3 Steps to Nirvana

September 10, 2012

Strolling across countless Tuscan piazzas from Florence to Siena to Pisa to Lucca, Italy, one cannot help but see the birthplace of the Slow Movement with Slow Eyes. The three-hour siestas, the wine, pasta and beautiful shops are breath-taking. Around every corner is a new sensation in which to immerse yourself. Even the air tastes good in Italy, at least in Tuscany where we spent six glorious days with the top down in our two-seater, pretending we lived there without a care in the world.

Nirvana under the Tuscan Sun

Perhaps it is the sea that tightly hugs both coasts that brushes away the soot and smell of modern life. Or perhaps it is the sun that kisses your face in relentless delight. Your skin absorbs the light, entering your heart in a constant wave of glowing warmth.

Can you tell that I’ve fallen in love?

Yes, Italy is an amazing place. For the past two weeks that I’ve been on vacation, I have experienced the world with immeasurable delight. As a writer, I must live in order to feed my creative source. So it was my mission to live life to the fullest and report back to you on what I found.

And what I found was Nirvana.

It started in Paris where I began my Slow travel. The city cast a spell on me as I wandered about the cobblestone streets, practicing my French and remaining in constant awe at the grace and refined, yet celebratory nature of the people there. Whoever says the French are arrogant are simply wrong. They know how to live…and eat. Three-hour lunches? Absolutely!

I realize now that anyone can experience Nirvana at any given moment (a beautiful setting helps expedite the process, of course!). It takes practice to get there, but it is possible. In my view, there are three essential steps one must take to reach that place.

1. Harmony

One must first enter a harmonious space. It starts with our thinking about things. If we are in conflict over something, harmony is hard to find. When we adapt our thinking to embrace change, challenges and upsets, we enter a state of Flow. Flow leads to better decisions, which leads to better action, which leads to more Flow.

See what I mean? Harmony is a habit based on your thinking about, then reactions to, the things that happen.

2. Bliss

Bliss is the next step. Once we have reached a level of harmony in our every day lives, we are open to the sheer joy of being without conflict. Everything passes through us without judgement or scrutiny. We reach an inner peace that passes thinking to a true state of beingness. Our brains are still operating, but our emotions have been disengaged from their dependency on external circumstances.

This state is Flow to the nth degree.

3. Nirvana

Also known as Enlightenment, this stage is pure Heaven. Everything is in alignment with everything else. There is nothing to do, want or even be. You are in complete Oneness with All That Is.

Getting to Nirvana is a highly personal experience, but it is a journey worth taking. We all have our own path with many bumps, twists and curves in the road. Slow Travel helps get us there if we are willing to take on the world with a different set of glasses.

And who knows? Your Nirvana might co-mingle with someone else’s. Imagine the fun that would be!

 

Soul Trippin’

August 8, 2012

Travel can unleash the soul, especially if you go to a place you’ve been before in another lifetime.

And so it was for me in France this weekend.

French was the first foreign language I ever heard at the tender age of six. It was a gateway to a new world that I have yearned to explore ever since.

Flashback a year ago when my daughter sat, tear-filled and sad, that she felt unprepared for her final French exam. To encourage her, I promised her a trip to Paris if she studied hard the following year.

She did. And we flew on Saturday to the city of love. I spent four days in a state of breathlessness and beauty. As I stood in the wind on the grounds of Versailles, it was as if I was visiting an ancient part of myself. My soul literally danced.

Eiffel TowerIf you have ever experienced a sense of déjà vu, it’s your soul’s radar picking up on a memory embedded deep within. The feeling I had in France was stronger than that sense of familiarity. It was as if I had lived there before. The feeling got stronger as we drove through the country’s largest forest.

I’ve always loved the woods.

A French colleague of mine warned me about the unfriendly Parisians. I only met the nice ones. Perhaps it was because they took pity on me as I struggled to speak French…or maybe it was their appreciation that I tried. A universal truth states that the world is your mirror. What you put into it is pretty much what comes back out.

Intuitive travel is a great opportunity to take a soul trip. If you get a sense to go somewhere for no apparent reason, do it. It’s your spirit talking. Listen. Explore. Be. And do it fearlessly.

It’s slow travel at its best.

The GPS Override

June 26, 2012

We have all learned to rely on technology for just about everything. Need a recipe? Google it. Want to know where you are in any given city? Check your map app. Care to drive blindly through a foreign city, listening only for the commands of your GPS? You know what to do.

But here’s the thing. As quick as technology has made us, it hasn’t always contributed to smart action. If you know, for instance, that you should turn left at that intersection, but your GPS is telling you to take a right (it doesn’t see the detour sign like you can), how often do you listen to the machine? I’ve become so navigation system-dependent that the mere thought of going somewhere without it sets me into a panic. Yet I remember a time when I would leave the house without even a map. It was more about knowing the approximate vicinity, then stopping at a gas station to ask exactly where you are.

Remember the days of mapquest.com in your pre-satellite-guided driving days? You’d patiently type in your starting and stopping points, print out pages and pages of directions and somehow direct yourself to the place whilst glancing down at the paper every two minutes? And there it all was in black & white.

Today I am often led astray by Nancy the Navigator, that cold-hearted voice coming from my machine suction-cupped to the windshield. As she guided me here, there and everywhere on a recent jaunt, only to land just a few paces from my starting point, I swear I could here connivance in her tone!

So I’ve made a promise to myself to wean myself off my devices every so often and to step back into life where the streets have names, and people, not machines, guide me there.

Let’s get lost together. Who knows who will meet along the way?

 

 

Slow Camping

August 29, 2011

The time has come, folks. It is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We reached Southwestern Utah’s Ponderosa Ranch & Resort yesterday around 3:30 pm Mountain Time (again, confusing, but we’ve finally figured it out. Arizona is on PT time from spring to fall, and MT time from fall to spring because it simply doesn’t change its clocks. Ever.). With a nervous eye, we rounded the shower and pool area to find our Chuckwagon cum Hotel Room at the base of the hill. It looks like this.

All the clothing you see on the picnic table is ours. It’s the entire contents of one of our bags that was the unlucky recipient of our 5 gallon water jug that dripped unwittingly on it allllll afternoon. Nice.

Hey, at least we’re number 1 (as in Wagon #1, pronounced “way-gun” in, um Montanian – our receptionist is from Montana, dontchaknow). And, as Husband joked, when we have dinner at the lodge, we can put it “on the wagon” as in “on the room”. As you can see, there isn’t much of that either. But the upside is it is indeed the kids’ favorite overnight place thusfar. And it’s like camping (it rained buckets last night), only you’re on a full-blown mattress with sheets and all.

And you stay dry. Oh, and there’s maid service.

You gotta love the West for all its amenities. Slow camping at its best with air conditioning in the main building (and free WiFi) when you need it most. After hiking five hours in 100F heat in Zion National Park today, we were ready to flop and feed. We did just that and are happier for it!

Under pressure! That’s what many of us feel right before taking a vacation. Locking down the house, arranging for pet care, stopping all mail delivery, etc. It’s almost as if you need a vacation from your vacation planning before it’s even gotten started.

I don’t know about you, but renting a car at the airport after an international flight has to be a seamless experience, otherwise I am even more stressed. So when we got to Dulles International Airport two weeks ago, we were astounded at how fast the check-in service at Dollar Rent-a-Car went. Until we discovered they didn’t have any more economy cars available for another fifteen minutes. No big deal, I thought. I live in a time abundant state. We’ll have some snacks and wait. When the newly washed car was driven up, we were thrilled.

But what I didn’t know was the rental car agency had rushed through the detailing process such that the air tire pressure was uneven. A light indicator for the air tire pressure illuminated in my car about a week later. We even went to a tire center to have it checked. All but one had fifty pounds in it, but they couldn’t add the tire because the supervisor hadn’t turned the machine on yet (it was almost 10 am – you have to love slow country living!). We found an air machine at the local convenience store. Following the tire guy’s instructions, I added enough in the one tire to match the air pressure in the others.

That is, until my dad suggested I look at how much air pressure is SUPPOSED to be in the tires. It turns out the “lowest tire pressure” was actual the accurate one. So I went back to the rental agency and asked them to please check it. I wasn’t about to spend anymore money on it. Indeed, the tires had been overinflated by the agency itself. I suggested he let the detailers know to which he snippily replied, “I would if they spoke English!”

Hmmm…I was starting to feel less enamoured of Dollar by the minute.

So my slow travel tip to you is to ask that they check the air pressure for you before you leave, or travel with a gauge yourself. You can find the proper air pressure on the inside of the driver’s door. Apparently at Dollar, the buck stops with you.

 

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Image via Wikipedia

A new CareerBuilder survey conducted among more than 2,400 U.S. employers and more than 3,900 U.S. workers between November 15 and December 2, 2010 revealed that three-in-ten (30 percent) companies said they cut back on business travel in 2010. Of those companies, more than one-third (37 percent) said it negatively affected their business.

When asked how fewer business trips affected their bottom lines, companies reported the following:

•        Less effective internal communication – 12 percent

•        Fewer sales – 11 percent

•        Less effective execution on internal business initiatives – 10 percent

•        Less customer loyalty – 8 percent

Regarding business travel in 2011, the majority of companies (77 percent) report that business travel levels will stay the same as last year. Eleven percent said they will their companies will take more business trips this year, while 13 percent said business travel will decrease.

In an effort to keep a close eye on travel budgets, nearly one-third (32 percent) of companies said they have placed specific restrictions on business travel for employees since the recession, asking them to fly coach, lowering entertainment budgets, and having them only travel domestically.

Web conferencing is another way companies are keeping business travel budgets in check. Forty-two percent of companies said they rely more on phone/Web conferencing now to conduct business with clients, with 31 percent saying they get just as much out of virtual meetings as face-to-face meetings.

The majority of workers (68 percent) surveyed said they never travel for business, while 6 percent said they travel every other week or more. Five percent said they travel every other month. In addition, 19 percent of those who travel for business said the amount they travel negatively affects their home life.

And here’s the funniest part of the story.

When asked what most unusual experience they’ve had on a business trip, respondents reported the following:

•        Woman next to me asked me for a drink from my water bottle.

•        Our plane was stormed by the Columbian military who thought there was a drug lord on board.

•        A client mooned the plane.

•        A naked guy tried getting in my cab in Indonesia.

•        A drunken passenger next to me insisted my headphones were a bomb.

•        U.S. marshals arrested a passenger when the plane landed.

•        A guy next to me had a carry-on bag filled with candy, which he kept offering me over and over and over again.

•        A woman gave birth on the flight.

•        After waking up, I accidentally walked into the hotel’s hallway instead of the restroom in my underwear. Got locked out and could be viewed by the elevator which was all glass windows.

•        Manager punched a co-worker on the plane.

•        Fell asleep in the airplane restroom.

The last one desperately needs the power of slow. Next time, take the train!

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.com among 2,482 U.S. employers and 3,910 U.S. employees (employed full-time; not self-employed; non-government) ages 18 and over between November 15 and December 2, 2010 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With pure probability samples of 2,482 and 3,910 one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.97 and +/- 1.57 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

 

About CareerBuilder®

CareerBuilder is the global leader in human capital solutions, helping companies target and attract their most important asset – their people. Its online career site, CareerBuilder.com®, is the largest in the United States with more than 23 million unique visitors, 1 million jobs and 32 million resumes. CareerBuilder works with the world’s top employers, providing resources for everything from employment branding and data analysis. More than 9,000 websites, including 140 newspapers and broadband portals such as MSN and AOL, feature CareerBuilder’s proprietary job search technology on their career sites. Owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), Tribune Company, The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), CareerBuilder and its subsidiaries operate in the United States, Europe, Canada and Asia. For more information, visit www.careerbuilder.com.

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Slow Travel

August 4, 2010

That smooth and silky road of leisurely travel is one we all hope to embrace at some point in the year. As some people’s summer vacations end and others’ begin, we are reminded that taking the slow road is sometimes the most relaxing of all.

Throughout the summer I’ve considered what we will do with the six weeks of school-free living. The kids have been content in their first week of unstructured time to roll out of bed at the Godly hour of 8 a.m. Our faces seem less creased, our skin less stressed. Mealtimes are looser; attitudes more compliant.

We’ve decided some pool time, some reading time and some movie time would be perfect this week. Then there’s riding and library time and down time just because. There’s work time (parents’ work is never done!) as well as visiting time with the grands over a long weekend. We’ll enjoy more family time with cousins next weekend, and then our two-week Italian trip is already here.

Transition time comes the second week of September as we remind ourselves about how to hold a pen, tap on the keyboard again and soothe client fears. Such is the cycle of life. But for now, I savor this delicious moment of standing at the edge of our slow travel plans!

Attention slow travellers: SlowTrav.com is worth a visit!

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Slow Food HQ, Bra, Italy
Image by Andy Ciordia via Flickr

As with every year in Central Europe, just as one believes summer will never arrive, it does. We got a glimpse of warmth over the past three days. Although it has cooled today, we know it will be warmer in Italy, where we’re headed in just a few days.

Italy. The birthplace of the Slow Food movement. We’ll be dipping our toes in the Adriatic, watching boats float by with our thoughts. My mom is going with us.

How are you planning to slow down this summer? Taking a trip? Going to the beach? We all know you can’t run fast in loose sand. Try walking a tad slower than usual today. And don’t forget your flip flops, the veritable metronome of summer!

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Maltese Slowness

March 8, 2010

We are leaping thirty degrees on the temperature gauge today. It’s not due to global warming, but due to our travel. The day has finally arrived in which we’re headed to Malta, an island in the Mediterranean 288 KM from Tunisia and 93 KM south of Sicily. They’ve promised me it’s warm there. It has to be warmer than here! It snowed in Germany again. The sun is shining though!

So as we head Southeast, I am reminded that the world will keep spinning even as I do not. I hope to blog about the experience. I am told Malta has a rich history ~ pictures to follow!

Slow Travel in Style

September 30, 2009

Barcelona is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cities on the planet, thereby bumping Chicago down a notch. The pace of life matches your Barcelona 2009 032heartbeat as you stroll along the cobblestone streets. It is clean, friendly, and most importantly for a Virginia gal like me, warm.

My sister and brother-in-law joined my husband and me on a long weekend to Spain to investigate a different culture and, quite frankly, to rest from the rigors of our daily lives. It was worth every minute and penny we spent.

Back in the spring, my sister said she loved visiting us in Munich, but that she wanted to see a different part of Europe, too. So she suggested we book a flight somewhere, anywhere, warm in September. At first I hedged, standing next to the ruins of our dry-rotted porch, thinking of all the expenses our house, my business travel, and daily life required.

Then it dawned on me that the power of intention is much stronger than fear. So I smiled into the phone and said “Yes. Let’s do it!”

We visited museums, restaurants and plazas, soaking up the sun’s rays reflecting off the Mediterranean and realized what a great thing slow travelBarcelona 2009 084 can be. We took a siesta every day, resting for our late-night dinner and allowing the impressions of the day to sink in.

And when we celebrated our farewell dinner, my sister leaned in and asked “When are we doing our next power of slow trip?”

Stockholm, we said, with a blend of sauna in the woods meets city. She’s already bought the travel guides. Until then, we will dream of our next slow adventure and bask in the poetry of intention at work.

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