My husband and I recently came back from a 10-day trip to Northeastern Spain. What a beautiful country. So vibrant, rich with history, and a gastronomic tour de force.
One thing that really struck me about the Spaniards and their culture - and this is often noted by Europeans and Americans alike - was that the Spaniards (and the rest of Europe) have a real passion for the joie de vivre. It was very palpable. From the 2 hour lunches and 3 hour dinners, to meals enjoyed in large groups of friends and family, to the resistance to forego siesta time in order to join the rest of the modern world. I observed people sitting out in the cafes, drinking their coffees and thick chocolate drinks, engrossed in deep conversation with one another, not having a care that time was ticking away. And this wasn't relegated just to the young. Senior citizens, both men and women, donning their polished suits, would join their fellow friends to enjoy one another's company in local cafes and bars. Kids would also accompany their parents and grandparents, but they never made scenes. They were happily interacting with their parents and adult friends. When do you see these examples in the United States? Rarely.
At first, I have to be honest, I was annoyed that so many places were shut down during siesta time. How am I supposed to enjoy my trip if so much is closed down, I thought frustratedly. But as the days passed and I started to shed the American stressed mentality, I actually began to enjoy the quiet time that came about when many things shut down. My husband and I would ourselves go to cafes to have a break, snack, and people watch, or go back to our hotel room to just rest.
And that's when it occurred to me. Americans work practically 24-7, especially now that so much can be done on the computer and from home. We just work work work , sacrificing quality of life. And yet our economy is at its worst since the Great Depression. All that working for what? The Spanish economy is in the pits, too, but at least they aren't working themselves to the bones like us Americans. Instead, they are still enjoying life. They see the big picture. It's about Family. Friends. Relaxing. Eating. Drinking. Laughing. Being part of a community.
I left Spain iyashi'd and very importantly, committed anew to living a Wellness life. Watching so many Spaniards bike around for their daily errands, I'm now bicycling to my teaching job or to the market. That way I get my exercise in and get my errands done in one swoop. I'm also incorporating public transportation as part of my commute. I'm now also more conscientious about enjoying what I eat even when I'm alone, chewing everything slowly - and not multitasking while I eat. Spain really left an impression on me. That's what I love about travels - both local and abroad - because it brings new life into your crotchety old mind. It changes you.