After two weeks, my nonstop travel and touristing with my parents has officially come to an end. I’m sad to see them go, but thankful for the time that we had. And what an experience it was! Everyday was filled with as many exciting and interesting things as we could reasonably do or see while still dedicating enough time to allow us to appreciate the event. We toured all over Ireland, visiting countless castles and cathedrals, navigated the Ring of Kerry, walked the Clifs of Moher, and kayaked on the bioluminescent Lough Hyne (one of the #summerbucketlist items!). We toured the London Tower with an actual Yeoman Warder, had fancy high tea, saw Wicked in the West End, ate breakfast at Duck and Waffle on the 40th floor, and wandered through Westminster Abbey. We rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower, spend a full day gawking at the Palace of Versailles and another at The Louvre, and saw and ate our way around the City of Love. It was possibly the most time I have ever spent cumulatively with both my parents in my life and if not, it was at least the longest in a long time. So of course the best part was being able to spend days, meals, and experiences together. And as we savored the opulence or antiquity of each of our stops, we repeatedly considered the people who see them everyday. Our recurring remark/question was whether or not the people who actually live in, around, and near all these fantastic sights are fully aware of and appreciate them. Our guess was they probably took them somewhat for granted as seems to be human nature. It might not always be quite as severe as contempt, but familiarity often does lead to less appreciation for where we are.
While my home is not quite on par with King Louis XIIII’s and I don’t have Big Ben out my back window, I think it’s all too easy to become immune to the impressiveness of my surroundings and for me to start to take for granted the “opulence” of my own life. This was the first time my parents have visited Ireland and I really enjoyed hearing their perspective on life here. True they got to see many of the highlights and gorgeous natural wonders, but they also saw the studio, my church, my home, the dog park, and my grocery store. And it felt fun and refreshing to be reminded of all the good things about these things. Therefore, I am now starting to further consider the ways in which we might benefit from cultivating greater appreciation for where we are.
I know I’d personally be happier if I didn’t fall into the trap of believing that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I don’t want to waste the time that I have left living in Europe pining for the things I used to take for granted back in the US. And I don’t really think that wishing away the present is a good approach regardless of where I go. But I also find that when we pause to recognize and feel appreciation for where we are, we also notice more things to be grateful for and happy about. Actually, that building I see everyday is pretty beautiful. And although it rains A LOT, the flowers in bloom are spectacular. When I’m traveling to new and exciting places, it’s easy for me to be awestruck or captivated by the atmosphere and scene, but when I’m home on an average Tuesday, it might not come so naturally. But if we can learn to practice gratitude and appreciation for where we are, wherever that may be, the positive impact it has upon us is immeasurable.
And when I think about it, there are plenty of ways to stretch myself to do this more. I do keep a regular gratitude journal (which is a small happiness boost daily!) but I think that continually trying new or different things, like a tourist in your own town or even your own home can provide a fresh perspective. Making a list of the top things that someone should do in your city/county/state/country and then checking them off for yourself is a tangible way to get started. And as you tour your own surroundings, involving other people and taking photographs, trying new things and educating yourself on the background and history all add a lot, just as they do when you actually travel. Going even just a level or two deeper can totally inspire or renew an appreciation for where we are.
And although I may not always fully appreciate the normal day-to-day life, I do have to say that I’m looking forward to a weekend snuggled in at home, flanked by my puppies whilst getting reacquainted with my husband. There are some pretty fabulous places out there, but there is no place like home.