Category Archives: Vacations

Post Vacation Reflections

1-Gothic Mountain_sized

I just got back from vacation. Despite some bouts of unfortunate weather, I climbed Gothic Mountain – or, more accurately, 98% of Gothic Mountain – the last 2% was a little too risky for my tastes.

Some reflections below:

1. Less Twitter: I’m going to try and cut back from Twitter. While it is an extremely valuable source of information, it also encourages shallow thinking, tribal affiliations, and consumption of information that will be meaningless in a day or two. Out on the trail, I could feel my mind slowing down – there was less speed, more curiosity, and deeper thinking. I was also shocked to see how not much had changed in the week I was offline – Clinton did that, Trump did this – and life goes on…

2. Less Caffeine: Caffeine, like Twitter, speeds up the mind and, in my case, makes me a bit anxious. Before going on vacation, I was “on” caffeine for most of the day, which I think led to less rigorous thinking and more snap judgments. I’m going to try and move one cup of coffee in the morning and 1 cup of green tea in the afternoon.

3. Deeper Reading: I read a lot. And at my worst all I am doing is scanning headlines and abstracts for information that confirms my beliefs or hunches. I need to spend more time deeply thinking through less sources of information.

4. Getting My Head Around the Corner: I feel like I have spent the last 3-4 months trying to peak around the corner of where the next 20 years of education are heading – and how this aligns to my current work. It is unclear to me that I’m operating with the right long-term strategy; or, rather, perhaps what I’m working in is an important part of the puzzle but I can’t yet see the full puzzle, which is frustrating.

Minor Reflections on What It Feels Like to Be on Vacation

I have a few friends who, in confidence, admit they dislike vacations.

Other friends are always planning the next big trip.

Vacations, for some reason, seem like something that people rarely speak honestly about.

I’ll try and be honest here.

Right now, I’m with Lindsay at Glacier National Park.

For me, being on vacation is not better or worse than not being on vacation. It’s just different.

My baseline daily psychological traits (mildly neurotic, intellectually curious, generally conscientious) and my baseline happiness (about average, with swings across the day) don’t radically change  because I’m on vacation.

I don’t suddenly become happy all day just because I’m on a hike or lying on a beach.

But being on vacation is different.

To be more specific, being on vacation:

1. Let’s the mind be more creative. It’s kind of like being in the shower for a week; there is plenty of time for the mind to wander. 98% of this thinking ends up being useless, but the 2% can be significant. My decision to step down from NSNO and start consulting was, in part, born out of vacation thinking.

2. Gives time to understand relationships. There is something fundamentally different about being with someone, or some people, for long periods of time without breaks. Everyone is forced to face the best and worst parts of everyone’s personalities. This does not necessarily mean that the people you most deeply connect with are the best people to vacation with. Rather, you just realize that, for you, some people are best experienced in two hour increments, while others are best experienced in weeks. You want your partner, I think, to be in the latter category.

3. Is amenable to long-form works. On vacation, I watch movies and read novels at much higher rates. On this trip, we’ve watched: American Sniper (excellent), While We’re Young (underachieved), Ex Machina (avoided the most interesting questions), and Frozen Ground (exactly what we were looking for). Long-form works have a different effect on the mind; it’s more narrative than bullet points, which is a good way to think, at times.

4. Incites mood fluctuations: Without my usual routines (consulting, blogging, twitter, email, calls, etc.) I find there are fewer guardrails on my moods; I fluctuate more often and at greater extremes. This is by far the hardest part of being on vacation.

5. Is connected to musicI often remember vacations by what music I listened to the most on the trip. This vacation has included a lot of My Morning Jacket, which seems to fit the expansive Montana skyline and mountains; Believe (Nobody Knows), One Big Holiday, Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part Two, and Golden all rang true.


Here’s a photo from the vacation. It’s of a mountain goat.

I started talking to him about charter schools and he ran off.