Distractions? What distractions?

If you’re traveling is tourism, you have a great many ways to occupy your time. I can kill a day in a museum with the best of them. If you’re traveling is work, however, then chances are you will need to find some way to distract yourself from your new lifestyle, at some point. Things become much more mundane when they are a daily occurrence. It’s just the way things are in the world.

Distractions come in many forms. They can be elaborate and well thought out projects. They can also be simple things that someone else would take as a break away from the norm. And, also, they can be more traveling. Escaping your exotic location for another exotic location, as crazy as that sounds, can be quite liberating.

Since I have come to live in the desert, I have used all three of these devices as distractions from my daily grind of super-hot weather, horrendously bad drivers and sand storms. I find that each one has its individual merit at any given point. Sometimes, you need an escape, and sometimes you just need to get your head right.

In a world full of social media, it is much easier to stay both distracted and connected at a distance than when I initially started traveling the globe. Back in the 80s, you called home collect or wrote a letter and mailed it. That was high-tech communications. The rest of the time, you were just wherever you were. These days, you can hop on your smart phone from pretty much anywhere on the planet and talk or text with anyone you want. Still, other times, you need a better distraction from where you are than that.

If I want a big distraction, I travel. Getting away is very liberating. It cleans out all of the bad karma and lets you just be. It usually also has a lingering affect, once you return to wherever you escaped from. If you are a follower of this blog, you already know that I tend to blog when I travel. I find it lets people know I’m still alive (Mostly my mom and dad).

On a more important note for other travelers, it can also be extremely cost-effective. If you have uprooted yourself and moved a significant distance for work, say to another continent or completely across a continent, then exploring new places can be considerably cheaper with the reduction in new travel costs. Once I made it to the Middle East, I realized that I could travel around this side of the globe considerably cheaper than when I was always looking at traveling from the USA to wherever I wanted to go. Since that realization, I have done a fair piece of traveling around. The cost savings for nearby plane tickets make it too good to pass up.

For simple distractions, I usually like to go with movies. I’ve said it a thousand times and it still holds true; every movie theater looks the same in the dark. The coke pretty much tastes the same everywhere in the world too. There may be subtitles running across the bottom of the screen, but that’s okay. Most places tend to have a showing in some form of English. You can usually find one. If you want a social experiment, you can try the native language. When I was stationed in Germany, the local town had a second-run movie theater located just off base. We would find out what they were going to show, go rent the video, watch it a half-dozen time, and then go to the movies and see it in German. It was good fun. Usually, the parts you couldn’t understand didn’t drastically affect the movie.

As far as more elaborate ideas go, find a hobby. I think everyone knows by this point, but I write books. Fictional novels keep my otherwise unoccupied mind in check. I am currently working my way through editing revisions for publishing my fifth novel, while trying to find some time to keep writing my eighth novel. As hobbies go, I find writing books to be extremely cathartic and easy to practice anywhere on the planet. If I have a couple pens and a tablet of paper, I’m pretty much good to go. An internet connection is good for researching idea and items, but at the end of the day, that’s why they call it fiction. I highly recommend finding a hobby that is easy to pack and travels well. As a side note, all the travelling gives me great inspiration for my writing. You never know when the great ideas are going to come along.

I have developed several different distractions to keep my head in-check as I move about the globe. Like I said, if you are travelling for tourism, great. If you are traveling for work, I find a thought-out distraction to be a good way to keep me both happy, and mentally challenged. Find something that appeals to your own individual style and throw it in the bag next time you head out. Having something to distract you from your surrounding can be mentally lifesaving, even in the middle of a holiday (Me going to see Avengers while in Bangkok would be a good example of this. Hahahahaha).

Now, get out there. Have fun!

A picture of my latest creation. Well, the various pieces of it anyway.

Sometimes, you just need to exhale. And, be.

Going from one weather extreme to another or one working situation to a completely different working situation is always trying. I have had this experience more times than I care to reflect upon after a 25-plus year career as a contractor. The majority of the time, the transition isn’t that cataclysmic of an experience. But, every now and again, you really end up doing something crazy.

When I decided to migrate to the Middle East for work, I was thinking that it would be hot. I had done hot before. I spent a couple years working in Texas before I came this way. Texas is a hot house in the sunny summer time. It can get pretty hot down that way. Way hotter than New York or Chicago, that’s for sure. HOWEVER, I was in no real way prepared for the extreme change in climate that came with a move to the desert. The Middle East, in the summer, can really only be described as a furnace.

I always used to laugh when someone would say that the heat drove someone crazy. It never really made any practical sense. The cold doesn’t drive people crazy, why would the heat do that? Let me assure you, the heat will drive people crazy! It’s actually crazy how the heat will drive people crazy. (Yeah, I just said that.)

To work outside effectively, you need to plan around the heat. This is hard to do when it is still 100 degrees Fahrenheit at midnight. You try to go do the work during the morning, and hide in the air conditioning in the afternoon. The wise people over here realize that the air conditioning actually makes it worse most days. If you don’t let your body acclimatize to the extreme heat in one way or another, it makes it much worse when you are out in it for extended periods of time. This is an idea that you can’t sell to anyone here. They aren’t buying it, especially if there’s any air conditioning to be had.

Even though it is really-almost-unbearably hot outside, I force myself out into it as much as is practical. I walk places instead of driving the car. I do the outside jobs that need doing, dragging the crew outside against their will. I drink an ever more extreme amount of water to compensate. And, like everyone else, the rest of the time I hide in the air conditioning.

With the weather being what it is, you have to find ways to mentally compensate for the summer heat. Strangely, one of my favorite ways to compensate is to go out to the smoke area and have a soda and a cigar. I don’t do it every day, maybe one day a month or so. I find that it’s always quiet out there, as the heat makes people not want to go out and smoke. Or if they do, they do it as quickly as possible. They don’t linger. This allows me a nice break from the rigors of life in the desert. Granted a Pepsi isn’t a nice glass of whiskey, but in a dry country substitutions have to be made.

The point of this isn’t that you should do seemingly crazy things or that you should go take up smoking or anything like that. The point of this is that if you transition yourself from one environment to another, that transition comes with obvious adjustments, and you need to find things that will add to your calm. Adding to your calm will make the adjustments not be so bad. People tend to get miserable after transitions because they can’t or won’t make an effort to adjust to their surroundings. For people that travel extensively or work all over the planet, this idea of finding something that gives you some calm is very intuitive. For people that are new to the traveling game, or are fixed in their ways to the point that they are no longer pliable, this idea is much more elusive. Well, may not elusive. Let’s say abstract.

Out in the desert, I find that the Bedouin idea of coming together around the tea pot a similar idea as my idea of finding a way to find clam in an extreme setting. They use tea, and I use a cigar and a warm can of Pepsi. Whatever it is that you use to find grounding, I say search it out and use it. Not every day, but now and again. The calm is what you are chasing. Calm can be hard to find in extreme climates and extreme work situations. You need to go out and actively look for it. Knowing when to decompress is as important a part of long term traveling as the movement from one place to another is. You just have to stop once in a while, and exhale. Look around, and see where you are. And, just be.

That’s my two cents anyway….

 

A boiling hot can of Pepsi and a surprisingly fresh Rocky Patel. Sitting in the shade of the smoke shack. Waves of heat rippling off of the sand in every direction. It’s just good stuff.