Okay. When we left off, you’d decided you want to move to Colombia on your own to set yourself up as a freelance Latin America correspondent. First thing to do — and this is perhaps the most essential piece of advice in this entire blog — is to set a departure date and put it on your calendar. I’d put it out about nine months, maybe even a year, to be sure you can get done all things you’ll need to do, some of which you haven’t even thought of yet but you’ll come upon as you get started. So if you make this decision today, Monday, December 31, 2018, “Depart for Bogotá” goes on the calendar on Wednesday, September 30, 2019. (Many factors can affect this date. Your little sister’s Bat Mitzvah might already be scheduled for Saturday, October 4. Your current lease might be up at the end of the previous month. Your high-school girlfriend and her new husband might be expecting a baby the weekend of October 11. Figure it all out now — ask the people who might be planning schedule-disrupting events next fall — because this magic only works if, once implementation goes on the calendar, no power on earth can move it.
Meet your new master. This departure for Bogotá on 09/30/19 cannot be changed, cannot be denied. It is a ruthless dictator who — regardless of whatever else happens in your life — must be obeyed. You will be amazed at the power inherent in this self-hypnosis tactic once you fully convince yourself that, whatever happens, you will be on a Bogotá-bound jet on 9/30/19. Tell everybody you know,”I’m leaving for Bogotá at the end of September.” Your departure on that date simply becomes the reality. “I wish I could be at your wedding, but I’ll have left for Bogotá by then.” “We’d better do that in August, because I’m on a plane to Bogotá at the end of September.” When they ask, “Do you have to?” say, “yes.” “But this is your own deadline, right? So if you want to change it you can.” “It’s my own deadline, right. But no, I can’t change it. Once it becomes fungible, it’s useless to me.”
Put up a whiteboard in your kitchen with the date, time, and flight number of your departure so you see it every day and even more, everybody who walks through your kitchen sees it. Then, if you fail to depart on that day, you’ll not only be letting down the tyrant and yourself, you’ll reveal yourself to everybody you know as a feckless, ineffectual sac of hot air and nobody will ever again believe anything you say. Think of this as a wedding; you’re marrying your plan, and everybody you know is standing around you smiling and dewy-eyed while you speak your vows, which means you’re not only promising your plan, you’re promising everybody there.* You can further nail this down by buying your one-way ticket now, while fares are low. This may be a time to use a travel agent with experience in Latin America rather than winging it yourself on Kayak or Expedia. If you really want to make a tyrant of your departure date, don’t buy travel insurance. You’re going. That’s that. Come hell or high water, you’re on that plane.
Again, making a life-bending tyrant of a deadline works in all sorts of contexts: My boyfriend and I are going to move out of his mother’s house as soon as he graduates in June and we’re going to get jobs and our own place to live. Put that on the calendar for July 1, and look at it every day, and on July 1 you will find yourself in your new apartment getting dressed for your first day of work. You simply have no alternative. It’s the Plan. You have to make it happen.
But getting back to the freelance-foreign-correspondent example, we’ll start tomorrow making lists of things you need to do before departure.
*Yes, you can divorce your plan like you can divorce a spouse. But then you’re breaking your vows not only to the plan, but to everybody who heard you speak them, which is everybody whom you told that you’re leaving to be a freelance foreign correspondent in Bogota on September 30, which, if you’re smart, is everybody you know.