you are. Shake your life up! Pretend like you’re on vacation, even though you’re not. Take that same sense of seeking adventure and playfulness and apply it to your day to day life. Right now. Wherever you are.
Then, take that same mindset and apply it your music. Write different kinds of songs than you normally do. Take risks that force you to grow. Start interacting with new people in the music business you may have been overlooking. Start taking chances that are both exciting and a little scary at the same time. Straddle the line between stability and uncertainty more and more. That’s where the growth is!
When you live your life in a way that’s fulfilling and meaningful you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t want or need to take a vacation. And if you decide to take one anyway, you’ll find yourself, sitting on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, with a mojito in your hand, staring off into the sunset, bored out of your mind and longing to get back to the exciting life you’ve created.