I recently traveled through Greece. Here are the lessons I learned during my journey.
- The Best things in life are Free
“Travel brings power and love back to your life.”-Rumi.
I couldn’t agree more. Being an avid traveler, I get inspired by people who are always on the move. I love listening to stories from strangers about how they decided to relocate or what made them take a brave step in life. I watched an inspiring movie in January 2015, “Wild”.
While on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed said to a fellow hiker “There is a sunrise and a sunset everyday and you can choose to be there for It. You can put yourself in the way of beauty”.
We spend big bucks on flights and fancy hotels, followed by more on touristic locations, transportation and tickets for well-preserved historic monuments and museums. But the truth is, what really lingers with us throughout our lives are those beautiful moments, which are not in anyway controlled by humans.
I traveled around Greece last month and I appreciated seeing impressive sites in the cradle of European Civilization, but what stuck with me are the beautiful sunsets, which are absolutely free.
- You need your body more than it needs you
I keep hearing the phrase “Dolce far niente” since I moved to Italy.
It translates to “sweetness of doing nothing”, and I absolutely love it! The more I travel around Mediterranean countries, I see people living this phrase. For instance, Greeks firmly believe in afternoon naps. Locals shut down their businesses for the entire afternoon and open again late evening.
By taking a few hours off, locals seem to have double the time, as they begin all over again in the evening and go on until midnight. It’s a relaxed environment, and even though economic situations are not ideal, people still enjoy and love their lives.
In today’s world, most of us are in a rat race.
We are getting projects done simultaneously, showing up for meetings and getting habitual to all those hectic lifestyle habits like a quick power lunch.
All this stress and haste to be on top takes a toll on our health. I noticed Greeks (just like people from other Mediterranean countries), come together over food and spend hours telling stories. Having an ordinary meal of the day is more like a celebration of life. No wonder a little island called Ikaria in Greece is said to have the healthiest and longest living populations in the world, with lower rates of depression. Their secret to a long healthy life lies in a good sleep, fresh healthy meals and quality time outdoors in nature.
We might often take our health and body for granted while searching for money, but the fact is, during our time on Earth, we need our body to be healthy and happy, a lot more than it needs us to be rich and successful.
- Humans are an adaptive species
After this trip to Greece, I am convinced that humans are indeed the most adaptive species in the world.
As Rick Potts, Director of the Humans Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution, said, “The evolution of the brain is the most obvious example of how we evolve to adapt. Man had two key advantages: our brains and our capacity for culture.”
Something hard to miss in Greece are the quirky toilets. Flush toilets were developed about 2000 BC, but the modern plumbing system is not capable of handling toilet paper.
So all toilets have a waste-basket located nearby, where you throw toilet paper after doing your business. Of course, the first 2 days of the trip were horrid due to this, but by the third day until the end of the trip we became habitual to this fact. In fact habitual to the point as if we have always been throwing toilet paper in a bin rather than flushing. We are a lot more adaptive than we give ourselves credit for.
- Don’t kill time … because time is killing you
I read “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom in 2013. There are several phrases in the book that I know by heart and one of the most powerful one is:
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
Greeks take their time for leisure, and the concept of punctuality and time is loosely defined.
Time isn’t money, and honestly, I feel that could actually be a very liberating belief. In some islands, people don’t wear a watch; time is spent on savoring little pleasures of life with nowhere to be “on time”. A slower pace of life might actually be related to a longer life.
- Don’t listen to others, see it for yourself
As mentioned in my previous article, “before stereotyping places based on other people’s experiences or opinions, have the courage and curiosity to see it for yourself”.
With some worries about economic stability, some people raised an eyebrow at the mention of traveling to Greece.
We walked around late at night, and we did see some sights that were a bit of shock for us after spending a couple of years in Scandinavian countries.
Despite all the fear and precautions, we had a great time.
The lesson learned here was that rather than believing everything you hear, go see it for yourself.