On Dedicated Reflection Time, or something like that

A few posts back, I explained an important transition in our trip from “traditional tourists” to ones with less frantic sightseeing and more immersion, reflection, thought, and planning. In that post, I referred to it as intentional time and after recently being asked more about it, I’m making good on the promise to share more.

Putting “normal” life on hold for 3 months is tricky, both logistically and mentally: missing out on multiple weddings, subletting our apartment, pressing pause on careers, ensuring animals are taken care of, the list goes on. To make sure we really wanted to go through with this, we talked a lot about what we wanted to get out of our time away and a few themes surfaced:

  1. See what it’s like to spend time with each other outside of work (until now, we’ve worked at the same place for our entire relationship)
  2. Visit new places and learn how people live their lives, taking home the elements we liked best
  3. Recharge, expanding creativity and passion for our careers

It’s really important we go back home feeling like we accomplished what we set out to do, so we set up some structure to encourage success. And let’s be honest, this shift was a necessary move; our bank accounts really couldn’t withstand 3 months of vacation-like living. We needed to fill our days with things other than $28 enchiladas (criminal, really) and paid excursions.  The simplest way to define our structure is “dedicated time to accomplish tasks, reflect on ways to improve our lives and create plans of to achieve them”.

Along the way, we’ve kept a composition journal with 2 lists:

List #1: The things we want to spend more time on, no matter how big or small
List #2: Things we want to bring back home to our “normal” life in California as a result of our time away

By blocking off and scheduling time into our days (usually 1-2 hour chunks), we had dedicated time to accomplish items on List #1, and reflect on items additional items for List #2. Blocking off time each day like a work meeting may seem silly, but in a world of endless stimuli, it’s easy to find something else to do. And after 3 months, we certainly didn’t want to feel like we needed a vacation from our “vacation”.  We were inspired by this seemingly simple structure from the TED Talk: The Power of Time Off where a creative designer takes 12 months off every 7 years to focus on things he wants to, and as a result, ends up producing better work for the next 7 years.

In addition to better illustrating how we’ve been spending our intentional downtime, putting this on the internet also creates a sense of accountability as we inevitably slip back into Silicon Valley speed in just a few weeks. Thanks in advance for holding us accountable for the items on these lists 🙂

List #1:  Things we’ve been meaning to spend time on. These are items we just didn’t get around to when we were back home. While we’ve made progress on many items on this list, it really should never stop evolving, even after we’re back. Some of these are Sara specific, Ted specific, and mutual.

  • Reading for pleasure
  • Investment learning
  • Puppy planning and research
  • Journal entries and blogging
  • Thoughtful communication with people who are important to us (postcards, emails, etc)
  • “Big Party” ideas
  • Nutrition/ health learning and planning
  • Home affairs (bills, digital errands we’ve been putting aside)
  • Mobile confections truck idea (ohhhh yeah)
  • Wedding registry (for our soon-to-be-wedded friends, calm down)
  • Job ideas, industry/ company research and networking (next adventure ideation for Ted)
  • Sara work thinking
  • Meditation (The app Headspace was recommended to us and is great)
  • Stretching
  • Duolingo (French)
  • Photography and learning more about photo editing
  • Surprise Day planning
  • Financial planning and current snapshot
  • Horse stuff
  • Learning and thought (eg: iTunes U and TED)
  • Craftventions and design
  • Quick HIIT workouts
  • Researching things to do at our next destination
  • OML brand ideation
  • Sign up for a fun race together (we are now signed up for San Jose Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon. Join us!)
  • Brain/memory games
  • Look into feastly.com
  • + more

List #2: European-inspired concepts to incorporate into life in general.  It’s kind of like a bunch of New Year’s resolutions but not. Speaking of which, I have an opinion on those: Don’t wait for one day each year to resolve to become better, do something differently, or stop/start a habit.  You’re a damn adult so pick any day of the year, month, or week to enact those changes- -myself included. Without further ado…

  • Make veggie boxes and plant items we frequently use: basil, mint, tomatoes, lettuce (open to suggestions and taking requests!)
  • More healthful cooking and eating
  • Wake up earlier
  • Daily AM read of current events and blogs (taking recommendations of those, too)
  • Be warm and welcoming to others: host people at our house more (we don’t have a 2nd bedroom for nothing, friends–come visit!!), have people over for dinners and casual hangouts.
  • Don’t always pack so many things into one weekend. (note to future self: it’s okay to stay home and chill. Plus, you won’t be so exhausted!)
  • Keep reading books for pleasure
  • Go to the mountains more!
  • Use the juicer we acquired but have yet to turn on. Fresh orange juice is a god given right. Because also, here’s how store bought orange juice comes to be. Sorry to ruin it for you.
  • Befriend local restauranteurs we visit often
  • Ask people about their lives and stories more. People are so interesting and love to talk!
  • Make at home: limoncello, granitas, dipped ice cream bars, etc.
  • Introduce popular European social drinks: vermouth, Aperol Spritz, Hugo, Lambrusco,
  • Make official recipe book of Ted’s drink creations
  • Outdoor gazebo/ lounger for our backyard
  • Acquire Model S (really, it’s time to use the Supercharger network and explore the US)
  • More late night adventures/ excursions with friends
  • Try to plant an avocado tree
  • Art project map/canvas of our travels
  • Ted to enroll in watch making course and make his own timepiece
  • Cook at home with greater frequency
  • + more

As our days left in Europe are in the single digits (what the what?!) I can say without a doubt that we have more than satisfied what we set out to do. Of course, there were moments when we really missed home: my horse, our living room, burritos, work, and especially family and our friends. Actually, today is one of those days as our good friends Drew and Kara are in Hawaii promising to spend the rest of their lives together in just a few hours. Missing moments like these is really tough, but I now know Ted and I can talk for multiple months about other topics aside from EVs, infrastructure, and battery storage ;), I feel inspired to introduce small changes into our regular routine, and I am extremely refreshed, recharged, and ready to press play again on my career. Time will tell, but I think we’ll look back on this short period of time, and see it as a smashing success.

Bone Voyage!

xoxo Sara

Posted from: Our AirBnB at Vicolo dei Sanguinazzai, Palermo, Sicily 90134 Italy




Add yours →

  1. This lovely, thoughtful post brought tears to my eyes. So proud of you guys for the idea of this intentional time away and for following through on your resolution to create dedicated reflection time. Keep up the good work! (Also, I have done lots of life planning and organization over the last year, ranging from creating an advance health care directive and living trust to generating lists of assets and liabilities as recommended by experts. Happy to share tips and resources.)


  2. I loved reading this. I hope Steve and I have a similar experience when doing our travels. I think you hit hard on most of my feelings. Being burned out, needing something to recharge and hopefully leaving me more in tune to creativity and exploring passions. I hope you continue blogging even after the trip, you are a talented writer (among other things). Let me know if you need book suggestions! I can’t wait to see you and Ted !


    • Thanks, Andi. I’m excited for you guys and fully understand how you’re feeling. Your trip is going to be a blast and we’ve actually been talking about your upcoming adventure, making notes on things we strongly recommend, etc. Can’t wait to see you both soon.


  3. That’s a pretty long list of things to spend more time on! I think it’s a great idea to spend time each day reflecting on these matters, and it sounds like it has really worked out for you. I’m inspired to start doing it though! Hope you have a wondeful time in the remaining vacation days you have left!


  4. julianayeomans June 24, 2016 — 7:24 pm

    I need to hear more about this “Big Party” Ideas task????


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