I cannot remember a time that I stuffed my suitcase with memorabilia and souvenirs while traveling. I often forgo the trinkets in lieu of life long lessons, which weigh much less, but impact my life so much more.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Italy yet again and new lessons were learned and old ones were reinforced. Often, we need to see and hear things multiple times before they actually stick, which is a great excuse to keep returning to my beloved Italy. So, I share these beautiful, yet simplistic, life changing lessons with you in an effort to help you slow down, breathe more and take in this amazing life we have been given.
Lesson 1: Lose Connection to Gain Back Connection
This is by far my favorite lesson. Lose connection to gain back connection! It sounds so contradictory, but I promise it makes sense. When you roam the streets of Italy, you see very few people, if any, with eyes glued to their cellphones. Rather, Italians are having conversation, laughing, observing; they are connecting.
In a world where connection seems so imperative, we are forgetting to connect with those right in front of us. We get sucked into Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, News Feeds…. We want to post and we want to share, but as a result we stop sharing the moment with those standing next to us. I did not see Italians with phones out at meal times and I honestly never saw a child on an electronic device, even the children engaged in conversation.
When I leave Italy, I often feel very disconnected from my phone, social media and worldly connection, but I feel so much more connected to myself and those I am traveling with. I felt this each time I returned from Italy, but this time I am taking this beautiful reminder and implementing change and hopefully you will too.
- I will reserve specific times to check social media and posts.
- My phone will remain on “do not disturb” and I will check as needed. (Remember, there were days without 100% connection. The world and those you love will be fine if you do not answer the phone each time it rings and dings.)
- After dinner, I will not answer emails or check social media; this time will be reserved for myself and my family.
Maybe these exact adjustments do not work for you, but what can you do to adjust your connection with the world so that you stay better connected with yourself and those closest to you?
Lesson 2: Learn to Love Inconvenient Food
We have been brainwashed to love convenience everything! We focus so much on convenience we forget about everything else food should be. Eating a piece of fruit is a great convenience food, but hitting up the drive through and delivery every night should not be.
I love observing Italians over lunch cutting up their food into the smallest pieces, tasting each fresh ingredient while enjoying conversation with those at the table. They are engaged with the food and also with those around them. Most of us cannot fathom taking a lunch break that takes more than 15 minutes and takes us away from our phones and laptops.
I know, I know, the two hour lunches and three hour dinners common in Italy may seem impossible, but can we at least extend our meals to one hour or extend our lunch and dinner times a few days a week? This is a lesson my husband and I learned over ten years ago in Italy and we try our best to incorporate it into our dinners. I love to shop at the farmer’s markets, cook fresh food, then savor and enjoy with a great bottle of wine. When dinning out, we sit for hours and enjoy the food and our company.
Personally, dinner is typically not problematic. Fresh food is always served and I sit for a long time, but I often fail at lunch. I grab a bar, a smoothie, a Kombucha, whatever, happens to be convenient. So, I am working towards preparing salads, more veggies and sitting longer to enjoy my lunch rather than hurrying to finish it. I also realized how much I stand and eat and I am working towards always taking the time to sit and savor.
We have filled our schedules so much that eating has become just another task that needs to be squeezed into our schedule. Making an effort to slow it down is imperative to our physical and mental health. Food is medicine. Food is nourishment. Food is an energy source. Let’s give food the time it deserves. What can you do to make your eating habits more “Italian”?
Lesson 3: Slow down!
This lesson reiterates the previous. Not only do we eat fast, we do everything else fast. We need to slow it all down! We are always in such a hurry that we move faster than we need; we miss out on a lot, make mistakes as a result of our urgency and stress ourselves out.
During this trip to Italy, my husband and I hiked a lot of the Italian Riviera and my husband noticed that the Italians always looked good even when they were hiking up the side of a mountain. Then, we both realized that we were powering up the mountain at full speed rather than maintaining a sustainable stride. Once we got to the top, out of breath and covered in sweat, we realized that the landscape, the view and its beauty would have still been there if we would have slowed down just a bit and we may have looked just as amazing as the Italians casually climbing up the mountain.
Of course, this is just another lesson and a metaphor for how we live our lives. Our to-do lists are endless and our ambition drives us to finish everything at full speed no matter the outcome. I know that the moments I scurry to do everything is when mistakes happen, things get broken and I become frazzled. We need to slow down and the list will still get completed, maybe not today, but perhaps tomorrow.
Take this lesson and apply it to everything. Notice when you are moving in fast forward mode and try to take a step back and move at a more manageable and sustainable pace. My to-do list will remain, but my expectation to conquer it daily will not. Where can you slow down?
The biggest lessons often require just a little bit of change. Start small and amazing things will transpire. Italy is truly my favorite place to teach yoga retreats because Italians live their yoga. They are present. They move with intention. They honor their minds and their bodies. Observing their culture is like watching a yoga class flow around me. I cannot wait to return, but until then, I will change my perception of connection, savor my food and slow it all down. I hope you will too!