When I travel I do my best to be less of a tourist and more of an observer of local culture and trends. It is my goal to observe everything and absorb and incorporate the best into my life.
I recently returned from a trip to France (Paris and Nice) with a side trip to Switzerland (Geneva, Bern and Lucerne). I must admit I did the touristy things too. Yes, I bought perfume in France and a watch in Switzerland, but I also observed the air and city streets of my foreign destinations were cleaner than my American counterparts. Individuals sweeping the streets were observed as well as motorized street sweepers. Their automobiles are smaller, their mass transportation efficient and amazing. However, they are not without their rush hour traffic–when entering the rotary by the Arc de Triomphe the technique appeared to be utter a quick prayer and step on the gas. The locals are thinner, and judging by the number of people walking and riding bicycles they are more active than most Americans, and also more fit.
The food is delicious but the portions are small. No super-sizing was observed. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands are peppered throughout the neighborhoods. Soft drinks are available but certainly not the drink of choice. Yes, the French love their cigarettes, espresso coffee and wine with dinner (and lunch too from what I observed), but, from my limited observation, they stop at one glass and desserts are often shared if indulged in at all. Dining is about not only the food but conversation. I can’t tell you the number of people I observed stretching a plat de jour into a two-hour dining experience.
Travel is a wonderful way to hone your humanity skills. It expands our experiences, educates and allows us to observe life from another perspective. If we travel with open eyes and hearts we can move closer to being less creatures of our own small habits and routines and embrace the best from another culture. We can be inspired by what we see and move closer to being the best person we can be, and that is good for the global community as well as the individual.