Back from holiday and how to use dead time

It’s been while since my last activity here. The reason is I’ve been out visiting my parents across the English Channel, hiking with my girlfriend in German-speaking Belgium, and then I topped it all off with a long weekend trip with friends in the sunny south of Spain.

It was my original intention to keep working and posting while abroad, but while there I ended up deciding against it, partly due to just being too tired at the end of every day, and partly to give my mind a rest from JS on my time away from the PC – though I did lug around a Chromebook with SSH access to a dev server everywhere I went.

So I’ve not been coding much for over two weeks now and I feel a little rusty. After I submit this post, I will gather my thoughts and once again attack my now neglected to-do list. Said list will need a few more tasks added first though, because I discovered that travel-time abroad, while not good for doing actual sit-down work, is actually great for other things important to a budding coder.

Traveling is great, but often there is a lot of dead time. Sitting in airplanes, trains and buses, waiting for flights and rides, waiting for travel-mates to all take a shower before heading out to town.. You can’t use that time for doing real work, but you can listen to podcasts or catch up on articles, so that’s what I did. A lot of.

What I’m saying is that even with the best of intentions, trying to solve complex problems while on holiday is probably a big mistake. Dead travel time is unpredictable, variable in length and often occurs in loud, distracting environments, while any programmer knows that the coding zone is not something one just snaps in and out of at will.

Perhaps I’m just stating the obvious here, but to me it was a revelation. I was worried before I left that I would spend over two weeks doing nothing, so promised myself I’d work. But when I tried to use dead time for work, it turned out to be more of an exercise in frustration. When I switched to podcasts and articles instead, everything clicked again. My dead time was useful. I moved through my huge backlog of articles and tutorials and I caught up on my podcast playlist.

Conclusion: if you’re on holiday and feel like you should be doing something useful during the dead parts of the day, but struggle with getting into the zone, open your bookmarks or your podcast app instead! As for me, I may not have solved any problems or contributed to open source in the ~16 days I’ve been gone, but hey, all that dead time adds up so I’ve used it to read dozens of articles I feared I would never get to, caught up on JS-Jabber and The Changelog episodes I’d missed and went through half of the Getting Started With Elixir tutorial. Not too shabby!

But now, back to the real world! Next post I’ll be back to actual content again, I swear!