Carpe diem! – Seize the day!
I always loved this Latin phrase credited to Horace, “Carpe diem” which is part of the longer, “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future). For me, words to live by and something I have many times said to friends and family. If I was into tattoos, I’d have tattooed it on my arm as a constant reminder that today IS THE DAY.
So why am I now thinking in Latin, you may ask? I find myself in a rather pensive mood. I recently got some life-changing, heartbreaking news from a very dear friend of mine. The kind of news that makes you drop the dishes on the floor and which makes your breath catch for a second. All sorts of thoughts enter your mind including some that seem completely irrelevant given the context but we’re human after all.
It’s moments like this that remind me of how much energy I am willing to put into trying to live in the moment. It’s not easy, I know. I tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future more than I like but I’m a work in progress – aren’t we all?
I’ve seen many posts that talk about how millennials are more into spending money on experiences than on things. I don’t think you have to be a millennial to make that an active part of your life at any age. I’m all about living my best life today. Because today is where it’s at.
It’s been a common dream of Eric & me to travel the world. Despite the fact that world travel seems to be more and more frowned upon by the more eco-conscious among us, I agree with Rick Steves when he says that “travel opens us up to the wonders of our world” and helps us (as least conscious travel), be more open-minded. I have done a fair amount of traveling and as you may recall we will travel for food. Eric and I have recently spent a 3-month working holiday in Sevilla learning about the culture & customs, the food, & improving our Spanish. I’ve been posting a few photos on our Uzes Instagram account as well as our Facebook page.
My Spanish is so rusty but I try, it’s somewhere between Portuguese and Spanish in the land of porteñol as my Brazilian friends call it.
Remi has been attending school here and we were beaming with pride that he was able to adjust with such ease as if he had always been here. Change is scary and when you have a young child you often will question yourself as to whether the adventures you want for yourself will be beneficial to them or not. I am by far not an expert but I think that he will thank us for this one day even if our bank accounts may be skinny. Our hearts are fuller with memories of people we’ve met, the places we’ve been, and the time we’ve spent together.
I did not come by the idea of enrolling my son in a school in a foreign country all on my own. We were actually partly inspired by a past student who took a class with us in Uzès. She came for our market class and if you’ve ever taken the market class with us you know that the apéro is a great time to get to know one another and share our stories. It is probably my favorite moment in class. I’m horrible at names but you tell me your story and I’ll remember you forever (well, almost). This lovely lady was in France for three months with her family including school-age children. I was intrigued. She and her husband had enrolled the children in a local French school. I looked at them wide-eyed. I did not even know it was possible to do that and of course, I had questions. A lightbulb went on in my mind. Could we do something like that? Now we have often discussed the idea of traveling the world not just going on vacation but living like a local so this was already on our radar. I have to thank her for having made such an impact on us. You see, we learn as much from you as you learn from us.
The other person who inspires me is my 6-year-old son. He walks into a new situation with initial trepidation and will sometimes hide behind me for a good thirty minutes but once he is out of his shell, there’s no stopping him. Every single moment is a time for adventure. The energy he has never ceases to amaze me. He is helping us live our best lives. So for his sake as much as for ours, let the adventures continue.
So if you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a world traveler, check out my tips below.
Tips for traveling
1) Don’t be afraid of the language
I know! Yes, I have some knowledge of Spanish and I love languages in general but the first time I went to Thailand, I did not speak Thai – we stayed about a month. I did, however, attempt to learn a bit before going because being able to say please and thank you is the least you can do to show respect. Excuse me is a good one too. Saying you don’t know the language therefore you won’t try or that you are terrible at languages is just an excuse. Sorry! You don’t have to be perfect. And you can indeed survive the language divide.
If you’ll be staying for a while why not try a class? You may not leave fluent, but you’ll certainly gain some confidence. I took a one-on-one Spanish lesson with the lovely Adela of Café con Clase in Seville. Another wonderful Spanish teacher is Cristína Ramos of SevillaEle who offers unique ways to live the Spanish language.
2) Don’t carry cash
This is a tip from Eric but I had to remind him of our trip to Cameroon where cash was more prevalent than cards. Do some research before you go to find out which banks your bank may be affiliated with or which ATMs will charge the least fees and let your home bank handle exchange rates. Walking around with large sums of cash is just asking for trouble in my opinion. If you need cash, plan your withdrawals to minimize your fees. In Seville, we found that Bankia charged us the least commission but while I felt ashamed for doing it, I even paid 1.50 euros with my card. And a side note for Cameroon – banks charge ridiculous fees so most people exchange money among themselves. Ask around to find out if someone knows someone who does that. It is not at all illegal. I’ve often seen in various forums people asking if anyone has pounds for euros for example, so keep that in mind.
3) Dare to be weird
Look, you’re a foreigner in a foreign land so even if you decided, I’m going to Paris so I’ll just pack a suitcase of black clothes to blend in, you will probably stick out like a sore thumb the minute you open your mouth. Think of this as your “laissez passer” – your one chance to make that faux pas without too much warmth being done. You can study up on the faux pas but honestly, unless you are completely offensive, most people will understand of your lack of local knowledge. Just be polite about it. I did something I probably would never do at home, I “stalked” a girl from an exercise class with whom I had had a friendly chat before Christmas, to ask her for her number in the hopes of making a local friend. I have never in my life done such a thing but I am ever so thankful I did. What’s the worst that could have happened – she says no, thanks.
4) Ask a local
Tripadvisor is nice, but put down your phone for a second and ask a local what’s the best place for fish. First, they will probably appreciate you thinking of them as an expert and secondly, you may have just found a gem. I am always reminding Eric of this one. Yes, I do whip out the Tripadvisor app which by the way, I mostly use to store the names of the restaurants I’ve been to in private trip lists. How else can I share with you when you ask me the name of that wonderful pizzeria in Florence? Locals are the ones who will tell you about the market and on what day.
5) Use public transport or hop on a bike
In Sevilla we did this: We got ourselves a bus pass which you can buy at the shops selling tobacco or at many of the newspaper kiosks. You can get a pay-as-you-go card to which you add any amount you want or get a monthly pass. We downloaded the Tussam (the Seville bus company), Moovit, Sevillabikes, & the Bikemap apps on our phones. I used the Sevillabikes app to find out how many bikes were at each station. You can get a pass for the bikes either online on the Sevici site. We did it online. Moovit was great for figuring out what different route options you have on bike, bus, or foot, or even taxi. In London & Paris, I’ve used Transit & Citymapper. Seville is blessed with quite a lot of bike paths – real paths unlike some other cities, that cars can not get on. And if we didn’t bike or take the bus, we walked. Basically, just try to get around the local way, whatever that way may be.
6) Go with the flow
In Spain (or at least in Seville) stores open at 10 and may close at 1:30 or 2 pm to reopen at 5 or later. Restaurants, if not geared towards tourists, open between 1 and 2 and a concert said to start at 9 may start at 10. Expect things to not be like back home – you’re not back home so stop complaining about it. It sometimes takes some getting used to but if you stick around long enough, you may just “go native”. This one took me a while. I dropped Remi off at school at 9 am and needed to go to a store near his school but I had to kill 1 hour before opening time. I paced around for what felt like the longest hour of my life. I should have just gone to a cafe and had a tostado or churros con chocolate instead.
7) Get off the beaten path
You can’t see everything your guidebook has told you is a must-see. Take a walk on the wild side and deviate to take the road less traveled. You may make a “new” discovery. Pick your favorites, languish a little while longer and take it all in.
8) Join a group
Social media is not all that bad. Thanks to a post I dared to put on the Expat Seville group on Facebook, which welcomes both those just passing through Seville as well as those there a bit more permanently, we were able to find an apartment for our 3-month stay. We were almost ready to abandon the project save for that last and final attempt. Someone responded to my post and that someone pointed me to another someone and now both someones are my good friends. I think in total I signed on to 3 or 4 groups: Mums in Seville (their Instagram account is also great), AWC (American Women’s Club in Seville which has been such a treasure for too many reasons for me to get into here and is not only American woman but for anyone who speaks English really whether it is their native tongue or not), Eat out Sevilla, Seville | Girl Gone International, Sevilla pisos (to find rentals – in Spanish) and probably some I can’t remember. WhatsApp is huge here so there are so many WhatsApp groups that can be a nuisance or a bounty of information. These groups often propose meet-ups and the median age of each varies quite a bit. In Uzès, the Barefoot Uzes group has been helping people connect in Uzès thanks to Deborah Bines – the Barefoot Blogger.
9) Take a Cooking class
I will say it again and again, you will learn so much about a culture from a cooking class. If you don’t have time for Culinary tours & cooking workshops when you travel you can always enjoy 1/2 day’s classes. Personally, I try to sign up for a cooking class almost everywhere I go or try to cook with a local when it’s possible. In Seville Eric and I, each took cooking classes. I went off to Mimo in the stunning Alfonso XVIII and Eric headed to the Triana market to the Taller Andaluz de Cocina. Now I’m ready to try my hand at making the Espinaca con Garbonzo!
10) Take a chance
Life is short, yes, going someplace new comes with its own risks and I don’t mean vital risks which may be involved if you decided to go to some “hot” places on your own. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll maybe get lost but you’ll certainly have one heck of a story to tell and so many memories to cherish.
11) Take your time
This and every trip you make, is the best trip of your life so take your time and don’t rush to get through the trip you have been saving up for and dreaming about for so lunch. Stretch it out as far and wide as you can.
Now that I’ve shared my travel tips with you, go forth and see the world!
Share some of your travel tips with us in the comments.