Lessons Learned


As the serene vantage point from my desk encourages more reflection, some deep (and not so deep) thoughts after one full year away from the native country.

I've learned:
  • Big cities are where it's at. Hence the name of the blog, I suppose. One could spend a lifetime in a place like Paris, Barcelona or New York and always be discovering something new, something (or someone) tasty, or something inspiring. The downsides are of course noise and crowdedness.
Yes, as a newcomer, you can feel at times as anonymous and unwelcome as a fart on an airplane. But normally, both - the feeling and the flatulence - pass quickly enough.
  • That I have an irrational, undefinable hatred for the actor Paul Rudd (and his inexplicable success) that dates back to his days on Friends and that transcends international borders.
  • To let go of setbacks much quicker. Staying put for years in the same place causes us to dwell on so much useless nonsense. I think this may be out of sheer boredom. But after even a few months of travel, you begin to let many daily inconveniences and indignities slide, even the seemingly big ones.
  • The local news back home (wherever home is) really never changes. It is therefore perhaps best to not pay so much daily attention to it and free the mind for more enjoyable and creative things.
  • There are few things in the world as meaningless and useless as a "Maybe" reply to a Facebook event invitation.
  • Fewer Europeans seem to have the angst to get away - really get away long-term - from their current lives than North Americans.
I am still analyzing this one - perhaps the more socialist leanings here (permanent job contracts, larger middle class, more of a social safety net, more vacation days) make them more comfortable, and by extension creates less of an emphasis on status. Perhaps it's the greater offering of things to do/see/learn nearby. Perhaps it's the beer talking. But there is an overall greater satisfaction here that is quite noticeable.
  • Unless it's the World Cup, soccer (football) is still boring.
  • Mobility is key to happiness in a new city - a combination of knowing your way around and having a bike/car/scooter handy if your feet aren't close to the spots you want to be. Lack of mobility, thus, is a major dissatisfier.
  • The world needs to adopt a sole standard for telling time. Consider, say 7:30. This is "Seven-thirty" to many North Americans; "Half-eight" to the Dutch; "Half-seven" to the British, and so on. To convolute things further, a common Dutch way to say 10:25 is "five before half-eleven." We need to come together on this one, world.
As Alain de Botton (no, I'm not his agent - I just think he is the best writer I've ever read) says in "The Art of Travel": "... the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are."

I think it accomplishes this in a number of ways, not least of which is that it frees us from our all-too-familiar surroundings and traps, thereby letting us see things about ourselves more clearly.


Anonymous said...

What would Botton say about your irrational feud with Paul Rudd? So much hatred for such a likeable dude!

Jeff said...

I know. It's eating me up inside.

Anonymous said...

You must learn to be at peace with Paul Rudd's growing and unstoppable success. This is the only way you will ever be truly happy.