My husband George and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary by taking a 14-day Rick Steves tour of Greece. This was our first trip to Greece and we were both excited and a bit nervous about being away from our home and work for such a long time. Travel has a way of teaching you who you are, what you value and also new things about the world you are part of.
Here is the second installment of the remaining 7 important life lessons that became clear during this journey.
8. Indulge without apology: When on vacation, there are many tempting new opportunities to indulge in sweets, drinks and extra loafing around. If you are a health and fitness minded person, this may create some inner conflict. Relax! These moments are exactly the reason that someone came up with the 80/20 rule. Long-term health is not about diet perfection. As long as you have healthy habits to return to after vacation, you might as well indulge and enjoy. Your diet and rigorous exercise protocols will be there when you get home. It was interesting to me that in spite of my indulgences in afternoon cappuccinos, beer with meals and plenty of gelato and baklava, I was able to maintain my weight. I also found it puzzling that I never craved chocolate like I do at home while on vacation. I actually carried an emergency dark chocolate bar in my backpack for 2 full weeks and never cracked it open! My body somehow found a natural way to stay in balance without it. It sure was fun breaking the rules for a few days and also easy to get back on track too.
9. Tread carefully and alert others to danger: The ancient Greek sites seem to have one thing in common – they are all on top of mountains of rock. Thanks to thousands of years and millions of little feet treading on those steep stairs and uneven rocks, today’s visitor will find the paths are often slick and especially hazardous to someone who isn’t paying attention or wearing sturdy shoes. Our guides were good at reminding us to be careful. It is so easy to get distracted by an amazing view or when trying to take a photo that you can risk your safety. We were lucky to be traveling with a group of really kind people who constantly helped each other, pointing out hazards so that they could be navigated with greater care. May it be a lesson for life in general – pay attention and help others do it too.
10. Connect with stories: When you go to a place filled people, artifacts, archeological sites and ruins, stories are what make it all come alive. Our guides told stories to help us see the humor and practicality of ancient life, including myths, as well as stories of war, tragedy and loss. Some of the best tales we heard came from a modern perspective through our delightful and handsome bus driver George. We thoroughly enjoyed learning about modern Greece through stories he shared with us at dinner about serving in them military, how he met his wife, his recent wedding celebration, love of basketball and what it’s like working an olive farming operation. Stories are far more than information – they create beautiful bonds of connection.
11. Trust and say “YES”: Take a chance to have a little adventure. If you get an invitation for something new, unfamiliar or unexpected, AND you trust the person who reaches out, go ahead and say YES. During one of our stops in Greece, it turned out that there were not enough rooms at our assigned hotel. As a consequence, our guide asked for volunteers to go to another hotel. She explained it would require a climb up a steep hillside taking us further away from town. George and I quickly stepped up, without knowing where we would be going. In this case, the invitation turned out to be a 4 star hotel rated #1 on Trip Advisor. We had a prime room, beautiful gardens, friendly innkeepers and an outstanding view from our mountain perch. Saying yes got us something better than we ever imagined.
12. Dance! When you go to Greece, an invitation to dance will be a possibility. Our guide assured us that a night of music and dancing was planned as part of our tour itinerary. I intended to jump at the chance to dance, but figured this would not be something my husband would ever care to do. Imagine my surprise when George was selected to participate in one of the most animated parts of the show. Not only did he dance, he embellished, jumped, did a pushup to pick up a shot of wine from the floor and fully entertained us. After 30 years of marriage I never imagined that! Everyone in our group danced and laughed, sharing many memories that we no only witnessed, but fully experienced. Physical memories are unforgettable.
13. Honor conservation: European hotels have many measures in place to save energy, water and other resources. We were encouraged to reuse towels and every hotel we stayed at had a little slot inside the room where you placed your key to turn the power on in the room. This also meant that when you left your room and took the key, the AC, power and lights immediately shut off. While this was occasionally annoying when we wanted to charge our electronic devices, it was a smart way to save energy. Why don’t we do this in hotels in the USA?
14. Appreciate the comforts of home: One of the best parts about vacation is coming home to a soft bed, familiar foods and the creature comforts that are so easy to take for granted. Did you know that flushing toilet paper is forbidden in Greece? You’d think with all of the advanced developments that began in ancient Greece they would have solved the TP challenge by now. Alas, they are still working on it. In the meantime, appreciate the good stuff around you today and saluting the Greeks each time you enjoy the comfort of TP flushing!
No matter where you go, travel is an opportunity for relaxation, connection, growth, awareness and experiencing life in new ways. Planning a trip is half the fun too. I’m already planning my next adventure – a cruise to the Caribbean in late February 2015. Maybe you’d like to join us. We have a great group rate and some special bonuses, including free beverages if you sign up by July 30. Click on the link below to get all the details.