Perspective is truly an amazing thing.
It can be shifted in a moment and vary greatly from person to person, situation to situation and from culture to culture.
Above all else, the perspective in which you allow yourself to experience life can determine your mindset, well-being and overall level of fulfillment each day. As your own perspective evolves the way that you see the world will evolve with it.
Two weeks ago, I spent12 days of my life traveling through Europe with my brother on an adventure that will surely shift my perspective on life in multiple ways.
Just like the movie goes . . . .Planes, Trains and Automobiles were a major part of our travel and gave us each ample time to reflect on all that we have experienced throughout the 12 days of traveling across Europe. To be exact we traveled 7,000 miles by plane, 1,000 miles by train and just shy of 1,000 miles by car.
The trip started in New York with a flight to Munich…A long, stressful and “exciting” train excursion the landed us in Strasbourg, France before we blasted off in the high speed train to Paris. From Paris, we shot up to Brussels, Belgium to see a long time friend, spent a day in Brugge and finished off the trip with 2 “fun” packed days in Amsterdam.
Yes, I know that is a ton of travel and NO we didn’t sleep.
Throughout our travels we went on exciting adventures, tried all sorts of new foods, experienced a variety of “odd” circumstances and had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people.
At the end of each day on our trip I made sure to take time to write down in my journal the Key Revelations that I learned from the day’s adventure. Each of these revelations have impacted my own perspective of the world and how I want to live my life for my family, for me, and for my tribe.
The most powerful gift of a revelation is the commitment or action that is associated. So, each one of theses revelations is also accompanied by an action or commitment that I made to myself to further grow, expand and develop myself as a person, a coach, a fiancee and a leader.
1. Establish Traditions
The first stop that we made on our “tour” of Europe was in Munich, Germany right in the heart of Oktoberfest. Our plane arrived at 8:00 AM local time and upon arriving to our hotel we discovered that we were unable to check-in until 3:00 PM. So, seeing that the entrance to Oktoberfest was literally a football field away from our hotel it was obviously the best idea to head straight to the festival (…or maybe not :-/).
We arrived at the front gates to find a mass of people all dressed up in their traditional Oktoberfest attire, lederhosen for the Men and Dirndl dresses for the Women (we only stood out a little).
A few minutes after our arrival everyone in the crowd starting running….unable to see beyond the masses it was hard to see what they were running for but we soon found out that the gates had opened. As we entered the festival we could see all of the attendees spring towards their “teams” beer tent. The strange thing though was that as soon as they got to the tent they just waited outside. Upon further inspection and walking around the whole festival a few times looking for food we discovered that the beer tents and vendors don’t open until 10:30 AM. I turned to my brother and said “These people really get here 2 hours early just to wait in line at the tent?”
Well, when the tents finally opened we soon found out why…..The sprinting masses of people were now sprinting into the tent to claim the “best” table in the center of the room for their team. This sprinting also included chanting, dancing, slamming of fists on tables and all around debauchery. Moments later the first “Biers” were served, every table was full and everyone in the room was singing and cheering together.
This moment was honestly one of the most amazing examples of tradition that I have ever seen. By the end of the day we realized that everything we had witnessed that morning was all a part of the deep, engrained traditions that the people of Germany have for the Oktoberfest Festival. Young people, old people, men, women, children…..EVERY person that was at Oktoberfest was dressed up, happy, smiling and experiencing this amazing tradition together.
At the end of the day I really had a great understanding of what a “Tradition” is and also how much I have been lacking in traditions within my own life. Before that day, I had never experienced anything that comes close to that level of tradition and pride in ones own culture.
To establish a tradition for my family and friends that will last for generations to come.
2. Know Your History
To be completely honest, I didn’t care too much for history class when I was in school. I don’t know if it just wasn’t my thing or the way it was presented bored me but either way I didn’t pay much attention and did what I had to just to get by. However, I’m kicking myself now for not embracing it and really absorbing all of the amazing history that our world has to offer. Traveling across Europe and seeing the literally thousands of years of history has given me a whole new appreciation for it.
Obviously the countries in Europe have been around much longer than the United States (well not technically been around longer but you know what I’m saying…..shit was happening there far before it really took off here) but DAMN do they have some history there! Seriously, it was amazing to learn about the history of every location that we visited.
One big takeaway I had was how they are constantly working to maintain and preserve it. I feel that all too often we as humans are quick to be out with the old and in with the new. I found it truly spectacular how many of the buildings that we were visiting or even staying in dated back hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years and were in great condition. I believe that speaks to the craftsmanship that once was and the dedication to developing quality not quantity.
The second piece of my history lesson was how knowledgeable so many of the people we met were on the history of their family, their village, their country and even our country. Like I said, I am not a history buff so it was quite embarrassing when the barista in Belgium knows more about the history of Upstate New York than I do.
I think the fact that any piece of information is now readily available to us through the internet has created a generation of young people that in some ways are actually less intelligent, myself included.
To pick one location or subject each quarter and study the history.
3. Show Pride
I think that the topic of pride goes right along with history and tradition.
This was something that stood out with me when spending time with our relatives in Strasbourg, France.
My family is from a part of (what is now) France called Alsace.
To give a brief history lesson: Alsace is the territory located right on the border of France and Germany, running North to South along the Rhine River between the Vosges and Black Forest Mountains. This rich and fertile area has been fought for and transferred between the French and the Germans many times over the years, with it currently being a part of France.
To the people of this area though they will always be Alsatian and nothing more. They do not associate themselves as either France nor Germany and they even have their own Alsatian language that they keep alive to this today throughout Alsace and it’s surrounding areas.
The pride that they have for their ancestors rich history and tradition is astounding.
The different villages throughout the Alsace region still maintain much of the traditional Alsatian architecture from many years ago and they even carry on many of the traditions that their ancestors once had. The locals all speak the Alsatian language and it is made a point that children are taught this language in school.
Even within their homes the Alsatian people are proud to serve meals on their traditional Alsatian dinnerware that is stored in their traditional Alsatian hutch. Just from our few short days we could clearly see that the tradition and history that I spoke of before was something that the people of Alsace had great pride in.
I want to be clear and say that this pride was not just about things or showing off places. It was in the way that they spoke of their culture, the way that their body language communicated their pride and how happy they were to share it with us.
This experience really made me think of what am I proud of and how can I show it?
The amazing TEAM at O.B. Training & Sports Performance and their growth and development over the last 6 months.
Put together a video series highlighting all of the different members of the Team.
4. Spend More Time Outdoors
I know that this sounds a little weird to notice this or be thinking about it while away but the amount of time and the amount of people that were spending their days outdoors was just that, noticeable.
This makes me think to one summer night a couple years ago when I was walking down the street at my old house.
It was a beautiful night around 7:30 and strangely quiet on the street.
Literally, there was not one person outside of their home. The only thing that I could see as I walked through the neighborhoods that night was the light emitted from the television in each living room. Yup, a beautiful summer night and everyone was sitting inside watching television. I don’t know what it was about that night but it really stuck out to me and ever since I have noticed how people are spending less and less time outside.
Traveling through Europe it seemed as though everyone was outside at all hours of the day and it didn’t matter which town, city or village that we were in. Every single restaurant had outdoor seating if possible and all of the seats were filled. The crazy thing to me was that it was only about 50 degrees outside with a slight misty rain here and there.
None of that seemed to matter though.
I even told my relatives at one point that “no one would be eating outside in this weather back home.” They said that in Germany people eat outside all year round, even during winter time. The restaurants provide outdoor heaters and blankets on the seats for all of their patrons.
Pretty cool right?
My commitment: Spend time each day outside.
5. Don’t Be So Scared Of Germs
This one wasn’t really a lesson for me so it will be brief.
I’ve never been one to get all caught up in the hand sanitizer / ant-bacterial hand soap craziness that exists in the United States.
So for those of you that are guess what?
In Europe, they didn’t have hand sanitizer stations at every location you could think of like we do here in the U.S.
The real surprise though?
No one is dying from not sanitizing their hands.
I did not sanitize my hands one time on the trip and I didn’t die either.
My commitment: Continue to be anti-hand sanitizer crazy.
6. Eat Less Processed Food
Well, No shit!
I think we all know this by now and it’s not to say that there wasn’t any processed food along my travels through Europe but it was definitely not as much as I see here in the U.S.
From what I saw, people were much more likely to sit down with each other and enjoy a meal, conversation and moments of relaxation (I’ll talk more about that in lesson #9). While I don’t necessarily think their diets were much “better” there was definitely not a much processed food. Fast food restaurants were still present but there were not two on every corner.
My Commitment: Decrease any consumption of processed food until it’s non-existent.
7. The U.S. Is Drugged Up
The United States is the prescription drug King Pin.
I really had my eyes opened to the fact that we just throw pills at anything and everything and it’s SUPER easy to get any medication you want.
This isn’t necessarily lesson but more so an observation on how other country’s do not have medications readily available to the public like we do and the Pharmacists are actually doing what they’re supposed to, assisting people in utilizing the proper medications that are NEEDED.
While in France, I needed to get a new bottle of eye drops because I just had Lasik eye surgery last month and eye drops are now my best-friend. In the United States you can find eye drops in any convenience store, gas station, grocery store, Wal-Mart , you name it.
In France, it’s a different story.
In order to get eye drops or any medication for that matter you have to go to the actual Pharmacy and you have to speak to the Pharmacist. The Pharmacist does what they are educated to do and recommends the best option for you and the symptoms that you are experiencing, if you NEED it.
The other thing we discovered is that not as many people overall are taking prescription medications. It seems as though in the United States every adult over the age of 50 is taking some sort of prescription medication (cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure, heart burn, depression, attention, anxiety etc.) and it’s not right.
I often question whether or not all of these medications are NEEDED or if it’s just a FASTER and EASIER solution than getting to the root of the problem.
My commitment: Stop reaching for an over counter medication unless I absolutely NEED it.
8. We Have Wayyyyy Too Much
We have way too much shit we don’t need, clothes we’ll never wear and gadgets we’ll never use.
I don’t know if this holds true across all of Europe but from my experience I noticed that people were not set on having extreme excess of anything. The one thing in particular that stood out to me were clothes.
First, I noticed that there were a lot of different high end clothing shops in just about every city or town that we stayed in. This led me to ask “How do they afford all of their clothes if they cost so much money?”
Well, it’s simple.
They don’t buy as much.
Every single one of us (Americans) have way too many clothes and we most likely don’t even wear half of them.
What a waste!
The second piece of the clothing epiphany is that the clothes they buy are of higher quality so they last longer not seen as “disposable”. They also have pride in what they wear and the way the present themselves.
My commitment: Empty out my closets and donate the clothing I don’t wear (Most of it).
9. Take More Time To Experience Each Moment
This is something that I really struggle with personally.
Everything that we do is so fast paced now-a-days . . . .Not only are we pressured into doing hundreds of different tasks, activities and errands each day but they all have to be done at once.
There seems to be no time to actually enjoy the day in which we are living in.
This is especially true with food and how we consume it.
One thing I’ve noticed with the families that are a part of O.B. Training is that most do not spend any meals together. The idea of sitting down together as a family and eating dinner while discussing the day’s events is somewhat lost or forgotten.
In Europe, everything is slowed down just a little bit (which is a tough adjustment for a New Yorker) and I feel like people take more time to enjoy the moments they experience and the company they are with.
For example, a meal is not just a time to consume food and be on your way. It’s a time to connect with the people that you’re with, disconnect from the daily rat race and get re-energized for
the rest of the day or evening. When going out to eat there is no rush to get the bill and run on
to the next stop. More time is spent conversing, actually enjoying the food you’re eating and taking time to just BE.
My commitment: 3 Days/Week sit down have a meal together with Family or Friends.
10. Everything Is NOT Disposable
I believe we exist in a world (some places more than others) where we are led to believe that everything is disposable.
Take electronics for example, when I was growing up if yourT.V. had an issue you would call someone to repair it.
Now, if there is an issue you just buy a new one.
Simple as that.
I understand that is just one small example but if you take a second to look around you will see it is much more apparent than you thought.
The automobile is another great example.
In the United States we seem to be under the assumption that we always need to upgrade our vehicle to the latest and greatest model.
I’m definitely guilty of this.
It has become engrained that we need to have the NEW hot item with the COOL gadgets and rather UNNECESSARY features and SIZE.
From my understanding leasing programs on vehicles is something that is rather limited, non-existent in other countries and I believe it’s actually outlawed in some.
The Europeans seem to purchase and USE vehicles that are much more practical for their daily living. Notice I said “USE” because that’s exactly what they are intended for, not show or status but utility. I do understand that does not always hold true but I would argue that a large percentage of the population owns a more practical vehicle for their needs and utilizes it for what it’s for, transportation. They also keep their cars much longer and do not treat them as a disposable item.
Seriously think about this – when did a $40,000 item become disposable?
My Commitment: Question myself every time I tell myself I need a new _________.
11. Connection Is The Most Valuable Form Of Joy
This plays off what I said in lesson #9.
Technology becomes more advanced every single day and allows us the ability to be more “Connected” than ever. . . . .ummm BULLSHIT.
Proof: On the train ride to JFK every single person was sitting and staring at a phone swiping up and down “connecting” with people.
Zero conversation was heard.
On the trains from Munich to Strasbourg far less people were mesmerized by their phones and conversation was hear through out the whole 6 hour journey.
People were talking sharing ideas, sharing experiences and Connecting with one another.
I noticed this in every city that we dined in.
The couples that were on a date were smiling, talking, laughing and enjoying each others company. What weren’t they doing? Taking selfies, posting to Facebook and swiping through Tinder.
I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve all been duped into believing that we are more connected than ever when in reality we are more disconnected, segregated and closed off from human interaction than ever before.
The cool thing is that we can easily change it.
Have a conversation with someone.
My commitment: Phone doesn’t come out when having a meal with others. (I’m pretty good about this now but could definitely be better)
12. Always Be Open To Explore Other Cultures
Let’s face it.
I’m from New Hartford, NY – A rather small, predominately white, relatively wealthy town with what I would consider an even smaller mind.
Although I’m extremely fortunate and grateful for the up bringing I have had, the people that I know, and the community I am from I do admit that it has allowed me to be rather naive to the rest of the world around me. Honestly, I believe that anyone who does not venture outside of their comfort zone or community will become rather naive to the diverse cultures that exist throughout the world.
A few weeks before I left on my trip I went to see Henry Rollins speak at MVCC about his experiences traveling the world and the lessons that he has learned throughout his travels. The whole talk was centered around the idea that the more you travel and the greater the variety of cultures that you experience, the more you will appreciate not only this new and different cultures but also your own. He said that he believes the best way the destroy much of the bigotry that exists in the world is to go and spend time, connect, and engage with people that are different than you. I agree 100%
It’s very easy to get consumed and blinded by the safe bubble that most of us exist in. It’s also very easy to get out and see the world a little bit to open up your eyes to new possibilities, new ways of life, and different ways of thinking.
I believe that the ability of one to open up their minds to new ideas, different thoughts and other points of view is what truly allows them to create growth and expansion in their mind and in their life overall.
If you only focus on what you know and never what you don’t you will inevitably stay the same.
Staying the same means that you aren’t growing and if you aren’t growing you’re dying.
My commitment: Explore 1 New Culture each year.