While I successfully managed to forget about all my worries when traveling, now that I’m back to the real world, it’s amazing how quickly the stress can return.

One day in Barcelona, after purchasing 15 minutes of Internet time, I finished checking my email in five minutes. I did not know what to do with the other 10, and wondered what the heck I spend all my time doing online here at home.

Regardless, here I am blogging, composing emails, checking out web sites created by my soon-to-be fellow grad students, and looking into whether pastries at Panera Bread have trans fats or hydrogenated oils (more on this in another post).

I’ve been back for two days and already I’ve fretted about not doing enough in the web community, and considered ideas that would further eat up my time (joining organizations, starting new sites).

However, I’m trying to balance my tendency to overextend with something I realized while traveling: Life does not have to be about achievement. I can be happy eating good food, wasting my time in coffee shops, talking and hanging out with people, and wandering around cities and parks with no apparent goal.

This seems to counter my natural tendency to do more and better. But at least I recognize there’s no need to stress so much about potentially trivial matters. Now whether I can actually not stress so much is another matter.

I’m not sure how to stop pushing myself. And I don’t know that I would want to cut back from pushing myself—lest I don’t reach the ultimate goal of world domination. But I really enjoyed doing nothing for a bit. And at times I wonder if given infinite resources, I might give up all this making my mark on the world stuff and simply live.

As if reading my mind, A List Apart’s latest article discusses the merits of a four-day week.