“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Miriam Beard
Written by: Scott Dinsmore
Average Read Time: 4 Minutes
International travel is one of the best life educations I’ve found. My past couple weeks in Croatia were no different.
The simplicity of life in so many other countries continues to astonish me. A few things struck a special chord as I meandered up the coast in our rented lime green Ford Fiesta. I hope they help us all bring the simplicity back home.
8 Life Practices Worth Adopting from a Foreign Land:
1. Break plans. Our itinerary of towns and hotels was rigid until we stumbled upon the picturesque town of Primosten, befriended a winemaker and knew we had to stay the night. Looking back it was our best night of the trip.
Having a plan is tremendously useful in building confidence and vision, but rarely do things happen as expected. Recognize when they should be broken to seize an experience. Usually the best memories never found a way onto your calendar to begin with.
2. Trust. With so much news and conversation focused on bad things happening around us, it’s easy to get paranoid. We forget that the great majority of people have the best of intentions.
The continuous demonstrations of genuine trust out there were inspiring. A number of inn-owners didn’t request payment (or even a credit card or deposit) until checkout. One of them took us 4 attempts, and when we finally tracked her down to pay she said “how much were you told the room cost”. Upon my answer, the response was a smiley “sounds good to me”.We could have easily left town with no payment or chosen our price.
Trust is an empowering value and it takes courage and faith to make it your default practice. If people you come in contact with know you trust them, they will likely live up to those standards. Trust until proven otherwise.
3. Enjoy long meals. We spent no less than 1-3 hours per meal out there and after observing locals, we still felt like we were rushing. Eating is not purely a utilitarian act to keep us nourished. It’s an opportunity, three times a day, to slow down, reflect and spend time with people you care about. Take advantage of these opportunities. Shoot for one long meal with friends each week at a minimum.
4. Drink wine. When was the last time you drank wine in a hurry? Unlike eating, we rarely chug a glass of wine just to get it down. When you sit to have some vino (or perhaps Pellegrino if that’s your thing), by definition you aren’t in a hurry.
For many Croatians this is a daily practice. Enjoy a glass a bit more often. It means you’re present and enjoying the company of friends or yourself. I hear a little red can be good for the body too.
5. Make someone’s day. One night we stumbled upon a very local wine bar with nothing but 3 huge jugs to choose from. We befriended the winemaker and spent most the evening learning from her and soaking in the local scene. At night’s end we decided to give her a big tip. With wine costing around 55 cents a glass, this was not hard (giving big tips for inexpensive meals is one of the highest-leverage ways to make someone’s day–breakfast is my favorite).
She had tears in her eyes and the next morning we were awakened to her outside our apartment door with freshly cooked eggs, an unmarked bottle of her family’s wine and a litre of her own olive oil. She told us a few personal stories, called us her children and was on her way.
It’s often so easy to make someone’s day. Maybe all it takes is a smile, a compliment or a small gift. The result of seemingly simple acts can be astonishing. And as the giver you will often feel as good as the receiver. That’s as win/win as it gets.
6. “For here please.” Coffee is an even bigger part of life out there than it is for us in the States. Yet with every other storefront being a cafe, I don’t think I saw one person taking their coffee to go. For them coffee is an experience, not simply a tool to jump start your morning or keep you awake after lunch.
Take a look on your way to work tomorrow morning. How many people are on the go with their Starbucks paper cup? Don’t be one of them. Wake up 10 minutes (or an hour) early if that’s what it takes. The world will still be there when you finish. This of course also goes for tea, meals or any other consumable. Savor this time. Take fewer things to go.
7. Do something local. Do you ever find that tourists in your hometown know more about your surroundings than you do? We tend to take what’s most common to us for granted. Be a tourist in your own town. Go to local wine tastings, museum open houses, dinner events or trivia nights that are unique to your area. Most coffee shops have a bulletin board of all kinds of local events. It’s another wonderful way to appreciate what’s right in front of you.
8. Make friends. This goes hand in hand with the previous. While contact with new people can be inherently uncomfortable for some, it adds so much to experiences to meet someone new. While you’re sitting down with your cafe or tea or enjoying your glass of wine, talk to someone new. Maybe do things alone from time to time to make you more inclined to interact.
Often all it takes is a hello, smile or “what’s your story” to get things rolling. Most people are hoping someone will talk to them but are too self-conscious to doso. We befriended Croatian storeowners, an Austrian architect, a few Dutch students and a ship captain just to name a few. We’ll surely keep up with at least some. You can never have enough friends. Either can those around you. Make the connections.
Break Your Pattern
It’s often the little things that can add so much to life and break the patterns of everyday thinking. Most of the above don’t require much extra time, just a change in approach.
New routines allow you to see things differently. And every new realization will help to better understand yourself, which of course will shed more light on your path. So pay attention.
I hope this serves as the start to your list. I know it’s just the beginning of mine.
For now, I’m off to go grab a glass of wine with a few friends.
What daily practices keep life interesting for you? Tell us a story or two in the comments below.