I had a full-on quarter life crisis about six years ago. Over the next few years I shifted into a focused, hyper-productive, “I need to crush every opportunity that presents itself” mindset to pull myself out of the multi-dimensional crater I’d dug. It worked; I accomplished a load of things I never thought I could. But between that and a global pandemic I also accrued a list of undesirable tendencies.
We can’t fully abandon that framework and thus have an array of goals for the next year. One of mine is to unlearn a lot of bad habits and reacclimate my brain to a lower (normal) level of stimulation. That might sound counterintuitive to do while chasing travel highs, but being on a budget means we can’t afford 18 months of living like we’re on vacation (read: eating like whales and smashing in as many tours/activities in as we can).
So, we’ve been in our Croatian apartment for a little over a week and really haven’t done a ton – which is good for a number of reasons. First, it’s the hardest I’ve ever wrestled with jet lag. Normally I would have put my body through the ringer so as not to waste one of five-ish days I’d have to explore on a vacation… but that wasn’t necessary.
I haven’t bought groceries or cooked a meal in months – that felt like a treat. And in contrast to my general hatred for travel bloggers calling out “walking around the city’ as something special to do, I’ve embraced it. I still have a disdain for this activity as a *top 10* because let’s be real, who the hell isn’t going to peruse the city they are in? Why else would you go there? Do better, travel bloggers 🤕
All that to say, it was a grand stroke of irony to have stumbled upon the term fjaka, which means something like the art of doing nothing. To western born folk, this is going to sound like some meta-bullshit or fancy excuse for laziness, but it’s more like revelling in the simplicity of just existing.
I used to wake up stressed/annoyed about work, rushing there (recently, my couch) to combat the anxiety of an always-growing problem list, eat to distract myself from the monotony, then get mad for doing so. After, I’d go to the gym to burn off stress and caloric misgivings, hopefully have the wherewithal to put together a healthy dinner, eat it, clean up… When I had the energy left, I’d hang out with my roommate or our larger group of friends for a couple hours before trying to wind down enough to sleep (and usually flounder). I’d end a good day net neutral across mental, physical, and existential categories.
This month, I aspire to achieve something that I whined about incessantly as a kid in a sleepy rural town: boredom. Most mornings I’ve woken up and laid in bed for an hour before “starting the day,” because it feels nice. I go to crossfit because it’s a fun social activity, not because my sub/conscious programming says I have to. Despite maintaining a similar or higher level of physical activity, I’ve cut down my food consumption and cravings for junk without trying. Fjaka is starting to feel like some sort of magic.
Like I said, it’s by no means rooted in laziness. I could lay on a couch in my parents’ basement for free if that were the case. We’ve walked 50+ miles around the city, a good chunk of which were through the expansive green space that is Marjan Park. We have a 2k warm-up and cool down between our apartment and Crossfit BOXV, who has happily been helping us catch up on fitness.
It only cost us a 20 minute walk and 8 USD to be in the smoke clouds of the fans of Split’s HNK Hajduk football (soccer) team flares and smoke bombs in the latter half of the game we attended on Sunday. My lungs didn’t love it, but they went on to score shortly thereafter so I guess it worked 🔥💨 And we got to do a soccer GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL celebration in real life 🥳🤙👻
Again, not magic… just living. Being jazzed when someone at the gym recognizes you and says hi, or asks if they can snag your little plates. Perhaps it’s the person who tells you to go to the section of the stadium where you’ll have a better experience. Or when you forget cash and the coffee shop owner gives you the espresso on the house (I paid him exorbitantly after the fact for his kindness.)
Everyone wants the people around them to have a great time, even if it feels kinda like doing nothing.
Go slow, my friends. Soak it up.