How to “Workcation” and Tips for Long Drives

I’m writing this from my laptop in suburban Pittsburgh. I’m in an empty Panera Bread in a busy strip mall. It’s a brisk day today.  I’m on a weekend-long solo road trip across the state.

I’ve been thinking recently about ways to improve my ability to clear my head and come up with new ideas. Brian Grey of the CGP Youtube Channel likes to go on “workcations” where he goes on a trip to a hotel and just focuses on his work. I decided to try something similar this weekend.

I didn’t have anything specific to work on this weekend. But, I’ve gotten great rest and renewal.

Not this weekend’s hotel room. But a setup from earlier this year that I quite liked. I prefer to keep light hitting my skin while I work and to be able to look out a window for eye fatigue reduction and quick non-invasive distraction.

On Friday morning, I drove from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. I decided to drive in 90 minute chunks. I chose this segment length because…

  1. It’s about the maximum time I can focus on a single task.
  2. It’s about how much time it takes me to digest a small meal.

Every 90 minutes I would stop at a top Yelp restaurant. I found this strategy make the trip go by MUCH faster and I never felt that I was getting burnt out from driving. I have never enjoyed long drives before, but this is beginning to change my mind.

The other thing that kept the drives interesting was having a podcast list from which to pull. I have about 50 hrs worth of podcast episodes downloaded on a wide range of topics I am personally intensely interested in:

  1. Philosophy
  2. Economics
  3. Personal Finance/Investing
  4. Productivity
  5. Psychology
  6. Self-Improvement

These made the trip very intellectually stimulating and created an ability for me to pick out the next audio without being forced into content.

Very good burger from The Girl’s R’ Cooking on the route from Baltimore to Pittsburgh

It also is a great use of my theory of sandwiching anticipation. I’ve found it vastly invigorating and motivating to have things that will excite me coming up next. I’ll often intentionally delay things I’m excited about and sandwich them with boring necessary tasks. This feeling of having something  exciting coming next is phenomenal at keeping my spirits up during boring tasks. I recommend you try this if you haven’t before. It’s one of the reasons I like to plan trips at random times of the year. Because it helps add excited anticipation right after otherwise mundane times of year. In this way, I always leave a few really edge-of-my-seat intriguing  podcast episodes to help me always look forward to getting in the car to drive.

So I got to my destination very quickly from a psychological perspective because I felt the time spent listening to podcasts was time well spent. It didn’t feel like lost travel time. The feeling of travel time loss I think is a MAJOR motivator for folks to avoid travel. Think about ways you can feel productive while traveling. Maybe hold brainstorming sessions in the car, plan out phone calls, etc.

I found myself coming up with a ton of ideas for blog posts, future books I want to read, and people I’d like to reconnect with just by giving my mind this mental space in the car to churn in a different environment listening to episodes I know will perk up my ears at least a few times per episode.

I stayed totally free (I got 5-8 free nights free by signing up for the Hyatt Rewards card which required a $75 annual fee and $2000 spend in 3 months) in an upgraded King Suite at the Hyatt in Pittsburgh. Having a hotel room was awesome. I felt totally obligationless and distractionless. I decided to use the time doing some research, napping, and catching up on Game of Thrones. I didn’t feel like I was being less productive than anyone around me. I didn’t feel I had anywhere to be. I was in “travel mode” without having any real travel goals, other than trying out a few awesome restaurants in the city. The night in a hotel was extremely relaxing. There was nothing to clean up. No noise. And everything I needed was right there in a small, comfortable 1 bedroom environment. The one thing I was dissappointed with was the lack of a bathtub. I really was looking forward to just soaking in hot water. Oh well. There was a heated pool, but I decided not to grab  a used swimsuit from the local goodwill. Could have been fun.

I wouldn’t need much else if I lived on this block in Pittsburgh.

I think what I’m getting at is the importance of creating physical and mental spaces in our lives that allow us to “reset.” The goal isn’t to get anything specific done. Or to visit a person. Or to see sights. The goal is to let your brain work on the things it’s intrigued by in a setting that is wholly free of distractions. Sometimes we are distracted more by our normal spaces than we think.

The other insight here I think is the importance of not allowing the fear of lost travel time to become a roadblock in your exploration of travel and new things. Have a strong list of podcasts downloaded at all times to tap into during road time. I’ve found this actually now has me looking forward to long trips.

Excellent BBQ Eel from Little Tokyo Bistro on Carson St. Pittsburgh