Do habits come in travel sizes? (travel habits pt. 1)

My December posts are probably all going to be vacation/travel-related. I’ve written several times here about the way vacations and travel seem to cause my best-laid plans to go astray. So, looking forward to a trip at the end of the month, I thought this might be a good opportunity to plan ahead for an upcoming challenge, rather than just waiting until I’m in the middle of it.

Each vacation is different, but my experience has been that my routines tend not to be as spontaneous as I imagine. That is, even when I travel, I tend to fall into fairly predictable patterns. Therefore, my goal is to find a set of “travel habits” that I can start to build and carry with me as I go, while accepting that there are inherent challenges: i.e., habits depend on familiar circumstances, and vacations are, sort of by definition, a break from familiar circumstances. Just like I can’t seem to find my preferred toothpaste in a 3 oz tube, maybe I’ll need to accept that my travel habits may never be exactly what I want, but it seems worthwhile to try.

I’m breaking this up into several posts, because it’s long and potentially tedious. Today, I’ll start by acknowledging that a part of my brain is reluctant to engage with this at all. Making a plan feels too much like “thinking about drinking,” and many of us seem to have somehow absorbed the (deeply flawed) message that “real moderation” doesn’t involve having to think about it. My experience is that successful moderation can eventually involve relatively little thought and effort, but to get to that point, we have to be willing to put in a considerable amount of work up-front. Having done a lot of that in my day-to-day life, it feels a bit like taking a step back to go start at square one again with regard to travel. Plus, there’s another part of my brain arguing that the whole purpose of a vacation is to be spontaneous and cut loose. Brains can be so frustrating.

If there’s one thing my past behavior has shown me, it’s that “no plan” is the same thing as “no moderation.” It’s not enough to wish I could moderate, or to passively participate in drinking opportunities while crossing my fingers that somehow, this time, it’ll work out for the best. As anyone who has had a serious drinking habit develop could tell me, that’s a recipe for a quick slide back into scary drinking. And, like most of us, I know that from my own experience too — I spent years declaring my intentions to cut back, and trying to will myself into better habits, while actually drinking more and more as time passed.

Willpower is not what changes behavior, especially not over the long-term. For that, I need a plan, and some tools for translating that plan into meaningful behavior changes. So that will be part 2, coming soon.


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