The ups and downs of a six-month attention span

October 26, 2011 in Career,Life,Philosophy,Travel

One of the most defining characteristics of Gen Y is its short attention span. We’re a generation that’s been raised with instant gratification, ever-faster and ever-better technology and an obsession with multi-tasking.

View from apartment in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia at sunset

I’m certainly no exception. I have an infamously short attention span and inability to focus on any one thing for too long. I can’t watch a movie at home without flipping open my Macbook. I can’t take a tram ride without a book, an iPod and my phone to keep me busy. I usually “stick it out” at a job, in a relationship, in an apartment for about six months before I quit or start actively researching other options.

With that said, I’m coming up on nearly nine months in Australia, eight months in Melbourne and seven months in the same job. I’m practically breaking at the seams, ready to move on to something new. My six-month attention span–my plan for “slow travel” around the world–has led to an awesome lifestyle, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

Christine Amorose paragliding in Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany

  • Always ready to try new things: Whenever I get sick of one thing, I’m ready to move onto the next: whether that’s a different class at the gym (yoga, spinning, kickboxing, boot camp–I’ve tried it all!) or the country I live in. Being open to trying something new (even when I have no idea what I’m getting myself into) has led to stand-up paddle boarding, paragliding, moving to Australia.
  • Flexibility and variety: Adapting to life in a different country or in a second language takes determination and patience. You have to accept that your way is not the only way, and that often, your way is simply not a possibility. Changing jobs and apartments means that you’re always adopting new skills, interacting with new people and adjusting yourself accordingly.
  • A lack of passion: I envy people who have discovered their “thing”–a hobby, a career, a love that makes them want to wake up in the morning. I love travel and I love writing, but I’m still not sure if I’ve discovered my perfect niche. I fear that loving travel means never being quite satisfied–there’s always somewhere else to see, something else to experience.
Christine Amorose snowboarding at Mount Jungfrauhoch, Switzerland
  • Never an expert: I’ve always picked up board sports quickly–the highlight of my wakeboarding attempts is standing up on my very first try (I fell every subsequent try). I love snowboarding, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding–but because I’ve never invested the time, effort and money into buying my own equipment and actually practicing consistently, I’ve never gotten very good. The same goes for public relations, social media, even traveling–by never doing the same thing twice, I’ll never be an expert.
  • Not reaping the rewards: It takes a bit of time to establish a routine that works, whether it’s sorting out the most efficient commute or finally feeling comfortable in a friendship. By the time I finally start to fit in, it’s usually time to leave–which makes goodbye all the more bittersweet.
For the time being, I’m quite content with living my life in six-month spurts. While I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where my next adventure leads me, I wonder how long it will be until my short attention span finally ebbs and I can sink into a (slightly) more permanent lifestyle.
  • Sometimes I definitely share the whole “Jack of All Trades/ Master of None” sentiment! Then I remember that I have had the unique opportunities to try so many different things on my plate… That I’ve been able to taste and indulge in the freedom of many options! Change is good, as are choices!!

  • Raquel

    You stood up on your first try attempt at wakeboarding?? That IS big time. I’ve watched so many people learn and no one has that clam to fame!

    And, can’t wait to read about where your next adventure will take you?

  • Raquel

    There are so many things wrong with that post… Multi-tasking fail.

  • I have found as I’ve aged that you do keep changing along this journey we call life.  Thats a good thing!  But there is something said for stopping to smell the roses.  I have noticed that the younger generation does seem to always be doing something.  Its like they don’t like being with themselves.  There is something to be said for looking out the train windows without music blaring or just taking time to ponder.  Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses on your journey and don’t apologize for changing or wanting to try new things.

  • wonky73

    Wow. Almost nine months in Australia. To me it seems almost yesterday that I found your blog when you were just getting settled in France.  Keep living the dream.

  • wonky73

    Wow. Almost nine months in Australia. To me it seems almost yesterday that I found your blog when you were just getting settled in France.  Keep living the dream.

  • It’s like you took some of these words right out of my mouth!! I haven’t been lucky enough to go slow traveling around the world yet, but I’ve also never settled for more than a couple of years at a time. I went to college in one spot for 3 years, then studied abroad, then spent about a year bumming around at home looking for a job, then spent about 2 years in that job, then quit said job to go spend 2 more years in school. I’m kind of terrified about what I’ll do after this! Lol.

    I totally understand it when you say the only thing you’re really passionate about is traveling and writing, but that you still aren’t sure you’ve found the “right fit” yet. I feel like this, too. Let’s hope we both figure it out soon!

    Any ideas on where your next destination will be?

  • I’m with Amanda on this one, this is like you are reading my mind! 

    I know exactly what you are talking about. There are so many things that I want to do (like surfing) yet so many other things that I want to do that “get in the way”–or simply make it hard to hold onto a hobby (like traveling). 

    I do want a semi-permanent lifestyle for the moment, but chances are I’ll change my mind. I’ve only been back in Oz for 2 months and I’m already freaking out that I won’t have enough time to do all the traveling I want.

  • Faykate

    Great post!  I’m right there with you!!  I am constantly fighting dual nesting/vagabonding instincts and it can be so frustrating! Why do I read all these home and design blogs if all I want to do is move every year?!  So far it’s been Maryland(20yrs) – Nice(1yr) – Prague(1yr) – MD(1.5yr) – Taipei(1yr) – MD(1yr) – St.ThomasUSVI(9mos) – Pennsylvania(1.5yr) and next up Argentina for a few months!  Right now we’re thinking of moving to Prague again after next summer because, really, why not?  Vivez votre vie and carpe diem and all that cause you only get one!

  • My cycle tends to be about 2 years. It is really amazing that I am nearly my 4th expat-day in Germany. It is really chafing at my job a lot. But I like the “reaping rewards” bit like you mention. I have a nice place to live and a soft bed and couch. Now I just need to figure out a job that lets me leave those things on a regular basis and still return.

  • Cat

    I’m totally the same, but my attention span varies from like 6 months to a year. I’m always ready for a new adventure!

  • Fran

    I’ve been trying to get over a similar lack of attention span ever since I first spent a year in Australia in 1994.  I’m still as bad now as I was then!

  • Fran

    I’ve been trying to get over a similar lack of attention span ever since I first spent a year in Australia in 1994.  I’m still as bad now as I was then!

  • In doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, I have no doubt that you will stumble upon your thing. Something that you will be passionate about and an expert at or in. You’ll see. Just be patient and keep on down the path. You’re young and open, and when the moment is right, it will all come together. It always does for people who are alert, as you are.

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Anonymous

    Haha but I’ve never really succeeded after that first moment of triumph!!! Oh well! New adventures coming soon :)

  • Anonymous

    I literally stop and smell the roses on my way home from work every day–it’s such a little thing, but it’s a physical reminder for me to slow down and enjoy the moment. While I’m definitely attached to my iPod, I really enjoy when I take out my earbuds and just listen to the sounds of a city. Excellent advice :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! Lots of fun adventures coming up :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be traveling around Australia and making a stop in Hawaii for Thanksgiving for the rest of 2011…and I just booked a one-way ticket to Bali on NYE! So I’ll be waking up in SE Asia for 2012, and that’s about as far as I know for now :)

  • Anonymous

    Working makes it so hard–especially in such a big and expensive country like Australia! I’m kicking myself for not traveling more while I’ve been here–I’m going to leave without seeing a lot of what I wanted, particularly because I waited until the wet season to do it. But I suppose it just comes down to enjoying what you do get to see–impossible to see it all!

  • Anonymous

    What an exciting life! The grass is certainly always greener–I’m sure plenty of people with beautiful homes are jealous of your vagabonding lifestyle :) Can definitely relate though–I’m so keen to get a dog and a cute apartment!

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh isn’t that million dollar question for all of us…

  • Anonymous

    A year is pretty much as long as I can go–new adventures are always beckoning!

  • Anonymous

    Haha I’m sure that’s what is going to end up happening to me!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the kind words–just what I needed to hear :)

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  • Dolly1424

    Good luck to your new adventure.  I am sure you will enjoy whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to go.  You have an everlasting thirst for seeing exciting new places, people and things.  You are blessed with youth and carefree enthusiasm and you should pursue your dreams.  Hopefully, one day you will meet someone, some place, that you cannot live without, and you will stay. 
    Until then, Godspeed, Christine, I will follow your beautiful narrative of places you will yet to see.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Dolly! Believe me, it was very difficult to leave Melbourne–and now that I’m back on American soil in Hawaii, I’m missing it more than ever! Looking forward to exploring more of Australia and Southeast Asia in the coming months–and then who knows :)

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  • Annabel

    I feel like I am reading about my life when reading your blog!!! The 6 month attention span and need to move on to new adventures, the love for travel and constant research into new places,activities…anything that is different from the norm. I am extremely lucky and live a nice lifestyle as a student in London, however always wonder if I’m being ungreatful as I always look to the next stage. do you feel this way? Would be great to get some advice and know a bit more about your background ! thanks for the great article. Annabel

  • camorose

    So glad you enjoyed it, Annabel! Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions–always happy to help!

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