Whilst writing this article, I shared a few links on facebook, talked shit with Aussies, and smoked several cigarettes while lounging in a hammock.
Procrastination is easy for travelers. We are constantly living in the moment, and there is a heavy pattern of partying. There are always people to hang out with, new food to discover, and new beaches to enjoy. TV show marathons take precedence over working out and a justifiable excuse to ignore your obligations are never hard to find.
You should always live in the moment while on the road, even if that moment includes a sweaty hangover. But at some point one might raise their head out if the smoky hammock and ask themselves, “Do I procrastinate too much?”
Procrastination isn’t a definite characteristic of a traveler, but it can be a symptom. (Especially with backpackers who party regularly.) But even for those with to-do lists back home and a watch on their wrist at all times, somehow they get lost in the local laid back attitude and realize nothing will be done on time anyways so why not go with the flow.
Western cultures traditionally follow a schedule and stick to timetables. Prominent in Latin, Asian, and African cultures is the idea that time isn’t exact and life gets in the way. Excuses aren’t necessary. If you plan to meet a friend at 3:30PM, you you should know that it’s really more of an approximation.
The idea that things will get done eventually is obvious in the example of “mañana, mañana“. It literally translates to tomorrow, tomorrow, but in Mexican culture it doesn’t literally mean tomorrow, but more or less someday. Ahora means right now, ahorita means a little later, un ratito is somewhere between later and never, and un rato might never happen.
While I personally have a natural disposition to this concept, living in an environment that fosters procrastination makes getting anything “productive” done nearly impossible. But what is productivity anyway?
Travelers by nature should be actively soaking in new cultures by tasting food, drinking local brews, talking to people, and experiencing new ways of living. Assimilating to culture is one of my core values of traveling, and when it involves a way of life I naturally enjoy, well, all the more reason to procrastinate. But doesn’t learning and experiencing another culture count for productivity, even if by nature the act is simply lazy procrastination?
Eating at local restaurants and trying new food, conversing with other backpackers and listening to their stories, receiving inspiration from watching a sunset: these are all productive things for the life of a traveler. They are part of the journey and they enhance every day. How is this not productive? So now the question is how do we let go of our expectations of what we should accomplish and allow ourselves to relax and enjoy every moment?
The first step is easy: grab a drink and lay down in a hammock. Forget about rigid time schedules and allow yourself to slip into the local beat. Let guilt go and enjoy the moment. Procrastination is only a problem if you let time slip away completely. Don’t entirely forget the world back home and make sure things get done before time runs out totally.
Procrastination isn’t complete avoidance. It’s just mañana, mañana.