On my flight back from Rome, I wrote this. Little did I know about the horrific events that were happening in Paris at that time. It’s so sad to see such terror brought towards people that love and savor life.
It’s ironic that on that plane I was writing about all the wonderful things I had experienced during my 3 weeks in the Mediterranean. When I got home, I was going to change this in light of what's happening in the world since then but decided not to. As if we give in to the fear of terrorism then they win! We must continue to live our lives (with vigilance) without fear. Continue to keep our plans. I would go back to Europe again and again, as I will not allow these lunatics to control my life! Life is still wonderful in the Mediterranean.
During my 3 weeks there (mostly Italy), I observed that people appeared to be content with what they have and their way of life. They are not out to have more " things”. They don't own large houses as most live in small flats that they either rent or own. Yet they speak very well of their hometowns and appear to be satisfied and happy living there even though taxes are high (an approx. average of 40%) but they have free healthcare and education. Yes, there can be a long wait for medical tests and such but they are satisfied with their way of life and prefer to stay where they are. Besides, we over -utilize medical testing here because of defensive medicine and the fear of lawsuits as well as corporate profits. They love their countries and towns and are proud to state where they are from. They do not desire to leave. Really made me think about priorities and what really matters after all.
While driving through Tuscany, our tour guide told us about the Etruscans. History repeats itself doesn’t it? The Etruscans were actually the civilization way before the Romans (approx. 7th century BC). They were nature, art and music loving people. They understood that nature works in unison with man and we should cherish it and respect all of it. Yet man is the very creature that is destroying this earth. So sad we didn't learn from their way of life. We continue to fight and extinguish each other all in the name of power and riches. Even though that civilization vanished after the Roman expansion, their spirit remains. I saw it in the people there. They thread “life” into their daily routines. They are passionate about everything, and savor each moment, even the simplest. Yet here we look for something or someone to “entertain” us in order to feel happy, but are we truly happy inside? Or is the way we are living so empty?
Here's what I saw:
No AC in hotels as they turn it off for the fall and winter months, you can open the windows and let in the fresh air
Clothes dried on lines out windows of ancient flats
Fresh food in open markets or small stores dedicated to either produce or meats, bakeries - I rarely saw a supermarket
Food was bought fresh from many local farmers
Rare to see obese person (except for other tourists)
I walked at least 5 miles average / day
Took time for afternoon break - “siesta” - stores actually closed from 1-3 and yes they return to work afterward until 6 or 7, however, people stop to have a small tapas or wine in the evening after work, in mostly open air cafés
In Rome, there were many Osterias. Which are places to eat and gather with friends to chat, laugh and have some food and wine. It's very loud and crowded but so lively and fun
Roof top terraces
Clean streets, even in large cities as Rome and Barcelona
Public bathrooms were all very clean with usually an attendant that you pay minimum fee (approx. .50 euro) to use facility - worth it for the cleanliness
Eat supper late after 8 pm or even at 10 and stay up late past 10
I also didn't notice many people on cell phones while out in public nor while eating or chatting with friends (except for other tourists) and people actually converse with each other at restaurants ( even the youth) vs being on their cell phones and not talking to one another.
I did not observe "thugs" out in the streets. There is a low violent crime rate. You will see minor crimes such as pickpockets. Even in Rome I felt safe walking in the streets late at night.
Yes, there was heavily armed police and military presence in some places but it actually gave me a feeling of security. Yes, this was written before the attacks in Paris. But that can happen anywhere including right here in the US. Those were initiated by a terrorist group, not by the local people. Yes, I feared terrorist activity in large tourist areas, but not fear of being raped, mugged or murdered in the streets as I would here walking the streets of certain major cities at night.
So here are the “Pearls of wisdom” I took back with me from this wonderful trip:
Live every day to the fullest. Enjoy even the most simple pleasures. As what I remember most from my trip were those special moments such as waking up to a beautiful sunrise over the Ionian sea or seeing the sunset on a hilltop over Florence, the red huge full moon over the horizon in the mediterranean sea, a volcano island out in the ocean, the narrow cobblestone streets, the cafes, the people laughing, the delicious wine and food I had. All the marvelous impressive history I witnessed and learned about. The art, the ancient ruins.
So now every day, enjoy your moments. The time you spend talking with a good friend--yes put the phone down. And even more the time you spend with your loved ones. Savor each moment of your day and your life. Work to live, don't live to work! It's definitely not about all the “things” that you own or want to own, it is all about experiences and people you love.
I choose not to spend my money on more “things” but rather on new adventures and experiences that I will remember and savor the rest of my life. When was the last time you went on a trip and remembered what you wore, or what you bought? No, you remember what you experienced! That’s what it's all about.