I wrote a blog article about creating routines in Zanzibar earlier this year. I wrote about my struggles finding my way back home while I was living in Stone Town for a month. Although I tried my best to take the same routes every single day, I got lost as soon as my mind was absent for a minute. Now I visited Stone Town again:
First thing to do after I got there was to go for a coffee in my favorite Café. It’s called Stone Town Café and is one of the very few places where you can find good fresh ground coffee on Zanzibar. Afterwards I went for the Dalladalla place to get a ride to Kizimkazi in South Zanzibar. That was one of the same routes I used to take in January and guess what. I did not get lost. In between people tried to tie me up in conversations about selling me… whatever… a trip to the moon and I kept on walking without paying attention and made my way without any doubt. At one point I woke up from daydreaming and was not so sure where I was. I decided to just keep walking until something looked familiar. Soon it did and I was exactly on track.
Funny that I would not get lost although I had no idea where I was. Somehow somewhere in my unconsciousness the way home was saved. On full automatic mode so to say.
I read and wrote a lot about creating habits and routines this year, but to experience on my own again how powerful habits can be left me speechless.
Scary on one hand to see that all the negative routines we accumulated throughout our lives are leading us that much. Good to know on the other hand that as soon as we change a routine to a positive one it can be as strong and as automated as the previous negative one.
Just keep in mind, it takes a constant daily routine of acting always the same on the same triggers. Scientists say, it takes from a week or two up to some months, to create enough new connections in your brain to create a new routine. In Stone Town it actually took me almost ten days although I was practicing to memorize the route several times per day. And I didn’t have to rewrite any old behavior.
If you have any behavior/routine that you want to get rid of, make yourself a good plan to manage the change. Remember you can’t just stop it. A routine is always triggered by something:
1. Find the trigger so you know what makes you start your behavior. Then you can become aware of it when the trigger happens. You will be able to foresee the undesired habit even before it happens.
2. Think of a new behavior that you would like to do when the trigger appears.
3. Make sure the desired behavior would be good for yourself and your future self (just ask yourself that question and you should think a very direct YES without any buts)
4. Bring yourself in a situation when the trigger appears and actively act with your new behavior. Test it several times so you know what to do.
5. If you fail when the trigger appears in real life, make sure you know you failed, go back to point 3.
6. Actively work on it for at least some weeks.
7. Do it daily!
Good luck and enjoy the better version of yourself.
“The most dangerous world view is the one of people who didn’t see the world themselves.“ Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)
Today I begin with an almost 200 year old quote I could not have put in better words myself. This sentence reminds me of situations that I experienced myself and that made me question the way I see the world and others. For instance situations I remember where people I just knew briefly attacked me on a personal level and called me irresponsible for planning to travel in Sahara on my own and by foot.
Looking back it is interesting to see that those people who did so, had never been to a desert or even Morocco before. People who had never travelled by foot in the arabic world, in Africa or anywhere else outside their five star hotel comfort. It where those people nagging who had basically no idea.
Guess what: All those things that people had warned me off never actually happened. Instead of kidnappers I met friends for life.
Last year my girlfriend and I decided to travel for eight months straight in our old camper called EMMA. We were warned again by people that had never travelled in a camper outside campsites, who had never travelled to the countries we did or who had simply no ideas of old cars. Ok, neither did I, but I was confident to figure it out somehow.
By the way: We never met anybody who actually knew somebody in person who had experienced a robbery at night after the camper was sprayed with KO gas.
On a very personal level I had to take tricky decisions based on reasons I knew only myself. The minute I took those decisions people who didn`t know a thing showed up and told me how they thought I had to act instead.
All of the above let me become more cautious when it comes to judging others. I am still not good in „NOT JUDGING“, but at least I got better.
First of all, I try to see other people, as persons who are grown up and responsible, trying to take their best decisions possible. Especially concerning things I don’t know anything about, I try to stay openminded.
Do you know these situations, where other people take decisions for themselves and you just can’t understand why? When you feel the urge to get involved?
I know them and I try to remind myself secretly: Don’t judge! Please, don’t judge on others Florian!
In late 2013 I had the idea that it might be right for me to work for a while from a far away place. I was sick of going into the same office every day. I had the feeling that nothing would change ever again in my life if I kept doing exactly the same every day. I came to a point that I worked only for the money and not for the love of it.
I was and I am looking for a reason in my life and for what I do. I want to do something special. Last winter I fulfilled a dream of mine and chose one of the most beautiful places to work at: Zanzibar. This is exactly the point. I want to work. I just don’t want to have the feeling that I am missing my life while I am at work. I strongly believe that I need to follow my inner motivation, to be good in what I do and to create a lasting difference.
Furthermore I thought that an external view on my daily life and my routines could help me find out what I truly want.
After traveling through northern Tanzania on a beautiful three week vacation, I went back to Stonetown, Zanzibar on Dec. 25th to work from there for one month. I was were I wanted to be. I had plenty of time and I had such a big problem starting to work. I found out that Stonetown didn’t provide any space for me to focus on my work and still feel good. My room was small and had no real windows. The small windows of mine were covered by mosquito nets and the house on the opposite side of the road was only about 1 1/2 meters away. Not what I regarded as a beautiful view.
When I was working inside the building I had to switch on the light because it was too dark. The lights were fluorescent lights. That was not what fired up my inspiration either. Next to my Laptop I kept a towel because every few minutes my table was so wet with sweat that my hands kept gliding away.
I wanted to be outside, I wanted to work outside. I had my laptop with enough battery and I had an internet dongle with a ZANTEL card to work online as well. But guess what: That’s not what you do in Africa, sitting somewhere in the park with your laptop. First there were no parks, second there was either beach or shade. Third: if there was an open place to sit, my laptop would attract many people to sit directly next to me and stare on my screen and/or talk to me.
I figured, I had to work from somewhere else. Rooftops, although plenty of them could be available are not common in Zanzibar. If you have sunshine all year round, that might push you into the shade.
No work on a rooftop either. I tried different cafes that seemed to work and walked a lot to discover new places. As you can imagine I felt quite unsatisfied during my first days. That was not what I had expected. Every morning I thought about where to go and where to work and ended up running around Stonetown to find a place. I got lost every time. I had to walk straight in one direction until I reached the end of Stonetown and then run around it until I found a place I already knew. Otherwise there was no way finding home for me. Funny how much effort it costs my brain to find my way. My brain put full concentration on creating new routines to make my life easier again. Actually time went by quite fast when I was wandering around town. My mind was completely occupied with scanning my surrounding trying to find any hints where I am and how to find my way back. Slowly I found out about places where I could sit for while, where they had coffee and some even good coffee. I could even remember how to find that place again and how to go back home. My days became easier and I could focus more and more on the work I wanted to do.
When I came to Zanzibar I wanted to get rid of my routines because I thought that they might be in my way of working happily. Then the complete lack of any routines (where do I sleep, how do I sleep, breakfast???, where do I eat, when do I eat). Basically everything made me so insecure that I even thought it was a mistake to go there in the first place. Then I started creating new routines and when I finally was at an ease with myself the month was over and I flew back.
Now looking back at my time, I realize that it was the best thing I could have done last winter. I developed such a clear focus on how I want to work and what I want to do. I developed new routines not by accident but because they helped me to achieve my goals. And I was actually able to take these routines with me to new places. I work so much more efficient than I did ever before. And I am happier with it.
Some of my lessons from Stonetown are:
What makes a remarkable life remarkable is not the chances you get, but what you make of your chances!
Are you interested in working without an office, too? I put all my learnings from Stonetown into my Webinar: officeless office!
I just spent my last week in Sahara with the members of „sahara experience III“. My intention was and is to show others how different life can be. Even I forget, that everything I do in my life, I do by free choice. In almost every case I have the choice to do something different or to not do it at all. I just have to live with the consequences.
I focus on all the little things me and others keep complaining about. Situations that we would so much like to be different. I try to remind myself that it is still my own choice to react the way I want to.
What I keep forgetting though, is how much we managed to keep our world in its boundaries in the western world. We can barely imagine a power cut, not to talk about anything severe. In my everyday life, the worst thinghappening to me is that I lose my internet connection. I rarely think about other people on this planet, who don’t live in such a technological world and how they have to deal with the powers of nature.
After we arrived in M’Hamid, a week ago, the sun was still shining and then the weather turned slowly into a heavy sandstorm that day. I still thought that this was a one day sandstorm that will disappear again after some hours and well, fortunately it did.
Unfortunately it came back every day with one big difference. From the following morning on we were in the desert and headed directly into the direction the wind (and all the sand) came from. I had a feeling that I normally don’t have. I was helpless. I hated the sand in my eyes, I hated the sand in my nose, I hated the sand in my lungs. All I wanted to do was hide from it, but I couldn’t. I had to move against it. Resting didn’t really help either. Preparing food was like playing in the sand. In the night the sandstorm slowed down, to come back every now and then leaving loads of sand in my sleeping bag. Even when I woke up, I was chewing on sand. Nothing helped but to become stoic. Just keep on moving and hope for the storm to settle down. On the evening of the third day it settled down. The sky cleared up and we had the first night with stars shining. In the end, we had a remarkable experience and could enjoy the clear nights with music around the fire even more. We knew that it wasn’t for granted.
I suppose this is the way the world goes round. It’s not always and everywhere sunshine. Sometimes problems occur and you have to go through hard times. It doesn’t help to hide from your problems. That won’t make them better. The only way to deal with them is to face them and work your way through. Once they lie behind you, it is even nicer to enjoy the smooth times. You deserve it because you made it through and that feels good.
If you manage to think about that, you will live a happier life.
I hope, that, when everything runs smooth for me, I will always remember not to take that for granted and that I’ll always be thankful for the moment.
Now I am enjoying Taghazout in Morocco for one week. No sandstorm and nowhere to walk. Just time to relax, organize, plan ahead and write.
I am thankful to be here.