13 Sep 8 Life Practices Worth Taking Home from Croatia
“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.
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MeghanPosted at 14:11h, 13 September
I love this reminder to live in the moment. When we live in the moment, we are connected to everyone and everything and life flows smoothly:)
I feel like I just traveled vicariously through you!
ScottPosted at 14:46h, 13 September
Thanks Meghan. The power of now is pretty incredibly powerful when you think about it. It can make all the difference. A few reminders of this never hurt.
Glad you got the chance to take a little ‘trip’ of your own through this post.
I appreciate the thoughts and happy travels.
Chelsea DinsmorePosted at 14:33h, 13 September
You summed it up perfectly. We often times love travel because we feel so carefree but it is important to feel that same way in our daily lives. Thanks for the reminder of all the great life lessons we took away from the trip!
ScottPosted at 14:48h, 13 September
Well thank you Chelsea! Transferring a form of that carefree feeling back home is the key. We did have an amazing adventure out there!
To a lot more of them…
GregPosted at 16:28h, 13 September
Scott, This is a wonderful post that conveys a sense of place, a sense of time, and a sense of the people you met in Croatia. It is very different from the schedule-centric, get-your-tasks-checked-off lifestyle that many people in North America experience. I get a sense that those who savor the moments of their day get their important things accomplished during their days. Thanks for sharing.
ScottPosted at 17:09h, 13 September
Thank you Greg. Nothing feels better than to throw the schedule away for a bit and just let life take you the direction it’s intended. And then to pay attention to not miss all the experiences that come your way. The important things do have a way of getting done, if they are indeed important. What’s so hard for the North American culture is to focus on the moments. That’s one of the main reasons I see international exploring as a must. This recent adventure simply reaffirmed this.
I really appreciate the thoughts,
JustinPosted at 20:52h, 13 September
This is a great reminder for me. I’m horrible at being “in the moment”, and find myself compulsively checking email and social media channels nearly every waking moment more out of habit than anything else. There’s really nothing of more importance going on in that space than what’s going on in the “now”. Thanks for the refocusing, Scott. Ironic though that I’m reading and writing all of this while reclining with one of my newborn twin boys lying in my chest in the NICU? 🙂
Glad you both had such an amazing time in Croatia!
ScottPosted at 21:46h, 14 September
I’d say that’s about as present as it gets! Congrats on the growing family Justin.
You’re right, all that’s really important is usually what’s going on right now. When else is there anyway? Have you ever actually been in your future? It’s an interesting thing to give some thought.
Although I’m sure that’s the last thing you’re thinking about with those beautiful newborns on your chest!
Thanks for the continued support. It goes a long way.
Arvind DevaliaPosted at 01:53h, 14 September
Welcome back Scott! You were missed:-)
Travel really broadens your horizons and it’s great that you have shared with us all your learnings.
We really do need to appreciate life much more. Simple living and slowing down will allow us to do just that.
On that note, I am off to my local coffee shop to do some writing there. Who knows, I might even write about some of the people I meet there.
ScottPosted at 21:48h, 14 September
I love your thinking Arvind. Since writing that post I have enjoyed a long glass of wine with friends, a two-hour tea with my business partner this morning and an extra long dinner with my wife. I’ve loved it. And now that I’m not planning the wedding I feel like I have some extra time ;).
Enjoy the cafe!
Sharon LippincottPosted at 07:58h, 14 September
We have many similar stories to tell from trips around the world. You remind me of why I prefer free-form traveling to tours, but even with tours we can always find small blocks of time for mini-adventures like walking the streets of Shanghai or Beijing, dining in a rustic inn off the main street in an Alaskan village, or taking the subway to meet friends across Buenos Aires from the tour.
We’ll never quit telling the story day we took a wrong turn on a rural road in the Italian Dolomites. We recognized the mistake when the road became an unpaved one-way trail. A farmer flagged us down and tried to help. He spoke no English and we couldn’t understand his dialect of whatever he was speaking, but he gestured us up the road for a great view — or so we thought. The trail led to his neighbor’s barnyard where we turned around. On the way back the farmer hailed us once again. Again using gestures, he made it clear he wanted us to join him for a glass of Marsala. It was 9 am and considering that we couldn’t begin to carry on a conversation, we made huge sad faces of regret, shrugging and mugging. He handed me a single white rose, slightly wilted, but no less cherished for the thought.
Ah, the memories!
ScottPosted at 21:51h, 14 September
Now that is a set of memories if I have ever heard one Sharon! Thanks for sharing. I felt like I was in Italy with you as I read that. Although it seems that if you didn’t speak the language and were lost, what other option was there than to take him up on the glass of Marsala??
You may even realize the value of exploration more than I do. Keep it up and I vow to do the same.
Iis RasjidPosted at 23:41h, 14 September
Great reminder and very inspring Scoot.
One day you must visit my home town which located in hinterland of Indonesia. Nice place and also nice inhabitant, still original dan green scenery, there’re various plants such as : tobacco, corn, harvest, cassava and others.
Very nice to write your inspiring blog. Kindly thanks.
ScottPosted at 09:10h, 15 September
Thank you Iis. And what an offer! Indonesia sounds amazing and it is no doubt on my list of places to explore. I love that type of scenery too. You are fortunate to have it surrounding you every day. Us city dwellers (I’m in San Francisco) have to go on adventures to see that type of countryside 😉
AudreyPosted at 02:04h, 15 September
My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Croatia driving up the Dalmatian Coast so this piece brought back many good memories. I also like how you took small details and simple observations and derived a bigger lesson.
Recently a reader sent a message asking how we stay safe of civil strife and war during our travels and how she worries for us. We’ve traveled through places like Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan that get a bad rap in the news media, but really they are safer than many cities back home (United States) and we found people so open and hospitable to us. The common perception that the world (and its people) is a scary place really saddens me.
Glad to read you had such a great trip!
ScottPosted at 09:13h, 15 September
Glad it took you back Audrey. You are the first person I’ve heard of who’s done a similar trip. I couldn’t have imagined doing it any other way. As for your other stop offs, I am going to have to get out my map for a couple of those countries. I can only imagine what it’s like. It is too bad that people think the dangers abroad are often much higher than in reality. To be honest, a number of cities in the US are surely more dangerous than the majority of foreign places people fear. It’s more the unknown than anything.
Thanks for the comment and keep exploring,
John SherryPosted at 01:21h, 17 September
Scott, it’s great to read your post as I’m planning to head for Croatia next year. All the things you list are simple, joyous foundations in life and it’s heartening to see that some cultures still embrace them. Why can’t we go back to a world where we spend time no PROTECT time with each other and those we love. Your words gave me a real boost thank you. And I wish you love unending in your new marriage. I wish only the best of times my friend.
ScottPosted at 23:07h, 17 September
Thanks for stopping by John and awesome to hear you’re planning a trip. Croatia felt like one of the truly untouched places left out there (at least in Europe). Just felt so natural. It’s amazing what can be learned from such a seemingly simple culture. I guess that’s the point. Glad I was taking notes!
I look forward to continuing to watch each other’s progress. Your site looks like it’s coming along really nicely by the way. Well done.
The Eighth Principle: Have Adventures | Experience Life FullyPosted at 12:35h, 19 September
[…] on a red bus through London with Arvind Devalia. I’ve drank wine with Scott Dinsmore in a very local wine bar in Croatia. And, I’ve gone simple joy-riding with Katie […]
The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It | Reading For Your SuccessPosted at 09:43h, 22 September
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julian silvaPosted at 16:53h, 29 September
I make a point every week to host brunch for my close friends. Every one is different, all sorts of things end up happening, and a good time is had by all. The best part: Spending $20 dollars to feed 15 people, and making something pout of their day they didn’t expect.
ScottPosted at 10:11h, 08 October
Sounds like an amazing weekly practice Julian!
Henry DavidsonPosted at 06:02h, 06 October
Heyyyy! Im taking a year break from Uni and guess what? I’m going backpacking with my close friends to South East Asia. I will definitely take note of this in my traveling diary and would put it into practice when I visit all the different cultures in the world! I want to learn and understand more cultures!
ScottPosted at 10:12h, 08 October
Awesome Henry. If you haven’t read Vagabonding, you have got to pick it up for your trip. Unreal inspiration for an adventure.
HomerPosted at 06:45h, 06 October
Perhaps the most important point that I felt from reading this article is ..Make Friends.
By making friends, we understand their culture better, we respect people of different diversities, making us a better individual and more open to accepting people for who they are.
ScottPosted at 10:13h, 08 October
There are few things more valuable than close friends. No question Homer.
TomelloPosted at 06:51h, 06 October
Hey Julian, I must say that is really a great idea. I am very eager to try out what you did. Nothing beats seeing the smile that you made to your friends. It is priceless! Surely, the upper hand is better than the lower hand
ScottPosted at 10:13h, 08 October
Agreed. I might have to make this a regular event for me too. My wife and I try to do a dinner party a month which we love hosting. The more the better though…to a point 😉
Creating Space for Your Monster Ideas | Reading For Your SuccessPosted at 17:13h, 02 November
[…] thinking happens outside of the office. For me that’s while tasting wine in Croatia, catching a sunrise from my rooftop, climbing up a mountain, hitting a barefoot run or meandering […]
CarolPosted at 07:19h, 04 October
Just found your blog and I was impressed how you captured the Dalmatian lifestyle. I would very much like to discuss your posting this Croatian experience on my blog as a guest writer. I wish you were here to discuss this over our morning coffee ritual, it would be a joy to show you our hidden gems.
BethPosted at 11:56h, 04 October
I very much appreciate your philosophies…especially the first one when someone unexpected can cross your path, be willing to go with it! It’s what I call high value travelling! See my blog at http://acustomtripplanning.com/2011/09/12/travel-pearls-nova-scotia-kitchen-party/
to read about a similar experience we had in Nova Scotia! It’s the serendipitous events that can mean so much!
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brandPosted at 22:29h, 22 December
There are a small number plain old citizens who never to leave the house.
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BrucePosted at 09:39h, 06 June
I am of Croatian descent. It has been a few years since I visited. I found many of the same things you did. Great coffee, wonderful wine, even greater friendly people. No one fears the night, violent crime is almost unknown. I walked everywhere often after dark with teenage cousins as guides and never had to be afraid. I love your blog. What you have done is an inspiration.