Living in the Now: Following the 80/20 Travel Rule

Sam Chillingworth, a high school classmate, friend, and now featured writer in the inspiring book series Wake Up… Live the Life you Love, recently passed on a book he contributed to called Living in the Now. At the time, I had just returned from a two-month trip to the mainland and Peru, and (as I usually do when I return from a trip) was experiencing a bad case of travel hangover.

There’s nothing like reading a collection of inspiring essays about embracing life. Some of the tips I found were so helpful in putting life — and, more importantly, travel — in perspective that I thought it would be worthwhile to pass on some life and travel wisdom to ye faithful Gadling readers. Seeing that the new year is so quickly approaching, these tips should generate some good ideas for your 2010 resolution(s). Yesterday, I outlined how to travel in 4D. Here’s my second travel tip — of three:

Brian Tracy, a world-renowned author and motivational speaker, offers some really sound advice in his essay on “Living Without Limits.” He writes, “When you allow yourself to begin to dream big dreams, creatively abandon the activities that are taking up too much of your time, and focus your inward energies on alleviating your main constraints, you start to feel an incredible sense of power and confidence.” This statement alone pretty much sums up the traveler’s experience.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost amid the myriad of tasks I set out to accomplish in my daily life at home, and when I travel, the possibilities are even more endless. In life and in travel, you have to focus your energy on the things that will reap the most rewards. Tracy calls this the 80/20 rule. Whether at work, play, or travel, we need to identify the top 20% things that reap the greatest rewards and focus our energy on that. According to him, by narrowing your focus on what to do, you will be at least 80% happier.

This can be applied to traveling this way: instead of trying to pack your day with as many things as possible, choose only one (or at most a handful) thing that you feel will be the most rewarding. In other words, don’t spread your travel experiences too thin. Get the most out of one travel experience and then move on the the next one. Think of travel like a painting. You shouldn’t look at it and move on immediately. You should stand back, move up close, and contemplate — soak in every fine detail of what’s in front of you.

Applying Tracy’s 80/20 rule is, of course, much easier said than done. Travelers naturally experience sensory and cultural overload upon arrival abroad. With careful research and sound self-knowledge, though, you’ll feel much happier fully immersed in one travel experience at a time rather than many at once.