A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

Italian Easter Roadtrip May 2, 2011

Filed under: Round The World Trip — italicana kitchen @ 5:13 pm
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Taking a Mini-Retirement Now: Reason #48 February 22, 2010

Four to five weeks holiday isn’t a dream it’s standard in Western European countries.

If you think that a four to five-week holiday is a dream it’s not; in fact, it’s a reality in Western Europe and other countries around the world.

After traveling around the world for 10 months and now living in Italy for the past year, going back to the United States is going to be a challenge.  I still don’t understand this American ideology that one needs to work 60…70..80 hours a week, taking virtually no vacation (two weeks on average) while trying to move up the corporate ladder.  The European economy, in general, is a sound economy and average employees receive four to five weeks holiday, in some countries siesta’s during the day, and in general, they don’t stay at the office longer than they have to; whereas, in the States, the more hours you put in gives you bragging rights.

“I worked 70 hours last week,” one employee says to the other.

“Oh yeah, well I worked 80 hours, slept in my office and still haven’t showered today,” the other retorts with a coffee-induced- shaky-smile.

I don’t even want to imagine what this conversation will be like in ten years if this workaholic lifestyle continues. Things could get pretty smelly (pun intended).

The point is, four to five week holidays seem like an absolute, unattainable dream for Americans; one, that is often times in our hopes but out of reach. However, it is not unattainable. Millions of Europeans and citizens from other countries live this dream each year.  They have a balanced lifestyle of work and play; this is their philosophy for life.

We, as over-worked, stressed out Americans, need to reanalyze our work ideology.  Really, I promise, you’re not being a slacker if you work fewer hours; in fact, it’s the smart thing to do. Aren’t you a better employee when you aren’t anxious and strung out on caffeine?  Aren’t you a more productive employee when you get a good night’s  rest?  Aren’t you a more efficient employee when you choose a working method that suits you as long as you produce results?

Weekends are essential for recuperating from the work week, just as four to five weeks of vacation are to recuperating from the work year.  Don’t feel guilty for wanting to take off on holiday for four to five weeks; rather, Americans, you should be feeling pissed-off that you’re not already.  And, look at the Boston Tea Party–with enough pissed off Americans, we can change the rules.

 

Truth through Simplicity September 23, 2009

There is something about the sense of freedom and adventure that makes my heart jump and wild butterflies soar around my tummy like that of a first kiss. The idea of letting everything go and falling into the unknown is exhilarating–it makes me feel present in this world, it makes me feel alive.

Small things can spark these feelings of liberation: a powerful push of a car’s accelerator, an unexplored hiking trail, a secluded swimming cove or even a simply designed movie poster.

“What is so special about this movie poster?” one may ask, “it is just a house suspended in air by a bunch of balloons.”

“Oh, my dear friend,” I would like to say. “This illustration represents freedom. Imagine for a moment that you could just leave everything behind and explore the world. And, not even in the traditional sense–you wouldn’t need to go through all of today’s politics of selling your house, packing your things, organizing your accounts–oh no, you could simply tie balloons to your house, lift off and be gone. No hassle. No fuss. Simply–a flight of freedom.”

Now I haven’t yet seen the film–it will be released next month in Italy–but, you can bet that I will be one of the first customers in line when the ticket booth opens. Like Disney/Pixar’s last film WALL-E which contains important messages regarding environmental destruction, reliance on technology and obesity; Up also contains messages about today’s American society, and specifically about our common state of thinking in the Future instead of thinking in the Now.

In this story, Carl and Ellie meet as children, fall in love, are inseparable throughout adulthood and share the same dream from when they were young–to explore the South American jungles. But, jobs, health issues and daily life get in the way and before Carl knows it he is old and widowed and has yet to fulfill his dream. Yet, although life sometimes gets away from us, there is always the Now to make a change. And, at 78, Carl decides that Now is the only time he has. So geared with thousands of balloons tied to his house, he let’s himself be lifted UP…UP…and AWAY, to start his adventure and to finally live out his dream.

This message, although told through a simple animated film, is an important one. Each day we have the opportunity to live life how we want to live, yet many of us let go of the balloon we hold in our hands–our dreams–to fulfill the practical side of life with the intention that “someday I can hold start living, someday I can hold that balloon again.”  But, this is pure madness. You don’t hold in your hand, “someday”, you hold in your hand “now.” That is all you have or will ever have. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Think about your dreams. Don’t let them float away like a stray balloon; instead, take those dreams, hold them tight, and let them carry you UP.

 

A Moment in History: The Inauguration of Barack Obama January 20, 2009

I am sitting on my parent’s tan couch, feet up on the ottoman, the sound of trumpets and loud cheering are filling the living room while I watch on television as President Elect Barack Obama walks down a red and blue carpet, his face wavering between smiles and concentrated thought before taking a seat in a blue leather armchair that faces out towards the hundreds of thousands of spectators that are bundled up in hats, gloves and warm coats on the National Mall in front of the capital as they wait with great enthusiasm for the inauguration of the 44th President to commence.

Now, less than an hour later, Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and has addressed the nation with the current challenges that face America as well as his optimistic visions in addressing these issues head on.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time, but know this, America — they will be met,” he said.

I find comfort in these words. They are not inflated with illusions that all of America’s problems will magically vanish now that Obama is President. He does not sugarcoat the gravity of America’s situation nor does he promise instant resolutions. Instead, Obama is honest about the detrimental crises that face our society, and the challenge it will be to restore or improve the nation’s economic, political and social standings.

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise healthcare’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

Obama’s goals for the nation are set high, and some may argue that they are unrealistic given our current situation.  Yet, why would we want a President who’s goals are set low? America does not need a President who is looking for a short fix for our nation in order to save face or to please the public. America does not need someone who wants to sew a patch on our current problems. America needs someone who is willing to rip that hole bigger, to rip out the old threads that are sewn in a zig zag mess or on the verge of breaking and to start new–thread and needle in hand, mending at the root of the problem even though it may take longer, yet, in the end it will be easier to sew a straight line.

A small goal is the same as a large goal, they are both goals and will only be accomplished by one thing…action. It is President Obama’s commitment towards action to address America’s challenges that will propel this nation forward.  President Obama will not coddle America through this recession, but rather challenge the public and the government to strive for high aspirations as we rebuild our society by combining imagination and courage to carve our own path and foundation for the future.

 

It’s About Time. November 5, 2008

I remember in 2002, when I backpacked throughout Europe and studied abroad in Rome, Italy, giant PACE (peace) flags, the color of a rainbow, hung from almost every apartment window. In 2004, I lived in Perth, Australia for a year long exchange, and watched from abroad as Bush was re-elected for a second term, the weeks after which, I felt more heat and ridicule of “being an American”. In 2005, I travelled in South America for two months; my mom wanted me to sew a Canadian flag to my backpack and tell people I was from Vancouver. For the past six years that I have been travelling abroad, being an American has not been a comfortable or exciting identity to hold. Usually I get the “I’m sorry for you” look, or the “I hate Bush” comment, which for me has been okay since I agree.

This year, however, as I spent 8 months travelling around the world, there was a new feel to being an American. In fact, it was exciting to say that I was from the USA. My thoughts about the upcoming election was the first thing asked by foreigners and locals once they found out I was American. Instead of the “boo, another stupid American” glance, it was a look of excitement, “What do you think about Obama and McCain? Who do you want to win!”

“OBAMA!” I would exclaim. 98% of whom I talked to would smile back at me, their eyes lit up as they shouted, “Yes! Me too!”

It was refreshing that foreigners weren’t trying to talk to me about the war in Iraq or the IQ level of my President, instead they were looking to the future of America and the changes that would hopefully take place witha new president. Obama has quite the feat of obstacles ahead of him. He is only one man. He is not perfect. But, he is a change. He is hope for America and the international community alike.

With Barack Obama being elected as the United State’s 44th President, I finally feel great about proclaiming to the international community that, “I am American!”

And thank goodness…it’s about time.