I like to believe that I seek to be influenced when I meet people and experience something outside of my daily rituals and activities….rather than be in judgement or reaction to something new or different from me. When I was in Italy last month (was it a month ago already?) I wanted to be immersed in the culture, the people, the language, the beauty and history – and there was so much to envelope me. There were stark and subtle differences in how I (we) live in the US as compared to Italians and I wanted to acknowledge them and bring them home to shift my world a bit. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Family matters to Italians. Holding hands, arm in arm, cheek to cheek, I was charmed and moved by families loving each other and sharing time together. Teenagers talking with parents as they walked arms linked in the mercato, laughing and playing over cappuccino instead of frozen to their smartphones and ignoring the world. It was strikingly different from America. And older family members were included as part of the group and the conversation.
2. People are happy….from the waiters to the taxi drivers, to the people sitting next to us in restaurants. There wasn’t tense, anxious, angry energy…people sit down and have an espresso or cappuccino rather than walking around with a Starbucks. They rest at lunchtime and eat dinner after 8. The house wine is cheaper than bottled water and delicious. We were on vacation but were observers of people working…riding their bikes to work in lovely linen outfits (the women over 50 – beautiful, full figured but not fat, sexy in a Sophia Loren way) with a peacefulness that was contagious. They were generous and patient with my Italian, and helped at any opportunity to make the moment easier or better. And no one was glued to their cell phones other than Americans.
3. Dogs. They love spaniels – English cockers, English spaniels. And dogs whose tails we cut off here have tails there – yorkies, cockers, Australian shepherds – all had tails. Why do we do that?
4. No big box stores – smaller, chains (Tiger – LOVED it!). But I didn’t see a TJMaxx, Walmart, BestBuy in Florence or in Rome (they may have been in the outskirts of the cities) but did see people at the mercato get everything from table linens to underwear, kitchen gadgets to produce, rotisserie chickens to potted plants…the market teeming with families on a Saturday doing their shopping. No nail salons, either. Getting a manicure and pedicure was an effort – they are done at hair salons only, by Italians.
They were just living their lives as they know them, and I was present to the difference in how I felt to be around them. I brought back a peaceful energy that has not abated and a renewed love of family and close friends that has me be more demonstrative and appreciative of my loved ones. It’s the willingness to be moved and touched by people who have something to offer and another way to operate that I can select what will make my world a calmer, happier, more loving place for me to be and to share with others.
Travel. Be moved. Create a rich life you love with people you love to be with.
Until next time….