Living more comfortable by going through discomfort

Lately I made in interesting Observation on myself. And that is, I would take an action that felt uncomfortable to create a situation for me, that is actually more pleasent. Not sure if that makes sense, but I will go through my experiences.

Today I took a trip by train to visit my siblings. It was going to be quite a long journey, so I was about to stop at a supermarket to get some food that I could have for dinner which i would have on the train.

So there was a normal german Supermarket, that would have carried everything that I would usually buy for a small meal on the train. And that would probably be a sandwich and a softdrink.

That was the comfortable option, it was a big brand name supermarket, I shopped there already plenty of times, I would know what I was about to buy, and I would be on Auto-Pilot going through the motions, and buy at a big name brand.

However, around the corner, just a two minute walk away, I knew that there is also a Turkish supermarket, locally run probably, that I would usually hesitate to frequent, as the products sold there would be totally different than anything that I would expect from a supermarket. So, I would not know what to buy, and where to find it. It would be a more uncomfortable choice.

Never the less, I believe it took me a minute or two to ponder that question, I went for the uncomfortable option, and entered the Turkish supermarket.

In the end I bought some healthy salad from the salad selection, and some sweets from a to me unknown brand.

I am not sure if in this case I got something better tasting than I would have gotten at the other supermarket, but for sure what I saw was more interesting, as this supermarket had quite a large selection of salads, and even a real butchers shop inside the market, while the big brand name supermarket these days, only carries prepackaged meat.

What I did however, is that I primed myself to make the more interesting if uncomfortable choice, when faced with two options. And it took me some effort, there was a slight tingling in me to go for the easier option, that I had to overcome.

But the story did not stop there. I did buy the salad, but walking into the train station, I noticed that I did not bring any eating tool to consume said salad. I needed to get a fork or spoon, or anything. So simple walked into one of the bakeries that are at the train station, and took a plastic fork, that was provided there. And usually I would feel quite uncomfortable to get a fork from a place without buying there, but given that I was already primed to do uncomfortable things I took the fork. Would have been even more uncomfortable having to eat the salad without a fork. Basically a small transgression of my existing social code.

On I went to the train, and looking at my ticket, I noticed that I had a reserved seat on the train. I did not remember that, because I booked the ticket some time in advance. So I went to my seat, and in this type of train, there are different types of seat arrangements, it is either two seats next to each other behind another row of seats, similar like sitting in an airplane. Alternatively there are two seats that face another row of two seats and in between there is a small table. These tables are usually more spacious and comfortable, as in the seat rows, you usually only get a flimsy fold down table, like in an airplane. So I noticed I had reserved the wrong seat. But as luck comes, just the next row as a “good” row. So even though the train appeared to fill up quickly, and these “good” seats were marked “reserved”, I took my chances to sit there. Sometimes People do not show up, even though a seat is marked reserved.

To spare you the suspense, in the end, the seat I choose stayed free, and now I am sitting in the comfortable space, rather than in the cramped position I had reserved. And here is where it seems to get uncomfortable for many people. Everybody who has a reserved seat usually is quite happy to get there, especially if the train seems to become full. For me, I had all the options, a reserved seat, should I need one, but the chance for a better one, should it stay free. What I had to endure though was the possibility of two uncomfortable conversations. The first one would have been when the person on whose seat I sat would have shown up. And the second one when I would have to ask the person sitting on my reserved seat to get up. Luckily, that scenario never happened, so in the end I got the better deal, without any real risk at all.

But it does not stop there, quite often you can get a better deal, just by suggesting an alternative to the established procedure.

Recently I had to go on a company business trip, which I usually try to avoid as business trips are often quite a hassle, and feel not very comfortable to me.

However, this time I decided to make some small changes to the usual business trip arrangements, all without any consequences, but with immense increase in comfort for me.

The default magic rule for company travel seems to be the following, that is what you get when you ask the responsible person in the company to arrange for the travel. A trip by plane, a taxi from to airport to a regular business hotel in the vicinity of the customer location. Taxi trips to and from the customer and the hotel if necessary and that is it.

To me that sounds usually like a complete horror-trip. Usually customer companies are in the very far outskirts of the city center, where land is cheap, and entertainment, as well as public transport is sparse.

That means that when the work of the day is done, you get into your taxi to the hotel and that is it. If you want to do any activities after that, you either have to pay for a taxi on your own dime, or take the bus, which in that area usually means a 30 minutes walk from the hotel to next bus station. And the same way back, after a few drinks. Good luck, finding yourself in a sleepy small town, with your phone battery empty trying to navigate to your hotel, when the last bus from town dropped you off at different bus stop.

And usually these types of hotels for business travelers are the most boring places ever, all other customers come in to sleep, or watch TV, exhausted from their day at work. Everything is usually nice, clean and orderly, but the audience is usually not anything close to what you’d call a party crowd.

Having found myself in this rather unpleasant situation several times again and again, I decided to take matters into my own hands and adjust the situation in a slight manner.

I gave precise instructions to the travel agent making the arrangements, and I was curious how it would play out. Again, no risk at all on my side, the worst that could have happened is that the company denied my wishes, citing some “travel policy”.

So I choose a specific Hostel right in the city center, that accordingly to the internet reviews, photos and location looked, like an interesting place to stay. And for the most part the diametral opposite of what I would expect from a standard business hotel. I even asked them to book a single bed in the dorm. But here the company took it on them to actually book me a single room in my preferred hostel. I did not complain.

Of course the hostel was quite a trip away from the customer, so I would not have taken a taxi for the trip. Again, taking taxis is not my preferred way of taking a car, I like to drive myself, so I asked the agent to book a rental car instead. My wish was fulfilled, again, I did not expect it, but it would not hurt to ask, and see, it payed off.

I do not even own a car myself, living in the city with every imaginable type of public transport is in walkable distance. However, I am signed up to every available “car-sharing” company that is available, (basically a rental car that can be booked by the minute with a mobile app, spread around the city) And that is usually what I use instead of a taxi. As I said, I prefer to drive myself, and I do it quite often.

Conveniently enough, the hostel even offered an option to book a parking space in the city center, an option which I requested and got approved. Not getting a parking space near my hostel could have spoiled the deal, but even that I could get covered.

The next inconvenience that I usually endured was air travel. I am not a big fan of air travel, especially if it is short distances. In this case it was something like a one hour flight. That sounds quite easy, but this is only the time, the plane is in the air. Add to that one hour of getting to the airport, one hour of waiting at the airport, while enduring the hassle of security checks, one hour of flight, another hour fiddling around at the destination airport waiting for luggage, searching the taxi strip, and then another hour plus minus for the trip from the airport to whatever the final destination is. All together that is about five hours, the same time, it takes for the train.

Except that it is quick for me to get to the main station, I get in my seat, the train has power outlets and WiFi, and I can get a solid 5 hours of work done, without interruptions. Finally. No waiting, no back and forth, no security checks, no getting on the plane, off the plane, waiting for luggage, etc. etc.

So I asked to get a ticket for a specific train at a specific time, that was the most comfortable to me, and got it approved, and booked. Great success.

In the end the business trip went as well as I expected, I could even visit a friend, on my trip from the customer to my hostel, I had a nice drink with a colleague in the local pub after work, and could easily walk over to my hostel after a few drinks.

And I got all that just by making the very slight uncomfortable choice of not going with the accepted standard of plane+taxi+hotel, and instead suggested my own most preferred options. And all of those choices were not in any way more expensive, than the default. They were just adjusted to my personal preferences.

Non existing risk for me, but great win.