Bunkered in Beijing

Having been on the go for one year, we required some stillness in order to evaluate how this journey of ours is going – not just from a travel perspective, but from a personal and business perspective. Beijing seemed as good a place as any to perform this exercise.

Despite being unable to commit to any sort of travel schedule, we felt a certain amount of success in achieving some of our travel objectives. After all, we’ve managed to navigate new experiences and challenges and we still feel like each location brings with it some new discoveries for us – about the place and about ourselves. When we set off one year ago, however, we wanted to push ourselves more on the personal and business fronts. One of the goals of this journey is continual learning; we thought it was time to assess how we were doing and what we could do better.

Outside of Our Comfort Zone

Tiananmen Square and Mao - Beijing, China
Mighty Beijing. The Forbidden City.

We realized that our comfort zone had executed a 180 degree turn over the past year. New environments, languages, food and people have become more comfortable to us because of the nature of our travels. Navigating newness becomes easier to us by the day. Routines and commitments to schedules – now that’s what makes us feel claustrophobic. There’s our zone of discomfort.

Confused yet by this coach speak?

Essentially, one’s comfort zone is the physical and mental space where one feels safe and comfortable. Stepping outside of this comfort zone – deliberately or not – usually places one in a space that generates insecurity and corresponding feelings of discomfort. While activities undertaken inside one’s comfort zone may be comfortable, we tend to believe that those undertaken in the discomfort zone force us to think and act differently, thereby spurring personal growth and development.

In this vein, we stepped outside of our comfort zone and forced ourselves to settle down for a spell to examine and clarify our goals and objectives. Staying put also allowed us to catch up on our writing (i.e., try to get out of Central Asia) and enabled us to look more closely at the business side of this endeavor.

An Unpleasant Discovery

Olympics Stadium - Beijing, China
Building the Olympic Stadium.

While we’ve managed to sustain much of our travels thus far through freelance work, we felt we could do better by leveraging our website. We would like to be in a position to end this journey (whenever that may occur) by choice rather than out of necessity or the force of financial constraints.

Those of you who manage websites understand that they are multi-headed hydras needing constant attention and care along a growing number of axes. Designing a website, structuring it, developing the content, and marketing it all is no small task, especially if you are on the road and rely on dodgy and censored internet connections like we often do.

As we examined our website more closely, we discovered that many of our pages contained deficient metadata. For those of you who do not work in the internet business, this doesn’t mean much. Basically, metadata is the hidden information in a website or web page that describes the content itself. Although there’s an ongoing argument regarding whether the major search engines use metadata, our experience tells us that it makes sense to have it and to ensure that it is well thought out.

In the process of taking a crash course in metadata and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), we’ve gleaned other sound advice to better manage our website. So while this discovery has pushed back our writing schedule and exponentially increased our to do list, it has also provided new learning opportunities and forced us to think about our site more strategically.

Not All Work and No Play

After all the mutton and grind of Central Asia, we decided we were due a massage, or two, or three, or four. OK, we’re embarrassed to say how many. After working out the kinks from months of carrying our heavy backpacks, it was time to hit the road again.

Japanese Food in Beijing, China
Lunch at People 8 in Berlin.

We’ll also write more extensively about our eating experiences in Beijing a bit later. It bears mentioning that we received a surprising introduction to Beijing’s international restaurant scene from our foodie friend and his like-minded expatriate cohort. Our visit there served as a re-introduction to international cuisines including Italian, Spanish, and Belgian after months of going without. Don’t worry, we haven’t gone soft. We’ve since returned to our street-food roots.

A Very Big Thank You

The extent of our introspection and website inspection in Beijing would not have been possible without the patience and kindness of our friend and host in Beijing (you know who you are). He took rather good care of us. Most importantly, he challenged us to think just a bit differently.

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