Working Abroad – Monthly Happiness Report – July, 2017

Working Abroad – Monthly Happiness Report – July, 2017

Time for another monthly happiness report! After I had a fantastic June, it was time to face the music in July. In this month, I was sent to two different projects abroad in Germany and Mexico. These projects were both quite busy, so it’s interesting to see how this affected my happiness! I continued to track my happiness during this time, which is exactly what I want to discuss in this post!

As usual, I’m starting this post with a general overview! The table below shows a summary of my happiness ratings.

After a fantastic June, I wasn’t able to remain as happy as I was. My average happiness rating in July dropped quite a bit from 8,14 to 7,46.

I want to get to the bottom of why my happiness decreased like this! Let’s have a look at how my happiness ratings changed from day to day.

Monthly happiness

The chart below visualises exactly what my happiness ratings looked like throughout July, 2017. I have added a tiny bit of comments here and there to add some context to this data.

This month was pretty interesting. I first got sent to a project in Germany, not far away from where I lived at the time. I was going to work on one of the company’s vessels for about a week. This meant working >12 hours a day without any time off. I spent every day on-board with the same people in the same spaces. It was the definition of routine.

Yet, I still enjoyed myself!

A beautiful sunset somewhere offshore at sea
A beautiful sunset somewhere offshore at sea

The second period abroad was different. I was sent to Mexico to help out on a different project. It meant a lot of work offshore again, but I was going to stay in a hotel on-shore during this entire time. As you can see from the graph above, it was a little harder for me to maintain my happiness during this period. Also, it didn’t help that I got sick RIGHT BEFORE traveling to the project. It was a bad start to an already challenging period…

I want to explain what happened during both these periods. But first, I want to show you the happiness factors that influenced these happiness ratings!

Happiness factors

The table below shows all the happiness factors that influenced my happiness in July, 2017.

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I’ve created this table to show you exactly what was going on in my life in July, 2017. It shows the happiness rating for every day of the month, with both the positive and negative happiness factors that influenced the rating.

My working period in Germany started on the 3rd and ended on the 10th of July. Shortly after this period, I traveled to work in Mexico on the 16th and flew back on the 27th.

The general idea of both these periods was quite similar. I was sent to a project to help out with one of the company’s vessels. On both projects, this meant working at least 12 hours a day for the entire period, while trying to have the best positive impact on the project. These short “business trips” were a fundamental part of my job, so it was important that I did well.

Before trying to explain what each period looked like, I think it’s a good idea to show you what was going on in my mind during both trips.

Two different peeks inside my happiness tracking journal

Therefore, I want to show you 2 different excerpts from my happiness tracking journal. This first one is from my time on board a vessel somewhere in the waters of Germany.


I wrote the following on Thursday, 6th of July, and I rated that day with an 7,25. Not a bad day, but it could be much better.

Today was a little worse than yesterday. Work is mostly the same, but I don’t get a lot of energy from it. My productivity is low, and I feel like I don’t have the mindset to change it. Should I feel bad? My colleagues don’t seem to care, so I feel like I’m getting away with it.

Anyway, the food on board is so nice. I’d probably be overweight if I worked here permanently. I can run all I want, but it would be a lost cause. There’s just SO much food. Every single meal is a gift lol.

Went to my cabin at 20:00. Played a game on my phone for 2 hours, which doesn’t satisfy me, but still keeps me busy. I tried calling my girlfriend, but the reception sucked. We started mishearing each other, and I guess now we are both slightly irritated. Not the end of the world.

Just spent half an hour running on the treadmill. It always gives a nice boost to my day, even though it feels like a chore to run on a treadmill. I can luckily watch Fargo on my tablet, which eases the boredom. It is really the only thing that actually gives me energy at the moment…

I think this excerpt shows you a lot of what my life was at the time! I track my happiness like this every single day.

This excerpt may sound a little depressing, I know. It was actually one of the 2 worst days I experienced on board that vessel in Germany. The other days were MUCH better. The day I wrote this, I was feeling a little down. I had worked a full day, from 07:00 to 20:00, and felt like I didn’t really add something of value to the project.

It wasn’t the first time I had that feeling.

Even though I knew I could be doing more, I still didn’t because doing it wouldn’t give me the satisfaction nor the energy I needed. Luckily, I got rid of this feeling during the trip, so I was able to work much better on later days. My period in Germany was actually very nice and easy. Despite working A LOT, I felt at ease knowing that I had a cabin to myself in which I could retreat and relax.

Yes, I might have worked more than 12 hours a day, but that was it. Nothing more. No time spent commuting. I never had to wait for lunch or dinner. My life on board of that vessel was extremely effective. So even after a long day of work, I still felt like I had enough time to relax and enjoy my own time.

My time in Mexico

This situation was slightly different when I worked on the project in Mexico… The vessel on which I worked did not have a cabin available for me, so I was staying in a hotel during this entire trip. This meant that I had to spent about 2 hours each day transferring from my hotel to the vessel. This was pretty exhausting, and part of the reason why my time in Mexico was slightly more challenging. I wrote the following on Wednesday, 19th of July, and I rated that day with an 7,75. It was actually one of the best days during my stay in Mexico!

A much better day! It started early. Had breakfast with my colleagues, before going offshore. Nice guys. 

Spent the whole day on board minding my own business. It was great. Did some small tests, but nothing fancy. Just myself and my own pace. The project is actually going pretty well, and it’s nice to have a positive contribution to it.

Unlike yesterday, the transfer back to the hotel was really quick, so I was back at 18:30 already. It was really nice to be back that soon! I was able to run some more tests, spent 25 minutes running on a treadmill in a gym that was WAY too hot, watched Better Call Saul and continued working on my website. I actually felt great at that moment.

The rest of the evening was really quiet. Ordered room service. My colleagues all went out to have dinner together, but I cannot imagine spending another 1,5 hours of my free time eating dinner. No way. Give me 15 minutes and I’m done. Tomorrow is going to be another busy day on board. I have a feeling it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow…

So I wrote this on one of the best days in Mexico. The rest of the trip was a little more challenging. There were a couple of reasons for that.

The work was pretty challenging on a logistical level. It was a big project with multiple separate locations, while there was only a single boat available for transferring people. This resulted in a LOT of wasted time. On some days, I spent no less than 3 hours waiting for my pick-up or drop-off.  This was really challenging.

It was also another 30 minute drive from the harbour to my hotel, which made life even harder.

At the end of the days, I usually had just enough time to run a couple of miles on the treadmill before having to go to bed. I felt like my life was very inefficient, and a lot of time was wasted.

Beautiful sunset in mexico altamira
Another beautiful sunset, this time somewhere off the coast of Mexico!

This inefficiency was one of the main reasons why my time in Mexico was a lot more challenging than my time in Germany.

Before talking about the rest of my life at the time, I first want to show you all the factors that had a positive influence on my happiness! 🙂


Positive happiness factors

The chart below shows all the positive happiness factors of July, 2017.

It’s pretty interesting to see the top 2 happiness factors of July: Running and Work.

These two words are enough to describe about 90% of my life on the projects abroad… I spent a crazy amount of time at work during these periods, and when I wasn’t working, I was usually running on a treadmill or trying to relax. Running really gave me an opportunity to relieve some of the pressure I faced on the projects. It was extremely nice to be able to run after working 12 hours a day. During my time off-shore in Germany, there actually wasn’t a single day that I didn’t go running!

I luckily enjoyed it, even though I usually get bored quite fast while running on a treadmill. I fortunately was able to watch some of my favourite series while running. 🙂

So my work and running were really the biggest positive happiness factors in July. What else was there?

During my limited time in the Netherlands, I got to enjoy my regular happy life. This included spending time with my girlfriend, family and friends. It was nice to spend time with these people in between the busy periods at work, and it definitely made me happier!

With that said, it’s time to continue to the negative happiness factors!

Negative happiness factors

The chart below shows all the negative happiness factors of July, 2017.

And right off the bat, I want to show you another interesting issue. I was tired on 8 days of the month, which resulted in a lower happiness rating. But if you scroll back up to the table I showed you before, you will see that I was mostly tired during my time in the Netherlands!

I wasn’t even tired while working on these busy projects? Was I THAT stupid? Apparently, I had no issues with my sleep while working >12 hours a day. And while living my calm and easy life in the Netherlands, I managed to become tired? How did that happen?

You might be interested to read my in-depth analysis of the effect of sleep on my happiness.

I know that I need about 7 hours of sleep per day, at least. And during my brief period between Germany and Mexico, I managed to only sleep more than 7 hours on 1 day… That’s pretty bad management of sleep, if you ask me.

What happened next should not come as a complete surprise: I got sick. My sleep deprivation probably lowered my immune system, which allowed me to become sick…

This sickness became the second biggest negative happiness factor. I got sick right before traveling to Mexico, and it took quite some time for me to fully recover. I actually missed my first day on the project in Mecxico due to this fever. There was NO WAY I was going off-shore while feeling ill. It wouldn’t be safe at all.

I should have prepared myself much better before going to Mexico, by better managing my sleep. I think this period in Mexico could have gone a lot better if I had only focused more on my sleep.

Anyway, I was happy to have survived this busy period when I flew back to the Netherlands.

Flying back home from Mexico
Flying back to the Netherlands after a busy time in Mexico!


Closing words

And that brings me to the end of this monthly happiness report. I flew back to the Netherlands and the end of a busy period in Mexico, and it meant the end to a pretty demanding July for me. My happiness ratings had dropped quite a bit as a result, but I was focused on doing better in August! More on that later. 😉

I hope these posts give you a general idea of what tracking happiness means to me. Because I’m tracking my happiness ratings and factors every single day, I am fully aware of what I need to do in order to become as happy as I can be. With that said, I hope I can somehow inspire you to also start tracking your happiness. 🙂

If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer you!


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