Tangible planning

My new toy, takin’ over the hallway.

Let me tell you about Russian train timetables (because I’m sure you were wondering). All trains run to Moscow time while in Russia. Even though Russia covers something like 9 timezones, all timetables quote Moscow time. But then if you’re on a train that crosses an international border, stops in the next country quote local time.

Now, I’ve thought about this enough for the past who-knows-how-long that I’ve wrapped my head around the concept plenty. However when you start actively trying to plan a trip across Russia that starts on ACTUAL Moscow time and spits you out of the country 5 hours ahead of Moscow time – into Mongolia which is surrounded by bits of Russia and China that are all part of the SAME timezone but a DIFFERENT timezone than Mongolia (also, China is all one timezone even though it pretty much covers about 5, TIMEZONES ARE WEIRD) – ‘getting it’ in theory just doesn’t cut it. I need to draw a picture. Seriously.

I am a visual learner. I’m pretty good with numbers and spatial things and all of that, but I generally have to be able to interact with it to REALLY get it. Like, at the very least I have to do math on paper. (I totally still do long division on a semi-regular basis. HARDCORE.) When I was learning numbers, the New York school system I was in was teaching this thing where you use actual spots on the numbers to help you count and do your math. I STILL see all numbers that way, and I still count on them with the tip of my pen. I think this is fascinating. (Partially because it proves the way you learn a thing in early life definitely matters, and also because when I try to tell people about it most of them have no idea what I’m talking about and have never thought of interacting with a number that way.)

Anyway, the point is, spreadsheets and actual Russian train timetables were mostly just confusing me because I couldn’t LITERALLY MOVE the data. I needed proper real-life interactive, because every time I wanted to change a bit of one leg of the trip, I had to cut and paste things in a spreadsheet or consult a schedule or whatever. It was just making me cranky.

So I decided to do some arts and crafts.

Hooraaaaaay, arts and crafts! (I have never wanted to be a teacher, but I would rock the whole decorating-a-classroom thing.)
Any excuse to play with nice markers. (I have never wanted to be a teacher, but I would rock the whole decorating-a-classroom thing.)

Furthering the quest to use up all my random stuff, I raided my stock of paper and art supplies and made a maaaaassive paper calendar of the time period I intend to travel in. With squares exactly big enough for post-its. Then I bought normal sized post-its AND mini ones so I could use the big ones for locations and the little ones for notes on things like what trains run on what days, timezone reminders, and other movable miscellany. It means that I can make a note of a specific train journey I want to take with an extra note of what days it’s possible to place it on, so when I shift part of the trip or decide I want to stay somewhere longer, I know the places I can move it to without getting, quite literally, stuck in the middle of Siberia by mistake.

This makes my brain very happy. Plus: MAN I love stationery.

Having paper manifestations of dates in front of me immediately made me consider things like, ‘Where might I want to be on Christmas and/or New Year? Do I actually care? How many full days on trains will I have?’ when I hadn’t necessarily thought of those things before. And switching colours when I cross a border makes it super easy to see how long I’m spending in different places at a glance. Anything I lock in by booking or paying for will get added to the base calendar in black paint pen so I know what I have to work around (visa entry dates, the flight home, those sorts of things).

The command centre. Complete with wine.
The command centre. Complete with wine.

Having it all on the wall also makes the whole planning thing seem much more like an event or a thing to do rather than just sitting in front of my computer and doing it in Google Sheets. I can move around and eat snacks and scribble things in different colours. And a physical work-in-progress will continue to remind me to save all the money and get rid of all the things and avoid slacking on all fronts.

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