Summer vacation started in Malta this year. Normally, I’m a tour Nazi, or so I’ve been told by family and friends, planning every minute to experience all that is possible within the time limits given. I’m obsessive about throwing myself (and unsuspecting fellow travelers) into sensory overload by experiencing all the traditions and customs that the destination has to offer including food (and beverage, oh my!), sights, events, and people (present and past).
This trip was different – no pre-planning, no expectations, no ‘must-see’ list was created. Totally unlike me – but then this year has been unlike anything I’ve experienced – emotionally exhausting after having lost both my mother and mother-in-law (whom I’ve known since I was 15 years old and was truly a second mom for me) within two short weeks of each other. We all needed a break from the usual and ordinary with something as Monty Python would say, “And now for something completely different.”
Different it definitely was – better? The answer is definitely no; not better – just different and best in its own unique way. In considering how I approached this vacation from all the others, I’m struck by how we often compare events and rate them accordingly – good, better, best, worst – when each event is unique in its timing and in our own space at that moment in time. And then, I realized that we do this with people, too. We compare them in unique situations and rate them accordingly – good, better, best, worst – when each person’s behavior is unique in the timing of that particular situation or event in that moment.
While in Malta, we toured several ancient sites, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Listed. There were no images of the people who once occupied those sites, of course, but yet, their stories emerged – not good, bad, worst, best, just different. Thousands of years later, their stories emerged for us from the structures they built to worship, live, and congregate. Elements of significance for them were highlighted in the stone carvings, sculptures, and location of the sites themselves. The lessons to be learned from each of these ancient cultural sites for future generations is unlimited and unique for each individual visitor.
When I returned from vacation, I began the familiar routine of walking our dog around the neighborhood. But this time, the walk was different for me. I realized that for each home I passed on my walk, I had formed judgments about the people inside. Based on my recent vacation experience at these ancient sites, I changed my perspective and began considering the story of the people inside. What stories were emerging from their homes that were free of judgment, yet posing an interesting and complex narrative of their lives in this moment in time for them? Consider the home that, in years past, had showcased a lush floral landscape on acres of land. It is now up for sale. Have the aging homeowners lost interest or ability to work in the yard, or are they simply prioritizing their energy and time differently in this season of their lives? No judgment, only a narrative. What lessons can I learn from today’s neighborhood experience as different seasons of my own life emerge? Prepare to let go of past hobbies and passions? Discover new ones?
Yes, vacations are good for the soul indeed, but even better for the mind and heart. When we can expand our perspective, change our view, and change our stories, perhaps we can begin to change our world.