Friday, May 7, 2010

5 Creative Uses of Your Time

If you’re an American, one of the things that can be hard to adjust to when living abroad is time. Because you might actually find you have some.

The horror.

Americans are brought up to think busyness is next to godliness and if we’re not busy then we’re not worthy.

I am no exception. I was so concerned about looking busy and therefore “successful” that I actually debated leaving my 12-hour-a-day American job to live and write in Europe. Luckily, I got over it.

For those of you who are also struggling with actually enjoying (heaven forbid!) your time, here are a few suggestions that will hopefully also spark your creativity. And please, take it slow. I wouldn’t want you to have too much fun at once. That would be very un-American.

  1. Read. I usually improve my writing skills more by reading and discovering great authors than I do by taking writing courses.
  2. Go for a walk. You are allowed to do this even if you don’t have a dog. Really. You might even have an idea for a story while you wander.
  3. Travel. Yes, you and your family may actually have more than two weeks of vacation time now. So take those spontaneous long weekend trips. Or just hop a train to the next town over and explore. Getting out of your comfort zone is great for creativity.
  4. Cook. I was the frozen-pizza type before I moved to Europe. But now, I find I actually enjoy cooking since I’m not always rushing around. Buy a local cookbook and create something new. My favorite cookbook right now is from Zurich’s vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl.
  5. Learn a language. For example, learning German has taught me to enjoy Unnecessary Capitalization in English. You never know what a few foreign concepts will do for your writing.

Do you have more free time now that you live abroad? What new and crazy things have you done with your time?


  1. Yes! What a wonderful post full of great, yet very simple ideas. I have to agree: though I'm not American (I'm Canadian so I guess that's close ;) my relocation to Armenia definitely put me in a bit of a crisis re: more leisurely use of time. I agree with your suggestions here and I would add one other: volunteer! I recently translated a booklet for a local human rights NGO who conducted a research study on the situation of LGBT people in Armenia and I also tweeted for them during the presentation of the study. It was a great experience and I encourage other expats and repats who are looking to fill their time to volunteer ;)

  2. I hear ya. How ridiculous is it that even after a year abroad I still feel a pang of guilt when I spend an afternoon reading?

  3. You forgot start a blog =)

  4. Hi Adrineh, great addition. Yes, by all means, volunteering is a great way to stretch your mind and give back.

    Kelly, don't worry, I still feel guilty about it too. That's why I had to write this post.

    Kristin-duh! Thanks, another great thing to do!

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