A Traveler’s Terrene

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

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.

Advertisements
 

A Blank Canvas September 15, 2009

Filed under: Daily Life — italicana kitchen @ 8:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

When I arrived in Italy, I came loaded with a mind of ideas and goals of all the things I wanted to do while I am here. The problem, however, is that perfection began to prevail over action, and I’ve found myself the past few months spinning circles instead of moving forward with my goals.

It’s like I have been given this huge white empty canvas, clean new brushes and every imaginable color of paint. But, instead of picking up a paintbrush and painting, I’ve been analyzing, strategizing and over thinking everything. What do I want to paint? What colors will look good together?  What will be others reactions when they see this? I’ve been analyzing and trying to perfect something instead of  just picking up the paintbrush and see what comes in that moment.  I’ve been thinking that I only have this “ONE” white canvas….I don’t want to screw it up…and pressure builds to exponential levels because what I paint now will it be a picture that I want to look at for the rest of my life?

Yet, the truth is and what I am starting to get myself to realize each day is that with life it’s not just one canvas you get, but many. The portrait, landscape or image you paint today and hang on your wall can just as easily be removed and changed.  Let go of the pressure of trying to paint a picture you’ll be content with your entire life, and instead paint a picture that you want to paint in this moment given the tools and materials you have. Hang it on your wall, and after a while it may grow into a timeless piece you love forever or you may find you want to change it up–it served it’s purpose and it’s now time for something new.

It’s a waste to let a canvas stay blank and the paint dry up.  Enough analyzing, enough thinking, it’s time to start doing. It’s time start creating.

 

Daily Challenge: Make Your Bed December 2, 2008

You wake up early, take a shower, get dressed and maybe eat breakfast or grab an apple as you head out the door; however, before you leave don’t forget to make your bed. If you already do, great for you! If you don’t and you leave your blankets askew and your pillows tossed to the side in a chaotic mess–like your hair is in the morning when you don’t brush it–you are missing out on one of the most incredible feelings when you return home from working a long day…the feeling of tranquility, the feeling of “ahhh…at least one thing in my life is in order…” The bedroom becomes your little sanctuary.

It really is the little things in life that can change your attitude throughout the day: a good song on the radio,  a car letting you cut into line for the freeway, a smile from a stranger–or a perfectly made bed with its corners tucked in, pillows neatly arranged and the blanket drawn tight to the sides leaving a smooth surface, like freshly fallen snow. If you ski or snowboard you know how incredible it is to find a patch of snow completely untouched and with no visible ski marks–it’s your terrene, it’s your snow to carve through and design. It’s relaxing, it’s a little piece of heaven.

Maybe the kitchen is always a mess, or the kids leave toys all over the livingroom, but your bedroom–your bedroom should be your sanctuary. It should be an area of tranquilty for you to unwind, organize your thoughts and to rest well so you can prepare yourself for the next day.  Keep it clean, keep it orderly, and above all else–make your bed.

After a week of this routine you will understand the feelings I am talking about…

 

Daily Challenges: Balancing Your Goals November 23, 2008

I have been living off an energy high since being in Italy. Each day I have woken up and felt truly happy…to the point that I smile all day long, have a skip in my walk, and have had numerous people ask me if I am always this happy, for which I reply, of course not (to make them feel better)–but truthfully, I have been. Why? Because each day I have been living a balanced goal oriented life. I have an accomplished feel to my day as I simultaneously work towards achieving many of my personal goals.

But the past 3 days however, I have been on the verge of kicking something (really hard and with all my strength), my insides have felt explosive–like a shaken up soda pop, cap still on and just waiting to explode. I hate being filled with negative feelings or anxiety as it directly affects the rest of my mind and body–I start sleeping less, eating bad foods, stop working out, and become mentally and physically lazy. It’s a recipe for disaster and if which, is not stopped soon, can easily become routine. And, seriously, who likes to be around a pessimistic, lazy, moody person? Not me…and even I then start to despise myself…  

The catalyst to this horrible cycle of emotions has been my over indulgence in one particular goal–trying to complete a 50,000 word manuscript by the end of November. I think this goal is entirely doable, and had I spent the first few weeks organizing my time a little better would have been manageable, but as I near the end of the month with a current word count of around 30,000 I began to freak out–“I’m not going to achieve my goal,” my insides wail. And because my insides are little fighters they say, “come on now…we’re not going to give up! Let’s fight…”–and so I did: staying up routinely until 4…3…2a.m. this past week, locking myself in my room and sitting in a chair with my computer on my lap for 9…10…11+ hours at a time, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee and tea and dedicating all my non-working hours to writing (meaning no running, reading, practicing Italian etc).

Three days ago, my body started hating me and my mind felt like a caffeinated cloud–buzzing awake but airy, with nothing really there.  Finally, I did what I knew would make me feel better–I went for a run. Within the first four strides, my body said to me, “THHHHHAANNNKKKYYYOOOOUUUU” (it doesn’t like being caged up) and my mind slowly began to relax, the fuzzy cloud that hung over my thoughts began sharpening into focus like the lens in a binocular. “Yay!” I said to myself, “I can actually think again.” So I ran…and ran…and ran…and probably could have rivalled Forest Gump in distance had I not had to work that day. It felt good to feel good; it felt good to be back to my normal self.

So, I have decided to not bind myself in trying to complete the word count at all costs–not to say I have given up writing towards this goal, but I am not going to starve myself from sleep, exercise and a little fun. My long term goal is to write a novel. I may not achieve my short term goal of writing a 50k novel within a month, but hey–not every goal I set am I going to accomplish, and that is okay. As long as I am taking a step in the right direction, I am at least moving somewhere than standing idle. This short term goal pushed me to start writing and to stop doubting my abilities or fears of failure. So, even though I may not get to 50,000 words by November 30th, my novel is in motion–30,000 words and counting!

Goals are like climbing a mountain. You see the top, and you want to be standing there, smiling, hands stretched out wide to your sides in self congratulation as you pear down below at your achievement. Sometimes it will be an easy climb–hey you’re in shape, you have the right equipment and your body can manage it. Other times, it will be a struggle–the weather brings snow flurries, equipment breaks or your body just says to you, “I can’t go on.” As any true climber knows–a mountain will always be there, you however, if you don’t listen to the signs of your body, may not.

So, my challenge to you is to access your goals and the state of your mind and body. Everyone will have different capacities and breaking points of how much they can handle. But just remember, your mind and body is your core, keep it alert and healthy and don’t overindulge if is telling you not to–it’s a smart little vessel, so listen to it:-)

 

Daily Challenge: Explore New Terrene November 15, 2008

You don’t need to quit your job, sell you things, and put everything in storage (ahem, or your parent’s garage–thanks mom and dad!) to make your life into a Traveler’s Terrene.  If you have the time, ambition and finances to do so I would definitely encourage this route as it gives you the most flexibility, freedom, and sense of adventure; however, it may not be practical if you have a mortgage, kids, school, a great career (the list goes on…). Yet, remember that these strings that tie you to an area, do have slack. Sure, you may not be able to jet off to a foreign country or cross an ocean, but you can explore the state and city you live in to get the same sense of adventure that comes with discovering the unknown.

How often is it that we live in an area and the tourist sees and knows more about our own city, because for us it is home not a destination?  I challenge you to transform the city you live into a destination.  Go to the tourist information center and play tourist for a day. After you do that, pick up a map and take a day trip to a nearby city that you’ve never been to for the afternoon. And, if you say you just don’t have time to do even these little things, then simply drive new routes on your way to work, take a bus and watch from the window or go running in a new direction–you’ll be surprised at all of the new little discoveries you find that are even a few blocks  away from your home because you are finally taking the time to LOOK, as tourists do, rather than travelling from point A to B as residents do.

Tonight I am off to Parma. I’m taking my little silver Fiat, a road map and hitting the highway in quest for some unexplored terrene.

Where are you going?

 

Star Jumping and Toyota Kicking the world! November 14, 2008

Yesterday marked my 9 month anniversary of leaving Seattle to travel around the world!  It was an experience of a lifetime, an epic adventure. I freed the explorer inside me that has been restless since my childhood days when I explored the world in my backyard. I finally had the courage to say to that little voice…go on…PLAY! IMAGINE! CREATE! The world is your playground I told myself, it is a Traveler’s Terrene.

So here I am nine months later with some 50 gigs of photos, unforgettable memories, and a global network of new friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. From the people I travelled with on different legs of the trip: my older brother “Mohawk Mark” (2 months in New Zealand), college friend and dance extraordinaire Brian (3 weeks in Thailand), my childhood next door neighbor and “Sister Zesma” Suzanne (5 months throughout Southeast Asia, Turkey, Croatia and Italy), my adorable Italian former roommate Ilaria (2 weeks in Milan and a long weekend in England) and the countless backpackers I met along the way where we travelled together for a few days before parting ways (you know who you are…I HEART you…and there are too many too name!)  

At some point I’ll upload a wide selection of photos to Picasa and send a link, but for now, here is a snapshot of my trip as I Star Jumped and Toyota Kicked across the world!

 

Daily Challenge: Everyone Needs a Little Motivation November 11, 2008

I have my short and long term goals, but what about daily goals? Or even better, daily challenges.  I am competitive by nature, not the “I’m going to scratch your eyes out to win competitive”, but the “bring it on” attitude, or the “game on” I always like to say (picture the scene from Wayne’s World…).

Even though I am proactive by nature, there are times when I am lazy. Times when I procrastinate. Times when I just plain don’t care. Then…someone challenges me. “I bet you can’t do…”

 I feel a prickling sensation at the nape of my neck. I sit up straight, back arched in perfect posture, as I listen closely to what is being said…how dare someone suggest that me , a woman of the 21st century, can’t do something. I won’t claim I can do everything or rather, be good at everything, but I have enough courage to accept the challenge and try.

Has anyone heard me sing?  I am absolutely terrible. But, that didn’t keep me years ago from auditioning for a part in a musical and singing on stage in front of hundreds of people. (Mind you, after diligent practice I could sing the song quite well, but I would be your worst nightmare now if you allowed me sing to music in the car!)

Sometimes, all we really need is someone to play devil’s advocate and doubt us, assuming they know what we are and aren’t capable of doing.  Or, by contrast, sometimes, all we need is a little motivation. Someone to suggest we would be good at something or to complement us on our skills.  Whatever the case may be, sometimes we just need something to get us up and moving. To remind you to live an active life rather than a passive one. To propel you to better yourself or your situations.  To make life into a fun game, with new rules each day.  To try new things and explore. To force yourself to take risks even though you may be afraid. To humble yourself with failure, and become more confident with each success. And, the list goes on…

Each day, I will post a new challenge for myself. A mission to accomplish. (<insert mission impossible theme song here Da..da..da…da. Da..da…da..da.  Dada dddddddd….dada ddddddddd…dada.>) It will be anything from learning how to make authentic Italian homemade pasta to making a friend with a complete stranger; from volunteering a few hours at a shelter to taking a painting class. The options are endless.

My challenge to you, is to play this game with me. Write a message on the Daily Challenge post about your accomplishments or failures, stuggles or achievements with each challenge. It will be fun, it will be interactive! Given certain circumstances, you (or I) may not be able to play or achieve each challenge. Maybe you live in a small town and don’t have the ability to take a painting class or you can’t afford a babysitter to watch the children etc. Or, my challenges may not be practical for you or vice versa.  Feel free to use my challenges if you want or create your own as in the end, it’s more important that you make up challenges that fit your lifestyle and your personal desires. Either way, just challenge yourself to do something each day. Motivate yourself to better yourself in someway. It can be big or small, lighthearted or serious; it just needs to a challenge you set for yourself, a goal you try to achieve for the day.

And, don’t forget to let me know how it goes…and, even better, send me challenges to accomplish as well.

Happy brainstorming and…game on!