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Archive for August, 2008

I wanted, on our trip to England and Ireland, to pay attention to the travel experience. I was only partially successful as I became so wrapped up in it that I failed to pay attention. Actually, this is one of the great benefits of travel. You really do live in the present, absorbed in all that is new and different.

One result is that time expands. It is marvelous. You spend much less time thinking about the past and the future. You concentrate on what is happening right now. The result is that time slows down. You are living fully in the moment, soaking it all up. Days are full with all your senses engaged.

I have to say this may be partly true due to the way we travel. We do not run from place to place, town to town bagging sites and sights. We travel by going to one place and staying put – slow travel if you will. One consequence is you are not constantly worrying about the next train or bus or plane to catch, how to get from here to there. Some might find this boring. We love it because you get to know a place. You see how people live, you get into the rhythm. This, for us, is the best way to travel. It is fuller, richer, more rewarding, less hectic, more enjoyable. It is also how we run our trips with Adventures in Italy.

The time aspect is one thing I noticed by trying to pay attention to the travel experience. Time flys, but not when you live in the moment absorbed in the place.

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Eating Out

We don’t eat out much. We find what we cook at home to be so much better than anything we get in a restaurant. Restaurants tend to be too fancy and complex, and way too expensive. We love the simplicity of our own meals.

On our recent trip to England and Ireland, I had another realization about eating out. Compare these two different scenarios.

  • You walk down a street alive with people, lots of interesting storefronts, step into a restaurant full of people, and are greeted by a hostess.
  • Drive into an expansive asphalt parking lot on a commercial strip, full of cars isolated from people. Step out of your car, walk past all the parked vehicles on a striped, black lot to a building – an island in a sea of parking. Step inside and are greeted by a hostess.

These are the comparative differences between eating out in Europe and the U.S. It’s not a wonder we don’t eat out!

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I have studied happiness for quite a few years. It relates to my work creating a people friendly, people populated public realm. We need places to mix in order to meet our innate social character. Being social leads to happiness.

Typical Daily Italian Interaction

Typical Daily Italian Interaction

Here in the U.S. we have doubled our income since 1950 yet are no happier. Increasingly, studies show that material wealth does not yield happiness. The happiest are those with strong social networks. The number of close friends Americans have has declined by half in the last 40 years. We degrade the environment consuming extraordinary amounts in a fruitless pursuit of happiness.

The New Economics Foundation in London has a happiness index measuring how efficiently a country generates happiness. The U.S. is 150th on the list of 178. Italy is the highest ranking western nation. It is a good reason for our trips there. People witness how truly content Italians are and how much social interaction there is. Inevitably our folks return determined to live life a little differently. It is a great reward for us to see this happen.

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We are just back from England and Ireland with a fresh awareness of how beneficial travel is. It provides revelation and understanding in a way you can’t get at home. Your eyes are opened. You are taken out of the norm. You become a witness to life and to living – something you lose at home because the everyday is “normal,” “routine.”

Irish Countryside

Irish Countryside

It gives you perspective, awareness, understanding. It returns joy and marvel and living life consciously to your life. It helps you see how you live in a way you are otherwise blind to.

This is especially important for us as Americans. We are an open people. We are also insulated, isolated, and, in a way, arrogant. Because we are isolated we assume our way is the only way. Travel helps us broaden our horizons, see different approaches. New understandings make us more accepting of differences, more tolerant.

Peat Drying for Burning

Peat Drying for Burning

It was encouraging to see hundreds of young people from all over the world, including Americans, traveling. This didn’t happen to the extent it is now with those of us who are baby boomers. It will benefit the U.S.  as we integrate more with the world. It’s wonderful.

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