One of the reasons I love to travel is that it gives you a better perspective on life. Sometimes it reminds you that there is no place like home. Other times, it shows you a different way to live than might improve your home life. Most of the time it allows you space to view life with a point of view that you normally don't get. A trip can inspire, encourage and enlighten you.
On our recent trip I was bombarded with so many thoughts and ideas. Mostly I observed how the "natives" lived and interacted. Watching them gave me pause to reflect on my life and to think about human existence and what it means to live on this planet.
One thing that struck me was how unhurried most of the people seemed to be. Yes, they were coming and going on mass transit but there didn't seem to be the frenetic pace that I witness in my neck of the woods. I realize that I was on vacation (and perhaps they were too) so I wasn't going at a frenetic pace (but close enough with our task master son who had organized the trip and kept us on schedule) but the whole tone of the subway, streets and venues was one of unhurried enjoyment. The only time that I felt somewhat frenetic was at the Vatican and being part of the tourist laden blob that was posing as a queue winding (more like pushing) its way through multiple cramped door ways and rooms on the way to the Sistine Chapel.
Here are five thoughts that I gleaned while overseas:
- Embrace the past while living in present. Both apartments where we stayed were built over a hundred years ago. The facades and interiors had that old world charm. Yet the decor and amenities were sleek and modern.
- Limit/reduce the amount of time with electronics. We certainly saw people on their smart phones both walking around and while they sat at a restaurant. And I am sure people spend time on the internet in private. But we didn't see the majority of people doing that. It seemed as if the majority of life happens in community; people were engaging and socializing with one another in the parks, outdoor bistros or beer gardens. The rooms and apartments where people live are not that large so they are forced to find larger spaces.
- Know what you don't know. Nothing convinces me more that I am a dumb little oyster than by traveling and speaking to foreigners who seem to speak English without trouble. They also seem to be well versed in their politics, our politics, various places in the world and all sorts of different subject matter. I feel like a sponge trying to soak it all in. I certainly have topics I want to pursue and research now that I am home.
- People are people wherever they are. As much as some people seem more sophisticated or polished, at the end of the day, we are pretty much the same with the same concerns, the same gripes and the same joys. At all times during our travels- whether mass transit or airplanes, the overheard conversations among family and friends, wealthy or poor, blue or white collar, western or eastern european, all sounded the same.
- History does repeat itself. As we read the information plaques in the Roman Forum, Colosseum, Da Vinci museum of Florence, Albertina Museum of Vienna I was struck on how much about human nature has not changed. There is still jealousy (Da Vinci was extremely jealous of Michelangelo), fear (many of the Roman laws were enacted to keep order since there was a large slave population) skepticism and scapegoating (you can see Galileo's finger in the Galileo Museum in Florence). All of the same emotions as people are trying to make sense of their place in the world.
It seems as if it always comes down to balance. Balancing work, play and study in ways that bring enjoyment of life. Learning to take each day as it comes and to be mindful and fully engaged in whatever we are doing at that moment. La Dolce Vita.