Dropping in on lives. That’s how I think of travel.
Sure the sights – natural and man-made - are awesome to see, but the essence of travel, in my mind, is dropping in and seeing some little part of how people in other cultures live.
(Humblebrag Spoiler Alert)
Since I am a Noticer, I am obligated to report to you on my vacation. I just returned from a two-week trip in the Douro River Valley in Portugal with a short stay in Paris, a city that is mon amour. Truly the natural beauty of the river valley is unsurpassed with vineyard after vineyard climbing up terraced hills. And I don’t need to say anything about the beauty of Paris, do I? If you haven’t been there, you have surely seen pictures that have made you drool like a Saint Bernard.
In many little Portuguese villages, I saw elderly women sitting in the street in front of their houses, talking with their neighbors while doing needlework or fiddling with vegetables in preparation for the next meal. What a pleasant way to spend time! I don’t do that, do you? Many of us are too isolated from our neighbors to sit outside and chat.
Dropping in on these small villages made me think about how different my life is from theirs. Frenetic versus calm. Striving versus accepting. Even power-walking versus sitting still and enjoying the fresh air. I believe I need more Portuguese villager blood in me. What about you?
In Paris, I was so struck by the people hurrying to and fro, walking by absolutely exquisite buildings that are hundreds, and in the case of Roman ruins, thousands of years old. The people were on a mission to get to work or to an appointment or perhaps to an assignation. (It is Paris, after all.) They seem to take the beauty around them for granted, at least for that moment in time. I think if I lived in Paris, I would become more like a Portuguese villager and just sit there taking it all in.
Melancholy. A touch of melancholy always spreads over me on a train trip. We took the train in Portugal from Porto to Lisbon, and I had the same slight feeling I get when I take the train from Washington, DC to New York. Maybe it is because I am passing through places without the satisfaction of staying for even a minute and seeing the real people. As an incredibly nosy person, I guess I don’t want to miss out on anything going on, whether it is people shopping for their daily provisions in Obidos, Portugal or people vying for a parking place at Costco in Wilmington, Delaware. When you have your nose pressed against a train window, you are the proverbial outsider, looking in. Well, a Noticer by definition never wants to mind their own business, so a touch of melancholy cannot be helped, I guess.
But here’s a basic fact-of-life Noticing. Walking down a Paris street at lunchtime watching the people in the crowded sidewalk cafes, I Noticed a table with two couples and a small child in a high chair. The adults had delicious meals in front of them – mussels and steak and shrimp and salads and olives and wine and sumptuous baguettes. (Now I am drooling like a Saint Bernard.) But the toddler was sitting with a plate of just plain pasta in front of him! Ha! Just like my kids when they were little, and probably yours too. This little French gourmet would only eat plain pasta!
I Googled “toddlers like plain pasta” and got 124,000,000 results! So you can travel the world, see amazing sights and participate in customs new to you, but this constant remains:
Toddlers just want a noodle!
©2014 Margery Leveen Sher
MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk peppered with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:
“Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work”
Margery Leveen Sher is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur with decades of experience as a consultant for major corporations and government agencies. She is the founder and Chief Noticing Officer of The Did Ya Notice? Project, and is currently writing the definitive book on Noticing: The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing.