I recently wrote a blog entitled, “Every Now and Then” based on the wonderful quote by Leonardo da Vinci, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work, your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” So, I followed my own advice and went on a three and a half weeks vacation to France with my wife, youngest son and his wife. I’d like to share some lessons from this experience.
First, it is really good to get a “changed perspective.” When you work day in and day out, it is difficult to see the “forest from the trees.” Getting away, changing your focus and experiencing something completely different is quite healthy and refreshing. For me at least, it does not mean forgetting my responsibilities; it just puts them in a new light and position across the broader continuum of life. Too often we are dominated by the tyrannical drive of urgency, which absolutely clouds and skews our view of life and reality.
Next, I have redefined what “vacation” means to me. We all tend to view vacations through the picture of laying on the beach, sipping a cool drink, relaxing, void of any thoughts or concerns – this is not reality! Sure, we did relaxing things, even laid on the beach along the French Riviera; which was very cool. But being on vacation, is still WORK, it is just a different kind of work, with different kinds of stresses and responsibilities. Boarding airplanes, figuring out train schedules, driving around unknown roads, trying to act normal in a country where you do not speak the language or fully understand the culture – none of this is stress free! Hey, it is just life.
And this leads us to my next point; vacationing is about adjusting, adapting and managing challenges and new stressors without being overwhelmed by it all. It is about learning to enjoy your new experience in spite of the challenges inherent in doing something different. Forget France for a moment. We love to camp, but there is a lot of work involved in getting ready to go, setting up and tearing down camp, dealing with the rowdy neighbors or a refrigeration unit that is not working, all the meal preparation and cleanup, and so on and so forth. Nonetheless – we love it! It is the change of location, experience and dealing with unforeseen circumstances that make it worth the effort; it is part of the process of recalibrating our worldview.
Another lesson we learned on our adventure was you can derive enjoyment and relaxation wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you find yourself. Whether you are in the 24/7 lively, fast pace, very crowded city of Paris, or walking through an isolated, walled medieval village built in the 12th century--you can always find something to amaze you. We were confronted with the very unique circumstance of being in France at the hottest time in French history. Seriously, one day it reached 114° (45.8°C); but, we did not let that distract us or derail our plans. We wore hats, bought mist sprayers, ducked into air-conditioned locations where we could find them, and stopped often to get a cold drink. We even had to change where we were staying several times so that we could sleep in an air-conditioned building. What was really great was that we all looked at all of our mishaps as “part of the adventure,” and not once did we let things get under our skin or make us uptight.
One of the things I have always enjoyed about “getting out of our familiar space,” is the immense opportunity to explore and learn. It makes no difference if you are camping locally, visiting a new city or traveling abroad, every place has something to teach us, to enrich our life experience. One of the reasons we travel to France, and Europe for that matter, is the depth of history and antiquity you can experience first-hand. Visiting the castle ruins where Richard the Lion Heart lived; exploring an ancient medieval village on a hill previously controlled by the Moors, Phoenicians, Romans, Italians, Monaco and now France; strolling through a museum feasting on the works of master artists; or eating in the oldest ongoing restaurant in Europe, once visited by Charlemagne, is exhilarating to say the least. I have discovered, if you go to learn, you will!
Undoubtedly, the most wonderful dimension of traveling is meeting and engaging with new people. It never fails, whether it be a server at a restaurant, a fellow traveler, a shop owner, a B&B host, or a serendipitous meeting in some remote location, we have always been super blessed by the people we have met. Even when there is a very distinct language barrier, (e.g., French-English), you can make the most of it, and better yet, make new friends. We have routinely used Google Translate and found that it has been a real bridge builder, as well as humorous and entertaining. In our four trips to Europe, we only encountered two, maybe three, grumpy, mean-spirited people; two taxi drivers and one B&B owner. I think that is pretty amazing. It goes without saying, if you treat people with respect, courtesy, with joy and humor, and show an interest in them, it pays off. It is that whole “reaping what you sow” phenomena!
The cool thing, you do not have to travel far to enjoy the full benefits of disconnecting from everyday routines and immersing yourself into something new that will be refreshing and enjoyable. Meet new people, learn new things, try something outrageous or out of your comfort zone – it is healthy and fun! You will be a richer, more well-rounded person, and I can assure you, you’ll be very glad you did.