5 Things I Learned In Europe That Tweaked My Mind

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I have been wanting to travel the world ever since some history classes I took in high school. The teacher, Mr. Petersen, was a fascinating presenter and all the philosophies and cultures he talked about in his courses got me very curious. They opened my mind up to other ways of thinking, believing and living and I really wanted to go check it out for myself. For some reason one of the main places I really wanted to go was Tibet. I guess because of the series he did on Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, and something about Tibet seemed very mystical and inviting.

As the years went by, I learned of many other countries and cultures, along with some of the foods they ate (I really love spicy Mexican food!), Italian food (who doesn’t like all those pastas, sauces and CHEESE!! – well except now, I am pretty much dairy-free…), Thai food (love me some Tom Kha soup – yum!!), Indian food (curry in several colors & all good!), Chinese stir fries (with lots of veggies & just a bit of chicken & chili peppers – double yum!).  I still kept thinking of traveling one day and seeing some of these places for myself and when I met Musepa, he also had a strong desire to travel the world. So, finally, this year both of us went outside of the U.S. for the first time ever!!

He had an opportunity come up to participate in a music workshop at Real World Studios (check it out here cuz it is really amazing – Peter Gabriel’s studio, which he converted from a two hundred year old water mill and inspiringly finished it out by having extensive gardens surround it). It was an especially amazing opportunity because Peter Gabriel happens to be one of his most favorite people, recording artists and musicians (which says a lot because he has several thousand music cd’s!). (Also, the 20 hand selected participants paired off and created a music piece that was produced at Real World Studios and released by Peter Gabriel’s label and is available on Spotify, Amazon, Google, iTunes & several other music sites – you can check out Musepa’s piece, entitled “Broken” here (based on a National Geographic image of a kids’ schoolroom 30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster).

Anyway, since the opportunity came up, we decided to go ahead and both go and continue on to a couple other places in Europe while we were there. We started in London for a couple days, next we went to Bath (near Real World Studios & about an hour outside of London) for a couple days, then back to London to catch the train to Paris. We stayed in Paris a couple days (checked out the city, went to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower), and then hopped a plane to Berlin, where we stayed about a week.

First of all, it was an amazing adventure and I would highly recommend visiting other countries if you can. It can be a very powerful learning, mind-bending and fun experience that you may not get when you stay in the United States your whole life.

Here are some of the things I learned while in Europe:

1- Transportation – Having never lived in a large city with a subway or well developed mass transit system, it actually made me uncomfortable to think about how we were going to get around without renting a car, but even more uncomfortable to think about driving in a foreign country, where I do not speak the language (might therefore have trouble with the maps and road signs as well), and I have been told they drive very differently (potentially aggressively and potentially on the opposite side of the street). Needless to say after four cities and three countries of traveling about, I am much more comfortable with the subway system (even in foreign languages) and really liked not having to deal with a car. I heard that many people there do not even own a car because it costs so much to have one, park one, etc, and their mass transit is so easy and efficient to use. It was awesome! Everywhere we stayed there was an entrance to the subway within a couple blocks.

As a side note to this – everyone walks or bikes quite a bit there, which means I really do not remember seeing any obese people. I saw a few that were a bit overweight, but nothing like what you see in the U.S.

2- Street Markets – Every single city we were in had outdoor markets all over the place that provided many stalls and booths of fresh made foods and items from around the world (clothing, shoes, pottery, art, musical instruments, hats, etc), as well as items from local artisans to purchase. I loved, loved, loved this!! It was like being at a festival almost all the time!

3- Multi-lingual – Many of the places we went in Paris & Berlin had people working there who spoke English very well or good enough to assist you with what you were asking about – especially the people about 40 and under. We asked a few of them about being multi-lingual and they actually speak enough of three or more languages to get by because of where they live, their cultural background, their parents sending them to a multi-lingual school and the fact that they live so close to countries that speak other languages (therefore getting fairly frequent exposure to it by visitors or vacationing in another country themselves). A number of the restaurants actually had their menus in French and English, German and English or they had an English version. The fresh fruit and veggie smoothie shop we visited everyday we were in Berlin actually had some of their drink names in English, not German! I had heard that French people can be rather rude, but quite to the contrary, we found them to be very helpful, interesting and pleasant. (Note – we did not have extensive conversations with many of them, but when we needed help, they were always helpful.)

Extra note – I definitely started to understand how it feels to people from other countries, who do not speak any or much English, to travel or live in our country. It is a pretty bizarre experience to be on the other side. Be kind, be compassionate, have patience.

4- Businesses and Housing – Every city we went to had a similar layout and feel. Many older buildings, no higher than about 4 stories, made of stone. On the main streets they would contain shops on the bottom level (small boutique sized locations that would be restaurants, clothing, coffee, pharmacies, etc.) and probably housing on the upper levels. If they didn’t have shops on the bottom, they would be entirely made-up of housing. You would have to have a key or code to get in (or there was a speaker on some to call your friend/relative for opening the door) and behind the building would be a small enclosed courtyard with trees, etc for people to enjoy, store their bikes and store the shared garbage receptacles for the unit. This provided a large amount of downtown housing making it very easy to catch the subway or make it to any of the stores and restaurants, local markets for groceries, etc.

5- Food – How can anyone talk about going to Europe and not talk about the food? Let me just say that I have been very into healthy eating for over 30 years and many would possibly consider me a “picky eater” because I am pretty dedicated to eating mostly organic, gluten-free, etc. I have never been anywhere in the U.S. that was like Europe! We did not go into one single place to eat that the food was low quality. I have heard before that they Europeans do not allow GMO (genetically modified foods) and are much more protective of the quality of their foods and you can taste it! Hallelujah! They make some awesome freakin food!! Even their desserts were yummy and NOT sickeningly sweet. I even quit worrying about being strictly gluten-free (I do not have celiac disease, so I have more freedom to do that) and had some pizza (it was wood-fired made by a very sweet family from Serbia & Turkey and big-time delicious! – they made a great salad too!). There are so many fresh baked goods at almost every little shop there it is really hard to pass them up, but they are very delicious and seem to be a much better quality than what we get here – same with the coffee. Every little eatery has fresh baked goods and well-made espresso – guess you have to, to stay in business in Europe.

There are a number of other observations and many experiences, but perhaps I will share them on another day. For now, I would just like to remind you that exploring the world, meeting people from other lands, learning another language, opening our minds to other ideas, ways of life and philosophies can help us be kinder and more compassionate people, among many other things. Modeling this to our kids can help to change the world, in a good way.

Also, feel free to share this post and information with anyone you know who you feel would benefit from it.

Blessings to you and thank you for all the loving parenting you do; it makes a better world, one Sweetie at a time.

Hug attached,

Koolma  : )

Have you travelled somewhere and had a mind-bending experience?  What kinds of lessons did you learn?  Have you made any adjustments to how you live after your experience?

We’d love to hear from you!  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section so we can help each other; remember, we are all in this together!

 

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