Losing Weight


John on Sept 2, 2019. Start of trip.

One of my big goals for this trip is to lose weight. I was heavier than I would have liked when I started working at Google six years ago, and I gained about 30 pounds during the time I was there.


I'm not blaming Google. The company does a lot to make it possible to get and stay in shape while working there. They have free gyms on site (GFit). They have social groups for people to work out together. You can flex your hours.


No, it is all about me. I never got into a good pattern of exercise which fit with a full time job and 1 ½ - 2 hours of commute time per day. I also got into a habit of staying up later than my family, which was unproductive time, sometimes including a late night snack and/or cocktail.


So, one of the things I really want to do on this trip is lose weight. Some of this is pretty easy, just by virtue of being less sedentary. Lowering my stress level helps as well. Plus not eating American portions or American processed foods really helps.


I've lost some already, and am being more mindful about what and when I eat. I'm also starting to work out (including walking across Siem Reap to the only AC equipped gym to find out that they were not running the AC that day).


As I focus on this, I realize that I'm interested in shedding other kinds of weight as well. In our busy lives, stuff just accretes. It has been revealing to watch the length of my to-do list steadily decrease, after growing impressively as we prepped for the trip. I'm now at the point where there is rarely much that I *have* to do, which is a really nice change, and which is freeing up energy for doing what I want to do (including this writing).


Losing the weight of to-dos is a very lightening experience.


Next is losing habits. It turns out that I can be quite happy without doing many of the things that I normally was doing, including:

  • Watching TV

  • Watching movies

  • Having control of background music

  • Having wine with dinner

  • Having fancy coffee at least once a day (I do want that one cup in the morning)

  • Buying things just because I want them (having to carry them on the trip nixes this urge)

  • Consuming news

As I said above, as I lose the weight of these habits and todos, I'm gaining energy for what I want to do, including:

Writing: It turns out that I really enjoy writing. During my time at Google, I held this false belief that any writing energy I had should be put into the writing that I was inevitably behind in doing for work. The *should* writing prevented the *want to* writing from happening. Since I wasn't writing for myself, starting on any such writing felt like a huge thing. Anything I wrote had to be great, since I hadn't written in so long. The blogging of this trip has pushed that to the side. I know that many of these articles are just travelogues, but getting them out has unlocked my finger flow to the point that I can easily sit down and make use of 15-30 minutes to start something.

Exercising: I know it is hard to believe, but there have been many times in my life when I was in great shape. Particularly in high school when I rowed crew for four years. I can have a lot of discipline when it comes to exercise, and I can really enjoy it. Even though I started this trip with two chronic injuries, which are persisting (I choose not to name them, as that only gives them power), I have been walking a great deal, and started doing swim workouts when we reached Ko Lanta. I won't be running any time soon, but am enjoying being in the pool for something beyond just lounging, and even the hot gym in Siep Reap felt good (though the overworked bicep the next day didn't).

Playing Music: My family all thought it was a bit funny that I really committed myself to this trip by buying a great travel guitar. My thinking was that if I wasn't singing (having been involved in 3 a cappella groups prior to the trip), and I would have time on my hands, I wanted to be able to really practice guitar and learn songs in a way that I haven't since high school. The first few weeks of the trip were pretty frenetic, and I actually detached the neck of the guitar to make it easier to travel with, but our downtime in Ko Lanta let me practice a few days in a row, which felt great. (Don't tell my family, but another goal of mine is to involve them in some of these songs. This can be our secret).

Exploring the World: Travelling is, of course, about new experiences and input, and I love seeking that out. There's a seductive pull to do too much, to let a lot of "shoulds" creep into travel planning. I think we are getting better at this, and relaxing into the idea that we have different wants, tolerances, interests, and needs for personal time. It really is ok to not do some things that are "highly recommended". And, some days, you just gotta do laundry and do planning. But, on those other days, it is an amazing world, filled with interesting people, and we are so lucky to have this time to explore.

Connecting with Naomi and Keegan: I wrote before about the trials of traveling, and it can certainly be difficult to be around the same people all the time. But, I am very happy that there have been many great conversations in all configurations that are showing me more and more the adults that my kids are becoming. I try not to put weight on this (linking back to the topic of this post), but to open up the space and notice when it happens. In a lot of ways, I'm trying to shed the weight of being Dad, to let them see the me under all that stuff.

Connecting with Laura: Laura and I have always traveled well together, but its still nice to see us getting better at it. She remains more of a morning person and I more of a night owl, but we have far more overlap than our previous patterns. We have a good rhythm of planning, doing, hanging, talking, eating, packing...the stuff of travel. We continue to share taste in food to an extreme extent, and we tend to like the same people. I'm a little more facile at picking up accents, and Laura is bolder about asking for help.

Attaching to Purpose: Although I am trying not to think about what comes after this trip (that feels like a lot of weight), I am trying to notice when things are important to me. I'm noticing what I'm noticing about how people live in the world, relate to each other, use or are abused by technology, treat the Earth, feel about their country, and find meaning in their lives. I know that there will come a time when I'll be wanting to figure out the "now, what?" part of these observations, but for now, it is nice to just bring some beginner's mind to it.



One month later in Kho Lanta, Thailand.

So, I guess I am trying to lose the stuff that has gathered over these years that has weighed me down, and covered the me underneath. I know that I won't regrow my hair, or become a super lean muscled Adonis. I know that the music thing will just be for fun. I know that writing is a great way to codify my thinking, and doubt that I'm every going to do much with it beyond blogging. But the point is, that these things feel good to me in a way that I feel proud of, where I was feeling pretty stuck in patterns before the trip.


Even being able to say all of the above feels "lightening".

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