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The most common reaction to seeing us young folk on the cruise was to compliment us on our performance the previous night. Apparently all young people look the same, and the dance corps was also a young group of people aboard the ship. The second most common reaction was to ask us what in the world we were doing on the ship. After all, we were all young, and everyone besides the ship employees was old.
Whenever I'm trying to convince someone to come on a cruise with me, which is something I seem to do pretty regularly, the conversation gets to the point where the fact that it's essentially a floating nursing home must be addressed. Not everyone believes me when I tell them that I really enjoy hanging out with the old people.
Part of it is that many of them have lots of interesting stories, and you get to see a side of the older generations that you may not all be privvy to. I've got some choice quotes from senior citizens that wouldn't be fit for print here. Another aspect of it, though, is that it affords a view of what happens when we age.
The variance in health amongst people in their twenties or thirties is pretty small. Sure, there are some outliers who ended up on the losing end of the cancer lottery, but mostly people are mentally alert and reasonably physically capable.
The same cannot be said for senior citizens.
There seems to be a real split. As best I can tell, there's one group that's taken care of themselves and stayed mentally sharp, and there's another group that's maybe not so active and healthy and not so mentally sharp. Physical and mental shape seem to be correlated.
And, boy, what a difference it makes. The eighty-year-olds in good shape will have you cracking up with their wit. One lady aimed her cane at us and used it to machine-gun us down. Plenty of them are more outgoing than I am, making the effort to approach our group and start a conversation. One woman, Diane, got up on stage with me to sing the chorus of Ice Ice Baby, and to dance.
And then there's the other side. On the rare occasions they move, they move at a glacial pace. You look at their eyes, and see no spark. Even though they're the same age as the other group, they seem decades older.
I'm not there to judge the latter group. I have no idea what it's like to get old, and I'm sure that external and internal forces both play a part in the aging process. But there is a big difference, and I definitely want to be in the former group.
When you first go on a cruise, it's hard not to go nuts on the unlimited food and dessert. By by the end, I was only eating one dessert a day, and only on days I had worked out. I skipped the starches in the entrees, and mostly just ate meat, beans, and vegetables. And four lobsters on lobster night.
Diet is undoubtedly a big factor in what causes people to age, and seeing the evidence shuffling around me was enough to motivate me to skip the cake. Mental engagement seems to be the next big factor, but that seems to be something to focus on further down the line.
It's easy to think about the short-term consequences of our actions, and those can be powerful motivators. Not always powerful enough, though, as evidenced with the amount of soda and junk food consumed. Think also about what sort of old person you want to be, and make sure that you're heading in that direction. I've seen both kinds, and one seems to really still be getting a lot out of life.
Photo is an older couple looking out at a Volcano in Horta, which was our first stop on the last cruise.
I'm currently in Berlin. If you're here... come watch me sing Karaoke at Mauerpark on Sunday.
I've written a blog post every single day for a year exactly now. Actually, there have been two or three days I've used the "buffer by one day" clause and had to write two the next day, but still-- 365 posts in as many days.
The bet was Sebastian's idea, and I agreed to it for two reasons. First, I thought it would be an unequivocally good thing to do, and second, because it was just crazy enough that I didn't want to back down from the challenge.
It's amazing to me how quickly something can become normal. As soon as I wake up every day, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write and when I'm going to do it. Sometimes I have a great idea for a post and can't wait to get to it, but other days I'm busy and am grasping at straws for something to write about. As unpleasant as that may be, I wonder if it's maybe the most valuable part of the exercise. After all, the hard part of blogging is coming up with compelling ideas for posts. Maybe practicing that 730 days in a row isn't such a bad idea.
I think my writing has become better, but it's hard to know for sure. This is definitely a case of the frog boiling so slowly he doesn't notice. I feel like I get more compliments on posts that I think are just "good" now, so that's probably a positive sign.
Today a friend showed me a video where an IKEA print was put into a Dutch art gallery. Patrons were asked about the piece in a hilarious and bumbling volley of art-speak. One guy said he'd pay no more than $2.5M for it.
My friend asked me if I'd heard about the study where they put cheap wine in expensive bottles, and wine critics rated it very highly. It's hard for me to understand that, as I've had two (rather repulsive) sips of wine in my entire life. If you could convince me to try wine, there's no way I'd be able to tell.
On the other hand, I'm pretty into tea and feel like I could easily tell a bad tea masquerading as a good one. I've loved cheap teas and disliked expensive ones, so I don't think all that affects me that much.
Later in the afternoon, another friend and I went to see Joshua Bell. If you don't know, he's probably the greatest living violinist. He plays one of the most famous of the Stradivarius violins.
A real love fest went down in the strip mall off the highway in Santa Cruz. We stopped for lunch, at Chipotle of course, and I saw a T-Mobile store. One of my todo items for the following (overloaded) Monday, was to go to T-Mobile and enable wifi calling. But, hey, it's not often you just happen to find yourself in the same parking lot as an open T-Mobile, so may as well get it done early.
As we took care of my business, Justine asked them if she had wifi calling on her plan, too. She didn't, but they could easily upgrade her plan. And that's when I started getting really excited for her, because she was about to get The Greatest Phone Plan Ever.
If you are a traveler who lives in the US, you pretty much need to be on T-Mobile. It's not like Android vs. Apple where there are pros and cons to each-- T-Mobile is just that much better that there's really no comparison. A few reasons why:
1. Free International Data
I remember when I wrote my first book. A friend told me I should do it, he was more financially successful than I was, and so I figured I may as well just do what he said. It was a daunting idea, but I thought that since so many other people had written books, I could probably handle it, too.
Back then I had a funny compact computer that had a seven inch screen, and a proportionately tiny keyboard. I sat down in front of it, and started typing. Next thing I knew, it was time to go to bed. I was so focused that I had forgotten to eat dinner.
I woke up the next morning and kept writing, and again it was late before I knew it. But I had run through my ad-hoc outline. The book was done, just one day after I started it.
Sure, I had to spend a week editing it, rearranging it and formatting it, but that part's easy. You know the hard part is done, so the rest is light and fun.
Everyone wants to work smarter, not harder. No reason not to do both, really, but smarter seems so much more appealing sometimes because it requires less work. The free lunch at the end of that rainbow isn't always as tasty as we might imagine, but once in a while there is a fundamental change one can make to really get more from their effort.
This was illustrated for me this week.
All week I've been trying to fit in time to work on Cruise Sheet. I've needed the internet to work on the next chunk, so my long flights were out. Instead I've carved up an hour here or there, but it felt as though no real progress had been made.
Today I had a solid four hour chunk of uninterrupted work. I know that large blocks of time are the best, and I always talk about it, but I don't always act on it. Maybe it's cockiness that makes me think I can spin up quickly and do work in small chunks.
I stare at my phone's clock. My watch isn't accurate enough for situations like this. Up the street I look for the bus, the one with the happy-looking dog on it. It's 3:22, and the bus was supposed to be there a minute ago. Normally I wouldn't expect that sort of on-time performance, but this is Japan we're talking about.
Finally the bus comes at 3:26. Five whole minutes late, maybe enough to completely sink me. I take a seat next to the door, poised to bolt as soon as we get to the station. The same traffic that made the bus late continues to slow it down, and I get to the train station seven agonizing minutes late.
I run from the bus to the station, tap my card, and bolt up the stairs to the Yamanote line. The train is there, so I have a split-second to choose: do I commit to that route, which would get me to the airport at 4:41, or do I take the Narita Express which will get me there at 4:53, guaranteed?
My flight leaves at 5:15, and I decide that 4:53 is probably not early enough, given that I have to go through passport control. Damn. I jump into the subway car and commit to the 4:41 train.
It's got to be on millions of people's bucket lists. It was on mine, too. My friends and I were going to Jordan, and my one must-do was to go to Petra, the famous city carved from rock in a canyon. And yet, as we were about to go, I didn't want to go anymore.
Going just didn't sound that interesting to me. I imagined making the three hour drive, looking around, being unfulfilled, and then coming back.
The night before, I felt the same way about going to the dead sea. It was cold, and all I wanted to do was sit in the warm car. Even as I paid my $15 and shivered my way down to the water, I told everyone I wasn't going to go in because the water would be too cold.
A few days later we arrived in Egypt. I tried to get excited, but mostly I was looking forward to our flight out of there to the next place.
It is fairly easy to avoid getting rejected. Just don't step up to the plate and you can never strike out. If you really look at it, this is the modus operandi for most people. They're filter feeders, taking whatever comes their way, doing their best with it, but never going out and actively trying to get what they want.
For better or worse, this works okay in our society. Unless you're really near the poverty end of the scale, there's a default life waiting for you. On one end it might be working two shifts, scraping by, but being comfortable on your secondhand couch watching TV. Or on the other end it might be eating from the silver spoon until your inheritance creates a silver spoon for your kids.
If you want that default, whatever it may be, you can just go with the flow. If you want something else, you have to be proactive.
Recently I've been thinking about how this applies to social situations as well. If you only meet the people in your predefined social circles, don't go terribly out of your way to become better friends or be an especially good friend, you'll still be fine. Or at least, you probably won't be lonely.
I've been called unbalanced many times. Not mentally unbalanced (that I know of), but unbalanced in terms of how I spend my time. I spent a whole year doing nothing but pickup. Three years doing nothing but working 12+ hours a day. A lot of time traveling like a maniac. Sometimes people think I work way too much, sometimes way too little. Where's the moderation?
Multitasking was a really sexy until every study proved that monotasking was better. Focus on one thing, then another, then another. Don't try to do all three at once. Extreme focus led to balanced productivity in the end.
I think the same is true on a larger scale. Dedicating your life to mastery in a certain area for months or years at a time unlocks benefits not otherwise available. When your life is "about" something, you prioritize better, go deeper, and get help more from people.
Most people who know me would probably use "well-rounded" to describe me. And if you look at my history, you'd probably agree. I've seen a lot of the world, produced a lot of work, have some level of mastery over social skills, have hard technical skills, and have checked so many items off my bucket list that I probably need a new bucket.