Good day, team.
After traveling in Europe for three weeks, I have to admit there’s no place like home. Living out of a suitcase and managing travel logistics to seven major cities in 21 days is challenging. As I sit here by the fire this morning with my cup of tea, I am happy to say it was a full trip, but I’m also happy to be home safe and sound.
Whenever I’ve gone on a journey, I always ask myself three questions: What did I learn about the world? What was the greatest gift I received? What did I learn about myself?
This week’s challenge is my attempt to answer these questions. I could apply these questions to my life at anytime. But traveling to foreign places always offers something new to learn, and it’s a great way to broaden your perspective on the world.
So what did I learn about the world? I last traveled to Italy 22 years ago. Back then, the major cities in Italy were most crowded during the spring and summer months. October was a bit more subdued, and the tourists were much smaller in numbers. Not true today! What stood out to me was how many more people there are in the world now. As human beings, no matter what else goes on, we just continue to produce more human beings. I was shocked by the huge numbers of people I encountered — and how challenging it was to navigate in such crowds. I’m pretty polite when it comes to standing in lines and making space for others on the metro. But I had to fight my way into many spaces with people who thought nothing of delivering an elbow jab to my upper arm or abdomen to get where they wanted to go. I realize that in parts of the world, people experience this hustle and bustle on a daily basis, and I shouldn’t take it personally — but geez, a little human kindness would be nice. I have a client who, after attending a weeklong retreat where she tried to meet new people and make some friends, observed, “Well, I realized that I have a great love for humanity, but I don’t like anyone in particular.” Frankly, I began to feel just the opposite. I like a lot of folks in particular, but during my trip, I felt a growing dislike for humanity in general!
What was the greatest gift I received? A wonderful dining experience in Florence with our host Carla. We stayed at this woman’s home, which she’s turned into a bed and breakfast. Part of what she offers her visitors is a six-course, authentic Tuscan dinner. This meal was one of the finest dining experiences I’ve ever had. The food was beyond great, prepared to perfection. The wines matched with it were superb. And the company at the table was just the right blend of people — a mixture of Americans and Italians who shared similar values and who wanted to connect. We shared our travel experiences and what we loved most about Florence and Italy. Another great gift during the trip was being able to get our wash done in Rome. After 2½ weeks of doing laundry by hand, this was a total luxury!
What did I learn about myself? I’ve gotten older. I’m more opinionated. I am less patient about my creature comforts. I often feel more at home in parts of Europe than I do in parts of the U.S. I am one small speck in an extremely large universe. Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” I had many opportunities for my opinions to be challenged and my narrow thinking to expand.
Your challenge this week is to ponder these questions. You don’t have to go on a journey to ask yourself what you’ve learned about the world lately. Or what the greatest gift you received this week was. Have you learned anything new about yourself lately? Traveling forces us to be more nimble and less set in our ways — to adapt. But each of us can do this each week by examining our thinking and attitudes. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these questions to observe what in your life is teaching you something new or offering you a gift that might give you joy.
St. Augustine wrote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
After three weeks of traveling, I’ve read a few more chapters and hope to take what I’ve learned back into my daily life and routine.
Have a good week!
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