The moment where everything comes into focus has always eluded me. There were glimpses, seconds of happiness, but never did I think true contentedness, nor at ease would be something I would experience. Many, many moments where I felt congruent in relationship to the world occurred on my trip to Rome, Italy in December.
Nearly everything shifted into place. Thoughts and worries found their proper level of perspective. I left my thoughts and worries in the United States. I let go, opened my heart to the moment, and it was beautiful.
Reflecting back on what was the trip of lifetime, a true game changer, I discovered the behaviors and thoughts that engendered this newly discovered ability to feel at ease in the world. What was I doing differently in Rome? Why did it all feel so good?
Here is what I came up with
- Reading becomes a meditative process. Reading signs, maps, and menus in a foreign language is slow going. One needs to translate from Italian to England on the fly. This slows down even the most mundane of tasks. The very need to slow down allows one to focus on the beauty of language. Based on context clues, seventh grade Latin, and intermediate Spanish. I was able to determine the meaning of many words. Never did I hastily read, or completely skip words, because I was in a rush. There was instead thoughtful focus on syllables, words, letters, accent marks, and their sounds and meanings. I learned in slowing down you comprehend so much more.
- No TV. In Italy there were only two channels available in the hotel that held people speaking English. This left more time for yoga, naps, drawing, writing, and truly attending to my self-care needs. These activities are far more restorative. Yoga is constructive because it builds the ability to more efficiently quiet the mind and body. Naps renew energy, too. Writing allows space for reflection. All of these activities add value to one’s life. Television subtracts value, pushing engagement with our own real issues to the side. I was forced to sit with my self, and engage in activity that cared for me more explicitly.
- An IPhone is no longer a distraction The iPhone is expensive to use while overseas since cost of data and roaming fees reek havoc on your wallet. In very little time, the need to text, review social media accounts, or otherwise stay connected were no longer of interest while in Italy. In its place stood authentic engagement with the world. I also had great conversations in real time, with real people. I had a great conversation with three people from Saudi Arabia that would have never taken place if I were in the United States, neck bent down in an unnatural position, reading my phone. Greeting someone in their native tongue is powerful, offering them a bag of tea from your table, and commenting on a picture of their niece is a far more enriching an experience than liking a Facebook post.
- Our daily lives are insignificant.Our lives DO NOT matter. Wait…wait..hear me out. There are buildings, sculpture, and other objects of grand beauty pre-dating the U.S. by millennia. Men, women, children, animals, and plants lived and died before the U.S. was even a thought. Those common men and women of the Roman empire are long forgotten. We face the same fate. So why do we ponder the past? Why do we worry about the future? We are here for a short time. Let us make the most of it. Only participate in activities that honor how incredibly lucky we are to be alive. Service to others, practicing acts of gratitude, artistic expression, and other forms of creative endeavor to make the world a more beautiful place. Go do them. Make this world incredible. Don’t sweat that mistake you made at work yesterday. It, and you, will never be remembered.
- Experiences are far more precious a gift, especially if they take place with people you love. Everyone always says this around the holidays when puzzled by what gift to purchase for someone. This piece of prevailing wisdom endures because it is true. Travel, memory making with friends and family will last a lifetime. I will never forget discussing college applications with my teenage cousin while walking between Palantine Hill and the Jewish Ghetto. The backdrop made an interesting conversation, a memorable, bonding moment. Also, I’ll never forget my mother taking photographs of me enjoying every minute of the tour of the Galleria Borghese. She was excited to see me so happy she had to document it for posterity. Nor will I ever forget laughing, smiling, and sharing a meal in a delicious ristorante with my immediate and extended family.
- Americans have terrible diets, eating habits, and are not careful about what we put into our bodies. Most, if not all, of the bottled water in Rome was in glass. Coffee and tea were served in ceramic espresso cups and saucers. People take their time sipping and eating at local coffee shops. There are no take out containers, nor styrofoam cups. In fact, during the week I was there I never saw a paper cup. Fast food restaurants were few and far between, too. And I saw no one drinking soda. Food is treated with great respect in Italy. Americans should follow suit. Leave time to eat mindfully, enjoy whole, fresh foods, and time to bond with others over coffee. While we are at it, let’s reduce the use of the plastic and styrofoam we use each day in the United States. All are linked to Cancer, hormone imbalances, and all sorts of dis-ease. I saw no obese people in Italy, so I have reason to believe that these changes would be a means of ending the obesity epidemic.
- The “Happy Accident” sightseeing finds are always the most memorable. Yes, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basillica, and the ruins of ancient Rome knocked my socks off. Still, stumbling upon the Quattro Fontane, an intersection of four fountains on the corner of four separate building. I thought my eyes were done for the day after the Trevi Fountain that day, but I was thankfully wrong. Take a different street. Stray from the well-worn path. Go ahead, ask to explore the basement. You will discover a wine cellar that pre-dates the Colosseum (pre-circa 69 B.C.). There is always more to see.
And since there is so much more to see, I have officially been bitten by the travel bug. Where to next? I would love to do parts of Spain or Paris, France, but I could be swayed to other European destinations very easily.
So many places to visit and experience, so much more to learn about me.