Experiments in Living On Impulse, Volume 1

“I may be knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door, but I’ve never had so much fun before. Come on chill out man don’t believe the hype, no use walking around afraid of life. Let it roll ’cause the world just turns. Yes, you’ve got to let it roll before you crash and burn.” – An old friend, and one of my favorite artists/poets/musicians, Blair (1970 – 2011).

I met Markus Urban back in March and I felt like we clicked almost instantly. If nothing else, I became enthralled with his life philosophy, which he calls Living On Impulse.

Note: My thoughts/observations on living on impulse here are my own. Markus may agree or disagree with a lot of them. This won’t be the last time we discuss this topic. Subscribe to get the updates.

Since meeting in March (and hanging out around Austin, TX for a couple weeks) I’d been watching from the sidelines as Markus continued to live on impulse. I had plans and living on impulse isn’t particularly conducive to specific plans so watching on the sidelines was my only real option. When those plans were unexpectedly cancelled I wasn’t sure what to do. If I can be honest, it was the most down/depressed I’d felt in years. I put a lot of work into the roller coaster tour and to end it was not a decision I made lightly.

The aftermath was me sitting around wallowing for a few weeks. It wasn’t unproductive wallowing as I’m actually in the early stages of creating a new company (which I may not ever talk about here because it’s unrelated to what this site is about), but it was wallowing none-the-less. I went out drinking with friends more than I would normally. I hung out at my Parents’ house and took care of their cat while they went on holiday. And mostly I just got into a big mental rut.

I knew I wanted to leave on some kind of excursion because the road is life’s blood. Maybe I’d move to Nashville (I love country music now) for a couple months? Maybe I’d go on an East Coast road trip and see all the people I had planned on seeing during the coaster tour? Maybe I’d leave the country, never to return? Maybe I’d play travel roulette?

I delayed my “get on the road again” date twice. It was supposed to be “this coming Friday” which turned into “next Wednesday” which turned into “ehh, I’m not sure when I’ll leave.”

Then I was talking to Brook via e-mail and she said (paraphrased) “We’re going on a boat trip Saturday. There will be a cannon. Join us.” This was Thursday, July 21. My response, which I had just decided on at that moment, was “I’ve been delayed a bit on my excursion, but I’ll leave tomorrow.” Brook’s in Portland, ME which is 800 miles from Detroit, MI if you take a short cut through Canada. It’s not exactly like driving down the street. (Although now that I’m essentially a truck driver 800 miles is no sweat.)

At that moment I felt a strong desire to experiment with living on impulse so I went with it.

Over-thinking Kills Creativity

Previous to this I’d been trying to get myself into the living on impulse mindset, but it just wasn’t flowing. I’d get too far into my head and then make very specific plans, which I wouldn’t end up taking action on anyway. “Hmm, I’m really into country music right now, I should go to Nashville for a couple months.” And instead of just heading to Nashville (living on impulse) I’d begin endlessly researching Nashville (not at all living on impulse). This over-thinking is also known as analysis paralysis. It’s a creativity killer.

I had also thought about an east coast road trip because there were a lot of places on the east coast I’d never been to. The state of Maine was one of those places, but again, I kept delaying the excursion. That is until that moment on Thursday July 21 when it just felt right. Maybe I hadn’t been ready  in the months, weeks, days, even minutes leading up to making the decision. Whatever the case may be, my experiment in living on impulse was officially beginning.

In The Beginning

The first day was spent in a car driving. I knew the route based on Google Maps and I immediately failed by deciding where I’d stop to sleep. It hit me that that’s not living on impulse. So I just left Michigan and decided I would figure everything else out later.

I ended up stopping in Lowell, MA because it was 9:30pm and I was falling asleep from being behind the wheel for over 12 hours. The first hotel I stopped at was completely booked. “Weird,” I thought to myself, “hotels are usually running nowhere near capacity. Why is this booked?” The guy at the counter said to head down to the next highway stop since there are 3 hotels there and they should have something available.

So I stopped in another hotel, which also looked completely full. The parking lot was near capacity and the lobby was brimming with activity. “What is going on here? I’m in Lowell, MA. Why the fuck is Lowell, MA so popular?!” I walked up to the reception counter not expecting much.

Me: “What kind of fabulous deal do you have on rooms tonight?” – Faking a positive attitude is better than exuding negativity.

Hotel: “Let’s see. $X. There are only a couple rooms left.”

Me: “I was just at another hotel and everything was sold out. What is going on here?”

Hotel: “The Lowell Folk Festival, but to be honest, it has been like this for a while. Rooms have been booked solid lately.”

Me: “Weird. What kind of discount can you give me on that room?”

Hotel: “Do you have AAA?”

Me: “Yes?”

Hotel: “10% off.”

Me: “Sold!”

And so it was. My first day of living on impulse was mostly uneventful until I was nearly falling asleep and needed a place to lay my head.

Days 2 & 3: Shooting a cannon, seeing my first bald eagle, swimming in the harbor, drinking Cristal, puking Cristal, Mississippi Blues in Maine.

I got to Portland, ME around 11:30am and by 2pm we were on a 60 foot motorsail boat along with about 10 other people. I got to shoot a cannon! Although I already mostly knew that would happen. :)

Then everybody began jumping in the water to go swimming. I did not have a swim suit. Just my shorts. “Hey, uhh, would you all be weirded out if I swam in my underwear?” This is not something I would normally do. First off, even though I learned to swim when I was 3 I’m not a big fan of swimming or being immersed in water. It’s simply not enjoyable for me. But in that moment I wanted to join everybody and go for a swim. Of course, the collective response to my question was “No, jump in!” And so it was.

Later we saw a bald eagle land on a tree top and stay there for an hour or so. This has nothing to do with living on impulse, it was just awesome! I’d never seen a bald eagle before. And it was just hanging out. Maybe hunting? Who knows?

The day of boating finished around 8. Brook and her friend Young invited me to their friend’s birthday party. It took me about 5 seconds to say “yes, I’m in!” I happened to have some decent looking clothes so I wouldn’t look like my usual “bum” self. :) This party was at the VIP area of a local club. The drinks were flowing and I over-indulged more than I had in a good 10 years. At one point there was Cristal and seemingly endless supply of vodka.

On the way out of the club I ended up heading to the bathroom and puking. That was new. I was never the type to drink so much I’d get sick. Lately I hadn’t even been drinking much at all. But there’s a saying: “When someone hands you a glass of champagne that costs more than the clothes on your back, you drink.” That’s actually not a saying, but maybe it should be?

The next day I woke up and wasn’t sure what I’d do. I somehow decided I’d leave Portland and head either north or south. I’m not sure why exactly. Portland is a very nice city and I probably could have spent a few days exploring. But I felt the impulse to go. I had read about a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Rockland, ME, about 90 minutes north east of Portland during another previous attempt at living on impulse.

That attempt was “I should visit all the Mississippi Blues Trail markers. I wonder how many there are. I wonder where they are. WTF, there’s one in Maine?”

I obviously researched more than I took action on that impulse as well.

But I also wanted to head south to Boston. I’d never been there, I heard it’s nice, and I hadn’t seen my old friend Jeanne (my former roommate in the ‘hood … just kidding, but it was Detroit) in probably 8 or 9 years.

I chose north. I felt like a day of peace and calm was in order after the previous day’s events.

I wondered how I’d find the blues trail marker. I knew there was probably a detailed map on the website, but that didn’t appeal to me. As I got into Rockland I stopped at a Rite Aid for a water. Then I sat in my car in the Rite Aid parking lot and began researching hotels in Rockland and further north on my phone. I wasn’t sure where I’d stay that night so I was looking at my options. “Dammit!” I thought to myself. “That’s not living on impulse.” I put my phone away, drove about 100 meters past the Rite Aid, and there it was … the Mississippi to Maine Blues Trail Marker! Right in the parking lot of a hotel. I stopped to read it and take a photo. By now it was only 4pm, but I wanted to go to sleep. The previous night was catching up with me. “I’m not leaving Rockland. I need a nap. I’m staying at this hotel.”

North or South, East or West? The Only Question That Matters?

That night I asked myself the same question as before. “Do I head north or south tomorrow?” This time I didn’t feel particularly compelled to head further north. South to Boston it was!

After Boston I headed to NYC to hang with Nick for a handful of days. Then it was off to DC to hang with my friends Dan and Kasey. And I’m currently writing from Florida hanging out with my good friend Kenny. I eventually want to go to the Forest Hostel in Georgia and I’ll also head to Asheville to plan the next Only72.com sale with Baker. So I have a few general ideas of where I’ll go, but the gaps aren’t filled in.

I’m not going to continue with the minutiae of my living on impulse. I wanted to give you an idea of the early days so you could see how it looked. It might seem very normal to you, but virtually everything is an adventure. Where I stop to eat, where I stop to sleep, what I decide to do.

Sometimes I make plans a bit ahead of time (this is especially necessary when meeting up with somebody) and sometimes I don’t make plans at all. Plans in and of themselves are not the death of living on impulse. It’s being open to unexpected plans and not planning every moment that matters to me.

Being Impulsive vs Living On Impulse

Living on impulse is not the same as being impulsive. It’s actually a not-so-subtle difference. To me being impulsive can be misconstrued as being wasteful, consumerist, or weak-willed/weak-minded. On the contrary living on impulse is letting life lead you wherever it leads you without giving it direction (or little direction) but still doing it somewhat consciously. Getting into the flow and allowing it to make your decisions for you, but knowing that’s what’s happening. Maybe that means saying yes to an opportunity you wouldn’t normally say yes to. Maybe that means saying no in a situation you’d usually say yes. Maybe that means putting everything you own in a garbage bag, throwing it away, opening the door to your home, and never looking back.

You know in the moment (this moment) where the impulse will lead you. It might lead you astray. It might lead you to pleasant surprises. Either way, it’s leading you exactly where it should be leading you.

Fate vs Living On Impulse

I don’t believe in fate and I’m not superstitious. Things do not “happen for a reason” as so many people falsely, and unfortunately to their detriment, believe. We’ve been conditioned into this line of thinking to make ourselves feel better when things go wrong. Well guess what? Things go wrong! To everybody. It’s not bad or good. It just is. By embracing this feeling, the flow of living on impulse, we can harness this power of the good and the bad. We become more in tune with ourselves and our surroundings.

At the same time, we become more detached from results. If something good happens, great! If something bad happens, oh well! If neither this nor that happens, that’s cool too. The result doesn’t matter as much as embracing our existence and loving the process (and progress) of life; of moments.

Is It Possible To Plan and Live On Impulse?

Yes. Planning is generally counter-intuitive to the living on impulse philosophy, but not always. Maybe somebody asks you to visit them, or to hang out, or to go to dinner, or whatever else, and that’s a plan. I’ve been doing my best not to make my own plans, but sometimes that is the impulse. “Hey I should go to [insert city] [on this date].” I’ve also caught myself talking to somebody and saying something like “Hey, I think I’ll be in X city at some time in the future. We should hang.” That’s OK too.

The Recipe For Living On Impulse

When you first start learning to cook you need to follow the recipe to a T. Otherwise you’ll probably make mistakes that make your food inedible. While it’s OK to make mistakes it’s also smart to learn how to do something correctly. You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. Once you’ve made a recipe well once you’ll be much more comfortable changing it up and playing around with the ingredients. This holds true for almost anything in life.

The recipe for living on impulse is a little different in that you already know the recipe so you can begin changing it from Day 1. That’s because there is no recipe. You’ll know when you’re not living on impulse. You’ll know when you’re falling into your old ways. I still mess up a lot with it myself. There is no guilt.

The Box? There Is No Box. Except There Is.

Life is supposed to be fun and forcing yourself into a box is anything but. That’s the biggest lesson I’m learning with this experiment.

Sometimes I see the box. Sometimes I’m in the box. Sometimes I’m out of the box. Sometimes the box isn’t a box at all. It’s all OK.

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Questions about living on impulse? Ask them below and I’ll coerce Markus into providing his own input in a future article. Subscribe to get the updates

{ 40 comments }

Leszek Cyfer

@ “Fate vs Living On Impulse”: It doesn’t matter if things happen for reason or not (and we have no way of knowing) so I choose reason :) Good or bad are often situational. I believe in reincarnation, so even death can have a purpose. For a sword to be made, a chunk of ore must be smelted, and metal heated and hammer banged repeatedly. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

A forge of life…

Sal Greco

WOW, so are these blues trail things dotted all the way from Mississippi to Maine?

Great trip man, and awesome lesson learned! I can definitely relate to being too much in your head on making a decision. So, for reading this post… I am going to check the surf cameras at low tide…. If the waves are decent, i won’t think to much about “waxing up a board, walking a half a mile, its Florida and 92 degrees…” NOPE… None of that… Just, “it’s good… I’m going”.

What I am taking from this post is to just GO at whatever it is I want WHEN I want it. And not say to myself, this is something I am wanting to do, so let me schedule it in to do it!

Surfs up,

p.s. Still in FLA, let me know if your close to the space coast

Karol

Most of them are in the Mississippi area. There is one in Maine. :)

Enjoy the surf!

Jason

It’s pretty easy to allow circumstances to box you in. Life happens, finances get tough, you get married, you have kids. Next thing you know, you feel trapped with a complete loss of freedom. I do believe its a mindset though, and it can be overcome. Thanks for the inspiration Karol.

Karol

You’re right Jason. It is a mindset. Even if you feel trapped there is a way out of the trap with the right mindset.

Gayle Thompson

I think the first commenter is kinda going where I am …. I just don’t understand your comment – “Things do not “happen for a reason” as so many people falsely, and unfortunately to their detriment, believe. We’ve been conditioned into this line of thinking to make ourselves feel better when things go wrong.” I sometimes say – “Things happen for a reason” because I too, honestly don’t know and don’t care and also don’t understand the point about us making ourselves feel better by saying that. I also know that things go well or poorly and, to me, they mean the same thing.? Anyway, just wondering if you can clarify that comment if you get a chance. Thanks for the nice article! I try to stay in between the two – I do LOVE to plan and think it is half the fun but also am trying to get out of my mind so much and flow a little better …. with success and it really does make life better.

Karol

Hey Gayle, I’m confused as to what needs clarifying. But what I meant by that statement is that we’ve been conditioned to be weak-willed and complacent. Things don’t happen for a reason. They happen because we make them happen in one way or another.

I don’t love planning. But I also used to like knowing exactly where I’d be and when. Right now I only have vague ideas and it has been a fun experiment thus far. :)

Gayle Thompson

Okay, I see what you are saying. I just think of it differently when I say something along those lines …… I don’t mean it as being complacent and just sitting back and taking it. I agree that we (almost all of the time) make our own way and our own decisions and suffer the consequences or reap the benefits. I guess I just felt like you were almost angry at those words – “things happen for a reason” ….. that’s all. But, I get how you see it too. Thanks.

Karol

I don’t know that I’m angry with those words, but they are a cop out. :)

Leszek Cyfer

I too often say “things happen for a reason”, but when I say it I start to search for reason :P

For example I missed a tram, got pissed off for a second then said ‘thfar’ and started to look around. In seconds I noticed strange old car painted pink, parked nearby and a single guy standing by. On an impulse I went there and started to talk with him. It was some kind of social action (it was several years ago and I don’t remember what about) while I was talking with him there came back his associates – two pretty girls. To my astonishment I recognized one as my old friend from many years before. She was as astonished and happy as I was.

I’m glad I started to look for a reason :)

Leszek Cyfer

I was just struck by giant hammer.

Love of my life passed away this morning.

Now I _really_ have to struggle to look for a reason…

For now I don’t know anything

Cherie Ve Ard

Welcome to the life! We call it following serendipity, and strive to allow it to be our guide in our nomadic adventures.

I too used to be a planner, and the first several months on the road where difficult for me. I had all our stops planned out to a T, campgrounds booked, meet-ups planned with arrival times. Oh my goodness it was stressful trying to meet all those plans, and more often than not – I was left disappointed when plans didn’t come through, than I was being joyful.

It took one rainy drive through Texas, rushing to get to my brother’s place in time for our planned dinner. I was driving, trying to push through the weather. The trailer we were pulling (our home), hydroplaned. Came back to the road unsteady, pulled us into a jack-knife and at 65 mph – we did a 360+ degree spin across the interstate. Luckily, no one was in the lane and we came to a complete safe stop in the median with no damage.

As scary as it was – it was a wake-up call.

5 years later, here I am – still on the road, but with few ‘plans’. And serendipity has not lead us down a wrong path yet.

Following serendipity (or living in impulse) is not being impulsive and it’s not avoiding responsibility for your path. It’s instead being tuned into the opportunities around you and being in tune with yourself enough to know which ones call you most. And creating the agility to follow it.

Karol

Cherie, yes! This! –> “It’s instead being tuned into the opportunities around you and being in tune with yourself enough to know which ones call you most. And creating the agility to follow it.”

That is some wakeup call. Great to know nobody was hurt. And no damage to your home, bonus!

Thank you for adding your thoughts on this. I hope others take heed.

Leszek Cyfer

What I wanted to say Karol, is that “on purpose” and “pleasant” are not synonimous. In fact, in order to grow we must meet opposition. And my belief is that we are all here on Earth to learn and grow.

Karol

Thanks for that clarification Leszek. I agree that we grow when we meet opposition. Many times the opponent is ourself.

Miguel

Karol,

Here’s an AWESOME example of living on impulse.
This band (they aren’t country but they are folk) started doing tours last year, with no planned tour dates. All shows are hosted by fans. They have no idea where they are going or where they will be playing in advance (more than a few days). Basically the tour takes them wherever it takes them, not even they know.
AND they documented the whole thing 24/7 for their last 4 month tour using a Ustream feed.
Pretty awesome!
Check out the video here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f0ilGAwlBo
and their site here:
http://www.hippyfiasco.com

I love this idea!
-Miguel-

Karol

Thanks Miguel! That is awesome.

Velva

Not sure what day you will get this. Cassadega is different. I found it to be rather quiet. I am in the Orlando area.

Did you make it to Asheville? I was there this past weekend for the Vegfest. My friend was a guest speaker. I helped the costumed cow. Perhaps you saw us. The veg community is really growing. Two new restaurants. A great weekend.

Karol

Haven’t made it to Asheville yet. I hear there is a great veg community though!

dorothy dasaro

Wow, this is so deep, now that I’m older, I can see where I made choices that had nothing to do with me, my choices were made to make everyone able to get there choices, not mine. Something I had to do because that is what was expected of me. Now having done all that, Its not to late to live my life on a impulse, but I do pretty much what I want, when I want. Being told what to do is my choice if I do it or not. That has just happened in my life, and it feels so good not to be judged for that, in fact I really don’t give a shit (kind of like the Honey Badger). Rock on Karol….Happy Trails…

Markus

Haha. YES! Exactly like the honey badger. Go get em Dorothy!

Karol

Hey Dottie! Thanks for checking out my site. :) Anytime somebody mentions the honey badger I think of you! haha

Eric

I don’t want this to sound like a things-happen-for-a-reason argument, but it is interesting that your first stop on your “On the Road Again” journey was Lowell, Mass., the birthplace of Jack Kerouac.

And that almost all the rooms had been booked fully for somewhat mysterious reasons makes it read all the more like a fable.

Either way, thanks for the great read!

Karol

Haha! Nice.

P.S. I didn’t enjoy that book and never finished. Let’s read more into that than is true: I didn’t finish the book so I could experience my own “on the road” instead of Kerouac’s. ;)

Marilyn

It is sooooo much fun to do things on impluse- makes you feel like a kid again. But- life gets in the way :/ JOB, family, life in general- just have to remember to take time out to smell the roses :)

Karol

Life doesn’t have to get in the way. Life is the way.

Cynthia Scarborough

Hey Karol:

Saw from a post that you’re in Cassadaga, FL. You might want to hop in your car and come on over to the Shark Bite Capital of the World in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Only about a 25 minute ride east on SR 44. If you’re really impulsive, take a swim down at the Jetties. That’s where most visitors get chomped while surfing. Actually, we have a lovely beach here. Enjoy it if you get over this way.

Karol

Hey Cynthia! Thanks for the tip. That sounds great, but I’m already far away from Florida. :)

Rosa

I enjoyed the article!

do you apply living on impulse to everyday tasks too?

Karol

I’m attempting to apply it to everything. There really is no everyday task for me anyway. Unless waking up and going to sleep and stuff like that counts. :)

Jenny Blake

Loved this post, and love Markus too. You and he are both so inspiring — I’m thrilled that we’ve had a few chances to hang out this year — looking forward to many more! On impulse, of course :)

Karol

Jenny! It was great seeing you again in NYC. Our worlds will collide again, that is given. :)

brook

hey Karol! omg, didn’t know you actually puked the cristal. so sorry. my toughguy friends from maine…..

living on impulse- it’s the best. I’ve talked about forms of it with another close friend who has a serious procrastination problem. I described my approach to work, to any task really, including cleaning and paying bills- “I do it when I feel like it. and eventually I will feel like it- because ultimately I like having a clean house and a clear desk.” and- I don’t feel guilty about it while I’m not doing it…

So, living on impulse is readily incorporated into rather conventional lifestyles. It’s like there is a time for all tasks, and if things are done at the right time, they happen easily….

great to hear how your adventures are going!

Karol

haha! Yeah, it was a quick “I need to get all this liquid out of my system” type of thing. Eating more than almost nothing that day probably would have been helpful. :)

I’ve been working on an article about living on impulse for otherwise “conventional” lifestyles. It’s still possible. It isn’t strictly about geography. That’s simply how it’s playing out for me.

“It’s like there is a time for all tasks, and if things are done at the right time, they happen easily….” I like that and I feel the same. Actually, I was speaking with Fabian (from thefriendlyanarchist.com) about “how to get stuff done without having a schedule to get stuff done” via Skype last week.

Heather

I really enjoyed reading Volume 1! :) You were up in my neck of the woods. Lowell, MA is 20 minutes from my ol’ hometown. I was laughing when you wrote “What is going on here? I’m in Lowell, MA. Why the fuck is Lowell, MA so popular?!” because it’s usually not! Great writing man, hope to see you again sometime, maybe again at SXSW next year?! (BTW I’ve been loving country music as well, just really got into it this year)

Karol

Haha! So you’re well versed in the no-goings-on in Lowell. :) Glad you enjoyed it. Not sure I’ll be at SXSW next year, but who knows?!

Sasha

Hi Karol, I appreciated this post a lot. I am exploring similar themes in my writing after spending a year traveling in South America. I found this philosophy to be much more common in South America, especially Brazil! It was my purpose for living (to be unplanned and see what that yields) and it was rich. It’s tricky but I am a fan. In some way a lack of structure within a structure is a nice way to go . . . but I hate settling limits on any adventure, how long to stay in a given place, etc. Should I stay or should I go? This is one big question if you are living on impulse.

Karol

Yes: “It’s tricky but I am a fan.”

and

Yes: “In some way a lack of structure within a structure is a nice way to go”

:) Thanks Sasha!

Michelle

Great to see you back in my inbox again Karol :)
I almost came looking for you!…am travelling myself at the moment – a couple months on East Coast of Australia – and without a car for a change – interesting change. Also living on impulse and happier that I have been for a while – I’m working up to another SEAsia trip – perhaps Phillipines and Bangladesh.

Great to see you back and thanks for the links

Michelle
Adelaide, Australia

Karol

hehe … I wasn’t gone that long. Just sent an e-mail/blog post last week! :)

Awesome to hear about your travels. East Coast Australia is a good time. If you make it up to the Daintree you will love yourself for it.

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