2019 was a year of change for all of us, as every year is, but it felt more profound this year. That has everything to do with writing about it. I know people who made changes on a massive scale, and others minor, but change happens whether we choose it or not. In the spirit of self-improvement as we enter the New Year, here are some small changes in routine that offered a profound return on time invested:
Coffee consumption doesn’t seem like a big thing, but ever since I switched to the AeroPress I’ve reduced my daily coffee consumption, favoring one or two amazing cups to savor over multiple cups of average coffee from a Kurig or drip coffee maker. I’ve reduced my personal plastic waste significantly as well. I’d estimate that I’ve subtracted about 500 used K-cups from the landfill just making the switch. I wish I’d done this years before, both for the reduction in waste and for the exceptional coffee the AeroPress makes. On a side note, since the London and Scotland trip I’ve increased my tea consumption, switching coffee about half the time for tea, and find it a nice enhancement for my daily steaming hot beverage.
Reading every morning, beginning with a quick read of The Daily Stoic for a jump start and moving to whatever book I was chewing on at the time, has built a routine and habit streak that has greatly enhanced my personal philosophy, helped me to know more about the history of the place I live and places I traveled to, opened my mind to spirituality and changed my perspective on a few things. I’ve read more and better books in 2019 and chewed through a few brilliant books that mocked me for years sitting on my bookshelf. Nothing improves the mind like active participation in The Great Conversation.
Educated travel in 2019 was enhanced by the reading, as you might imagine, but became a mission in itself. Major trips to London, Scotland and Chicago were enhanced with educating myself about the places I was going, adding things I would have missed and subtracting things that may have been good but replaced with things that were amazing. But this really became powerful for me in local travel. Local travel took on new meaning for me with quick side trips to see the Saratoga Battlefield while I was in the Capital Region in New York and Fort Niagara in Buffalo, New York and Fort Western in Augusta, Maine. I’ve hiked the trails in Ithaca, New York to see the stunning waterfalls in winter and spring, stopped at lonely graveyards to see the tombstone of Revolutionary War heroes and walked in dress shoes on soggy battleground sites deep in the off-season. Educated travel offers a greater sense of place, and I’m better for having made the time to learn about and then visit these places.
Writing every day has changed me completely. The daily cadence, the skills acquired, and the deliberate action in the previous two habits to enhance the daily writing offered far more to me than any other daily routine. We’ll see where it takes me in 2020, but wherever it goes, you’ll read about it on this blog.
Walking has always been a part of my life. I used to walk home from school four miles instead of taking the bus just to get away from the noise and secondhand smoke that was a part of bussing teenagers home back in those days. When my dog Bodhi got older and passed away in 2019 the walks had decreased in length, and I found myself missing the nightly routine of walking for an hour with him looking at stars. So I started walking again to get that minimum 10,000 steps, but also to come alive again. Doing those steps on the beach or the rail trail or walking around the block at a random hotel somewhere became a mission. I’m currently on a 19 day streak of 10,000 steps per day, managing to get my steps in through the holidays and hopefully for a long time to come. I know I won’t always have the time to do it with work, but then again, what’s more important than maintaining a base level of fitness? Walking is easy, and hasn’t caused nagging injuries like the burpees did for me. When I can’t walk outside I’ll read on the treadmill, magnifying the font to crazy sizes so I maintain good posture. But I double down on two habits and feel better for having done so. So I’ll keep moving, and add other activity to enhance my fitness whenever possible.
Looking at 2020, I’m not looking at resolutions as much as what can I add to my daily routine that will pay off over time? And the answer for me is language acquisition. Being bilingual or multilingual is nothing unusual in the rest of the world, but in American we tend to stick with English. I think I’ve got my head wrapped around that one already. Nothing improves travel like knowing the local language, and nothing challenges the brain like learning to speak it, so it’s time to get back on track. I’ve dabbled in French, Spanish and Portuguese over the years, and it’s time to double down on learning two of them. French and Spanish are the leading candidates, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Portuguese and may explore the language a bit as well. Let’s see where this takes me.