Monday, October 28, 2013

Enjoy Those Roses or Die: 5 Ways to Enjoy Life Everyday

Morcom Amphitheater of Roses

"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today." Dale Carnegie

When I think of my ultimate "room with a view," it usually involves pictures I've seen on Pinterest of
Just search "palm trees" and
Pinterest shows you the good stuff
beach views with palm trees or city skylines.  Actually, this view has been my personal measurement for success since I could remember. Anyone who knows me knows my one goal in life - to own a house with a palm tree in the front yard.

Sometimes, reality strikes in and I see my real view from the patio sliding doors: it's 15 ft. away from another building looking at the window of another apartment. And it's also part of a sound tunnel where I can hear everything that moves outside (or during the summer when windows are open) as well as conversations inside other people's apartments.

Even though this view sounds quite city-life dismal, I like it. Because right now, I have a private patio with an urban jungle of hanging plants and I also have a rose garden. 
Morcom Amphitheater of Roses

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

17 Surprising Things I Noticed While Traveling in Europe: A Must Read for the Novice American Traveler

About 15 minute read or a 5 minute skim...enjoy!

Bologna, Italy
At the beginning of my 7 week Euro-trip to Poland, Spain, and Italy, I wasn't sure of what to expect while traveling Europe. I knew what to pack, what to wear and how to say three words in Polish/Spanish/Italian combined, so I was ready in some aspects. But I didn't know how this experience would change me.

As early as the first international airport in which we landed, I immediately started noting things that were different in Europe. Some things were barely notable, while others were re-occurring and forced me to take notice. Because I knew my fellow Americans would be itching to hear my exact thoughts on this very topic, I took short notes throughout the trip so I could report my findings. Those extremely scientific notes turned into this very detailed report of what to expect while traveling in Europe and broken out into 3 subgroups - Exceptional Attitudes, Europe-Exclusive Activities and Major Epiphanies:

17 Surprising Things I Noticed While Traveling in Europe

Exceptional Attitudes
1. Quality food is meant to be enjoyed with others and is also made with pride, love and care. Someone recently asked me if the food is really that much better. My answer was an emphatic "yes" and #1 is the reason. In Europe, most restaurants the main goal is the quality of food and customer experience, not the volume of customers they could serve or how fast they can turn over tables. For example...

Dinner is a 3-4 hour experience. In Italy, we rarely went out to any bars because dinner was the main attraction...and a long one at that! Sometimes you order 4-5 courses, drink a bottle (or 2) of wine, had wonderful conversations, then enjoy the ambiance...and that was the night!

They will tell you NO. If you ask for something they don't think you should have...they'll just say no. Ordering food at a restaurant with limited access to WiFi & Google Translate means you're guessing most of the time. And if you guess wrong, they will tell you "no" then either patiently wait for you to order something else or make a better suggestion. Believe or not, this is true customer service because they want you to have the best items on the menu.

2. Nobody cares. Well, they do...but they don't. This was my answer when my good friend, Tina, asked what my favorite thing was about Europe. I'm sure she was expecting a place or an event, but it was actually a general attitude. Actually, Europeans do care, but as business owners their priorities are providing great quality food/products for their customers and then spend the rest of time enjoying life. This is reflected in their lifestyle, for example...

Siestas...and business hours in general. Places typically open at 10am, then shut down from 1pm-4pm and then re-open. There are a handful of places that are still open then entire time, but when it comes to food, be weary of them because it probably means that they're horrible. Europeans don't always care about accommodating everyone at every moment. And I think that's ok.

Low and/or no drama and stress. You know how you people watch and can just see the stress on people's faces? Or how you walk into a meeting at work and feel the tension? Or every clip on Real Housewives of Anytown? Yeah, I didn't really notice that behavior in Europe.

3. Old people don't gotta chill. A couple years after graduating college, one of my
Seville, Spain: Puerto de Cuba
friends I always saw out, eventually stopped going out. When I asked why, the answer simply was, "Old people gotta chill." While living in a medium-sized city at the time, it was a fairly accurate statement - same people doing the same stuff every weekend.

This is actually the opposite in Spain and Italy. I noticed that "old people don't gotta chill." For example...

Bologna, Italy on Monday night. As G and I were heading back to our hotel to relax, drink some wine, and enjoy the view, when we noticed these 2 older couple leaving their apartment to go out on the town. And when I say older, I mean 60s or 70s. Go ahead, grandpas!

Seville, Spain on Saturday night. We were out that night like, "Where the party at?" but at all times we were surrounded by a more mature crowd. It wasn't until we found the club on the water, Puerto de Cuba, did we see younger people. And it wasn't like the more mature crowd wasn't there either. I have to say, it's the only club I've been to that had that much age diversity...ever.