I have been struggling with a difficult question for the past year. Many in philosophy have tried to tackle this question to help others live their best lives, but for me, it has been more of a selfish conquest. Here’s the question:
With the short time I have here on earth, how can I maximize my human experience?
Could this question be the result of a quarter-life millennial’s crisis? An existential dilemma brought about by being inside too much during the last 2.5 years? Perhaps it is, perhaps not, but I flew to Bali with this question well in the front of my prefrontal cortex. So after landing at Bali Airport and painfully passing through immigration, I sat my ass down on the beach searching for a cold coconut and a good solid surf session.
Socrates Didn’t Have a Surfboard & Laptop in Bali
I looked around on the beach and saw hundreds of people begging me to rent a surfboard for the rest of the evening, and I’ve always found it funny how no matter where you go in the beach world there are always guys with dreads and washboard abs. It’s as if surfing molds people into the “chill surfer dude” motif with very little deviation. But I digress.
After scoping out the beach, my friend and I picked one of the many surf shops that had friendly staff who weren’t too pushy to rent us surfboards. A laissez-faire style of business always attracts me quite a lot, so we shelved out 50K Rupiah (~$3.50 USD) per person for a couple of hours before the sunset would start at 6:15 pm. Perfect. Let’s do it.
Now I’d done a few surfing lessons before, but I wouldn’t say I was good at it. I can’t ride big waves just yet, so I was scared that Bali’s beaches wouldn’t be for me. But wow, I couldn’t believe how great Kuta Beach’s wave sets were. The entire beach was filled with perfectly-sized waves for beginner and intermediate-level surfers like me to gain confidence, and it had enough larger waves for more advanced surfers. I knew it would be the perfect sandbox for me to get better at surfing while semi-contemplating the purpose of my life for the next couple of weeks. How I wish Plato could have experienced this and changed his allegorical cave to instead be the relaxing beaches of Bali, but again, stop digressing Nick. Although, the images would be great…
The Waves Will Never Stop, so Ride Them
I fell in love with Bali’s waves and the entire Kuta beach during the first evening surf session, and I knew that I would be coming back a lot. But it was work time now. So I left the beach, walked back to the hotel just 100 meters from the ocean, and hopped on my laptop.
That’s when the shit started. I realized I had a TON of “waves” to debug. Errors. Users not understanding processes. Things to research. Websites to create. Work. Work. Work. It all came like a blue crashing wave to tumble me through the surf juxtapose with the beauty of the Bali sunset.
Now, I love being a digital nomad, but it’s those difficult moments, minutes away from fun but trapped within the mundane demons of your own online business creations, that the life questions start to come back. What am I doing with my time here on earth? What’s the best human experience I can get with my remaining time? So I did what I think most people would do with problems. I bitched about it to my friend and tried to finish things quickly and went to sleep. Bing. Bang. Done.
Escaping the Blueprint of American Life
As the surfing sessions and most beautiful sunsets grew in number, I realized that most Americans would sadly never get to have the same work/life experience that I was currently having in Bali:
- Easy mornings with coffee and breakfast →
- Finding a new coffee shop to crunch down on work →
- Solving fun and hard work problems →
- Lunch →
- Back to twerk →
- Surf some easy waves →
- Chill with a beer and watch the sunset →
- Nice dinner with friends →
- Meetings with clients (if needed) →
- Movie →
I’m all for work for an eventual holiday, but why not have a holiday 24/7? I hope that others can have a chance to enjoy that lifestyle once in a while.
How These 2 Weeks of Bali Surfing and Digital Nomading Changed Me
During the trip, I definitely changed how I conceptualize my life and how I wanted to spend the years to come in life. Here’s how:
1. I developed a “philosophy/meaning of life” that gives me purpose.
Have fun that slightly stretches your comfort boundaries. Experience that fun with happy people who you love.
I don’t believe in God as I’m agnostic, but this philosophy and life creed gives my life purpose. In short, there is no purpose to life nor a higher meaning, so we need to just enjoy our ride, expand our boundaries, and enjoy that ride with others.
2. I found a routine that makes me happy and giddy like a kid.
For me, that’s working during the day and surfing during the evening. No doubt. I kept getting told that I looked like a kid having fun after catching a nice ride from the break to the beach, and I’m hoping it keeps my wrinkles at bay!
3. I learned how to slow down and just enjoy the ride.
I’m a doer and always have been. Many of you who know me personally know that I’m always completing tasks WAY before deadlines. It’s just how I’m naturally wired, so I’ve had to learn how to deprogram myself a bit to avoid the negative consequences of that wiring.
I learned that I don’t need to take on many clients to feel work fulfilled. I just need enough to provide me with a steady income, quality of life, and room for investments.
I will never forget the Bali sunsets and how the oranges and reds mixing together made me feel. Of course, I’ll be back for more, many many more, but I truly think I relearned how to slow down and enjoy life’s ride even more during that 2 weeks.