“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”
I can add another mistake along this road. and that is:
“Not looking at what is actually in front of you”
The first is a quote from Buddha and the last is a quote from me. Both are important.
In our radio show yesterday, my co-host, Sally Nutter and I talked about how, under moments of stress or confusion, a person can make a decision about someone or something, or even a whole group of someones. These decisions stick and they may work to handle the confusion the person feels at the time, but that person then puts up this decision and looks at IT instead of the actual situation and people in the present. Therefore he is treating the present day world as one painful incident in the past.
You can tell when someone is doing this because their actions and statements don’t make sense. Examples of this are statements like “People are stupid” or “woman/men are not to be trusted.”
These decisions are the roots of prejudice.
If you follow the quotes I gave you, you will actively promote harmony and begin to end prejudice.
Travel and communication with other people is the solution to the world’s problems provided you see each new person for who they really are.
How can you dislike a person who loves his family, values his community and reaches out to visitors?
The only way to do that is to fail to see the person in front of you as a new person and only see the shadow of a past enemy instead.
Travel and communication with live people, without prejudgement, and with understanding is the key to our survival as a human species.
That is a strong statement but it is true. The more people who travel and meet and talk to new people, the more peace we will have. It follows as naturally as the calm after the storm.
There are so many life lessons to be learned from travelling. Since I have done tons of travel and own a place in a tiny village in Southern Italy, I can tell you some of my favorites.
1. You learn a lot about life.
There is nothing like diving out of your comfort zone to make you realize that you are a newbie in life no matter what your age. There are so many things to learn such as how to get a meal in an Italian restaurant when the menus are in Italian and you don’t speak Italian. (Hint: Go to Duolingo.com and learn some of the basic menu items from where you are going. They also have lots of fun language learning games.)
2. You are never alone.
You can make friends anywhere. Be the first to smile. Make an effort to join in their celebrations or simply ask them questions about their lives. This is all it takes.
3. You meet unforgettable people.
Several years ago, I purchased a small apt in Southern Italy. It has been magical.
One of my most treasured friendships is the one I found with the lady who owns the little grocery store in Santa Domenica Talao. Her name is Nunzia and we loved each other from the moment we met.
We still struggle with the language a bit but that doesn’t seem to matter. Every time I arrive, kisses rain down on me, spontaneous hugs erupt out of nowhere and I have been pulled into the bosom of the village through her acceptance and love.
In the morning I go to her shop for coffee. I love to watch as the villagers come in for their produce (buying or selling) and an update on whatever is happening in the village or surrounding area. And every day Nunzia saves the freshest eggs for me behind her counter.
She is an amazing lady whom I adore. Who knew I would find her tending a little store, in a medieval village in Southern Italy?
4. You learn to enjoy transient relationships
On a recent trip, I ended up taking the slow train from Cremona in the North to my place down South. I spent 13 hours in a train that stopped at every station. Happily I shared a compartment with a group of people from Naples.
If you have not met folks from Naples, I can tell you that they are so much fun! The train barely started when questions were asked about me, where I was from, where I was going, and what I was interested in. Food was opened and passed around. discussions were had. The young girl next to me asked me to translate every word she could think of into English so she could wow her friends. We had a great time!
At the end, no numbers were exchanged, just simply the promise to look for them when I visit Naples and the idea that Naples will be a perfect destination for my next trip.
5. You have to try new things.
Whether you are staring at a menu realizing you have no idea what the items are, or jumping on a bus that you hope will get you somewhere familiar, travel is exciting. You have to do new things. It is all about getting yourself into situations and turning them into amazing experiences.
6. There are no “mistakes”
Ok maybe one or two. Don’t eat anything you would not step on in your bare feet (one of my important life rules) and if the water is not good, don’t drink it or eat anything that has not been cooked.
Other than that, go and have some fun. Read up in the culture before you go and when something goes off plan, turn it into an exciting experience.
Oh and make sure you have an emergency packet of tissues as you never know about train station bathrooms!
7. You find the value in getting lost.
Really! Get lost in a city then wander around. The great thing is there are taxis all over the place and you can always dive into one when you get tired.
There is nothing like being lost in Rome where every street corner has another spectacular sculpture; or being lost in Brussels where every neighborhood has a cluster of bistros or bakeries.
There is so much to see and experience that is not in the guide books. Go off plan and get lost!
8. You get out of your environment
Every time I travel, I find that that I can view my life from the outside and find solutions or changes that I never would have seen if I had not gotten away from it all.
As we live our lives, we keep our heads down and we keep going. Any problems we have, we are in them. When you travel, you get outside of them and can solve them.
We always seem to have solutions for other people’s problems but struggle with our own. That is because we are IN our problems and it is difficult to find solutions to something you are inside of.
9. You learn to forget the plan.
When I travel, I make an outline but not a rigid plan. There are always things I want to see and do, but the last thing I want is to be a slave to a schedule. Make your trip elastic. See what you want to see but leave lots of time to drift.
Visit the church you stumbled on, on your way to the Vatican or just go out and bob in the sea until dinner time.
I am usually a type A personality but one of my favorite pastimes in Southern Italy is getting my little air mattress and bobbing in the sea. I look at the sky, watch the kids play in the water, think about dinner… I relax. The monuments will be there next time. Don’t deny yourself this luxury!
10. You learn to talk to people
There is nothing like struggling with another language to get you looking at people as they are. Hilarious grammer errors are made and laughs are shared. It is a golden opportunity to fall in love with people. That is one of my favorite pastimes too!
11. You absorb history.
We, in the US have history, but in Europe, they laugh. “200 years?” they say, “Why, that was just yesterday!”
What do houses look like that have stood for over 300 years? What do churches look like? How were the villages laid out? There is so much history in the most humble village anywhere that you end up absorbing it. When you put present day in context with history, art, music and all the other cultural aspects, it is a rich tapestry indeed.
12. You learn new cuisines
I cannot go to a restaurant in a foreign country without mentally reverse engineering the food that I am eating. As soon as I get home I try it out. Many times your waiter will tell you the recipe!
When you go to a store in Italy, not only do you get the ingredients you need to make a dish but you get a full description of exactly how to go home and make it.
Last time I was there I learned how to make a perfect pasta fagiole made with pink beans that you can only find in the local markets. I also learned to steam a perfect Filetto ( I think it was sea bass) freshly pulled from the Mediterranean that morning and purchased off the fish van that visits the village at dawn.
13. You understand a different way of life.
I was having dinner with my friend Nunzia and I asked her what it was like growing up in a tiny village on the top of a hill in Southern Italy. She told me that all of the people in the village were her family. Births and deaths affect everyone in the village exactly as it affects the family.
I could see that everyone in the village was loved and admired. Faults were overlooked and everyone pulled together. It was a totally new look at a life I never knew existed and want to create in my area at home.
14. You fall in love
I don’t know why it is, but everyone I meet in my travels is a wonderful person. On occasion I have met someone gruff or even unfriendly but 99% of the people I meet are amazing.
One day, I was walking in Diamente. As I turned a corner, a tiny little lady came out and stared at me. Immediately she called out “Aie che bella duona!” (What a beautiful lady!) and came toward me her arms outstretched. I fell into her embrace and was patted and kissed as though I was a long lost relative. How great is that? I decided at that point that I loved Diamante and always go there when I am in Italy.
15. You learn to change quickly
As you travel, anything can happen and you may end up in a pretty strange situation. The wily traveler learns to change quickly. Travelling is fraught with unknowns. you learn to think on your feet and solve problems efficiently.
16. You learn other languages.
Even if you go to many different places and even if you don’t make a huge effort to learn the languages of the people whose country you visit, simply seeing street signs and restaurant menus teaches you a part of the local language. Hearing a language spoken around you gives you a feel for the rhythm of it and you feel more at home around it.
17. You start to understand different cultures
There is nothing like living amongst people of other cultures to make you understand why people do what they do. Other religions came from somewhere. So did ideas, moral codes and art. Each culture has its treasures. Dig them up and enjoy them.
18. You learn how to travel.
Travelling itself is a skill. After carting around a giant suitcase and trying to stuff it through tiny train doors on an extended visit to Europe, you learn that there are some things you can do without. You learn to decipher railway schedules. You learn what to do when you take the wrong bus and end up God knows where. All of these skills make regular life at home so much easier.
19. You develop confidence.
After travelling and learning all of these new things, you start to realize how smart you are. After all, you made it to your destination, found your connecting flights, ordered food and somehow made it through a new experience. You are pretty resourceful!
20. You find out that we are all one people.
There is nothing like travelling to make you realize that when we talk about going to war with another country, the people that will be harmed are the people you met in the café, the children you saw on their way to school, and the families you see strolling the streets arm in arm in the evening. Suddenly it becomes personal. Suddenly, it is not ok to see them injured or killed.
Of all of the benefits of travelling, I think that this is the most far reaching and the most important. People are our most treasured gifts here in this life. Go meet them. Develop a love for other cultures, religions and lifestyles. Let them see that we are all one too. I believe that if we do this we can change the world, One travelling peace maker at a time.
Write me of your experiences! I would love to hear them!
Featured photo credit: Semina Psichogiopoulou via unsplash.com