With everything that is going on in the world due to the coronavirus epidemic, I realised that I need to keep reminding myself that being at home means that I’m safe and healthy.
I have the option to feel grateful or frustrated. A few thousand people don’t have this privilege.
There is always something to be thankful for.
So no matter what kind of problem I face, having gratitude always grounds me.
To help me get into the correct mindset I decided to look back to what a “normal” Saturday was like for me.
The following is an old and adapted,
mid-March entry of a typical Saturday from my journal:
What’s my usual Saturday like?
Getting up between 7:00 – 9:00 am. That’s me being lazy!
Playing with my cat and dog before I really even leave the bedroom. Them acting all cute (wanting food and a walk) is irresistible!
Maybe take the dog for a longer than usual walk/run.
He (my dog Luff) loves bugs and open fields.
During spring he loves chasing butterflies but is never able to catch any.
He’s a bit of a loser.
Most of the day I do some reading and/or writing depending on my mood.
The lazy person inside me reads and the motivated, excited person writes.
I tried forcing the motivated person, but she goes as far as brainstorming, which is better than nothing!
When I’m home, Couchsurfing is my way of travelling by meeting new people.
Last week I confirmed that I would be able to hang out with a visitor.
To be honest, at first, I was thinking that it’s time I could spend relaxing, but then this other voice was shouting at me for acting like I’m a retired old cat lady.
Retired old cat (dog and farm animals) lady, in a basic cabin built with permaculture principles at the foot of a mountain, is my dream goal for retirement! Nicole Vassiliou ✌️
Classic me, I began thinking where I should or shouldn’t take him in town because he hadn’t visited anything yet.
To override my usual planning pattern, I had to trick myself into not planning anything!
I know that I understand logic better than emotions, so I used that to shut my analytical mode off!
This was the premise for my internal dialogue:
There are two types of travel Nicole! Slow and fast. You know that!
Duration is not always what makes it fast or slow, but the mindset while travelling.
A fast traveller that is in Rome for a week, wants to see every single landmark and meet many people.
The slow traveller might not see all the landmarks and in some cases no landmarks at all! But this type of traveller has the primary purpose of connecting with people and the land. It is believed that quality over quantity is basically what slow travel is about.
I stepped back, erased my plans and decided to just discover what the guy actually wanted from the one and only day he would spend in my home city.
Fast forward to today. Saturday.
I opened my eyes and I instantly stepped into the mindset that I have when I leave the country!
Sense of exploration, excitement and open minded attitude.
We met up with Paul and started walking towards the first place I thought he might be interested in. It was a well preserved fort and we were there within 4-6 minutes.
I remember how he barely checked it out and did not ask to go inside like any “normal” tourist would.
I think he didn’t even take a photo!
I had my suspicions about his travelling type, but I didn’t want to judge, so I just told him what else was close by that we could visit.
“This next place is a 9th century church with the saint’s tomb under the church.”
When a stranger inspires you to notice and eliminate a weakness
He agreed to come in and expressed more interest in this place than the fort.
Maybe it was because I told him how many years ahead people need to book the church for a wedding!
Maybe it was because it was old.
Or maybe because he liked all the gold!
The moment he started taking photos, I thought “success”!
We never stopped talking as we walked to each of the next destinations.
The deep and random conversations between strangers, were always interrupted by our arrival to the next spot.
At first I was convinced that he was a slow traveller, opting for more connections rather than checking things off of his list.
But then, he told me how he liked to do as many things as possible while travelling. And gave me examples of how fast he would visit sites, nap and then party all night!
I was confused…
The problem was that I had put travel in 2 boxes, ignoring the fact that they could be combined. I clearly have difficulty thinking in anything other than black and white!
I concluded that my new friend, Paul, is mostly a fast traveller, but has the ability to slow down throughout the daytime in order to connect with people.
That’s a superpower I would love to have/cultivate.
I want to continue being a slow traveller, but with the ability to dismiss some information/sites and not feel bad for doing so.
Instead, I currently feel like I am disrespecting a country if I skip something that is considered historically important.
The only place Paul asked to be taken to was the salt lake to see flamingos.
“Tourists” I thought, but I was happy that I could easily satisfy that request.
Larnaca is known for a few things and flamingos is definitely one of them.
We drove to one of our busiest salt lakes, got down and guess what?
I could not believe this!
He was nice enough about it as it was not my fault, but I was in denial.
There are ALWAYS flamingos this time of year!
This has never happened to me.
There was an ice-cream truck parked near the lake.
I walked to the driver and asked in greek if he knew where the flamingos were (!).
The ice-cream man said that due to the heavy rain, the water was too deep and that flamingos can’t float, they can only stand. I thanked the man and we went back to the car.
Paul was disappointed since it was his one and only wish, but was still overall grateful.
Travellers treat setbacks like adventures
Keeping my traveller mindset, I remembered that he had also asked if we have local pink salt from the specific salt lake to buy.
Even though I explained that’s not possible, I decided to keep the positivity going and told him about a place I knew where salt used to be collected.
So I backed up the car and got back onto the road, headed to the other side of the lake to find that specific spot I was telling him about.
The salt lake is separated by a main road that connects the city center and the airport.
On our way, on the other side of the road, we see white flamingos!
Paul had his eyes fixed on the legged white dots in the distance.
So much excitement in the car for a few birds!
The problem was that there was nowhere to park and no way to get to the actual lake to see the birds without getting in danger.
That was until Paul pointed out that there actually was a way. “We could cross the muddy wheat field.”
At first I thought of the cold, then the fact that we were too close to the air traffic control tower and could get arrested!
Then I realised that they were all excuses.
I could deal with the cold by wearing my jacket and the police, well, by apologising?!
I looked at Paul.
“We are going”
Hang on. We’re getting there!
If you have ever visited a salt lake, you must have attempted to step in it.
And if you are one of those people, then you know that it feels like moving sand and that you shouldn’t do it!!!
I usually go barefoot in early summer to avoid losing my shoes. Paul on the other hand, didn’t know!
BUT, I did tell him that walking on the wheat should be easier than walking in mud due to the roots.
So, for about 10 minutes, Paul was making his way in a wheat field, walking sideways and I followed behind him on the path he was creating.
It was hilarious! And tiring…
You looked back and there was a path, you looked forward and all you could see was green.
And every step brought us closer to the flamingos! Yay!
I was so focused on Paul’s feet that I was startled when we stopped.
We made it. We managed to get there after 10-15 minutes of making a new path.
He took photos before turning around to leave.
That exact moment, we see two people jumping in the field, off of the pavement right next to the lake, a few meters away from us.
That was the main road we were originally on!
We looked at eachother and laughed at how stupid we felt for going through all that trouble.
I mean, how do you not think of that?!!
However, we did agree that we preferred “our” way in the end, because it was more fun!
The hours went by so fast. Later at night, I showed him around the winter and summer bars, but everything was packed.
In the end, we were lucky enough to find a table at a small place with good live music in the town center before we said our goodbyes.
Treat your boring life like an adventure and it will become one
We always think that living an adventure can only be possible in some out of reach exotic place, but in reality it’s as close or as far as your mind can reach.
Stay open minded and adventure finds you!
Many times until today, I find myself thinking like a traveller in my daily life due to this tiny local adventure I had.
I try to find the wonder in something that is usually considered mundane.
Like the sunset over the hill you see every single day driving back home.
How many locals really notice that?
And how many people are even physically able to notice that at all?
At a point in my life when I craved to travel long-term but couldn’t, Paul was a spontaneous local trip injected in my otherwise boring and stationary Saturday!
Thanks Paul! ❤