Living life in the slow lane

Five weeks into a summer holiday in Spain and I can be forgiven for succumbing to a complete and utter relaxed state of mind and body.Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

I feel I am fortunate because having your own business means you can take longer vacations; downside is you never really stop working.

In my ideal world my out of office email would read something like this:

I am out of the office from July 12th – August 24th unless you have loads of work you wish to discuss or you have nothing better to do but whine about something then f**k off until I get back into the office on August 25th when all your requests will be dealt with.

In reality my out of office email doesn’t exist because I choose not to disclose the fact that I am ‘out of the office’ on holiday.

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_9My customers have me 24/7 and if there are urgent queries that need to be addressed then they are dealt with.

You can’t realistically expect your clients to wait until you return from a long summer holiday and delegating work stuff to others isn’t always practical.

Basking in the sun for over a month seems idyllic and it is but, when you run your own business you never truly switch off and you look forward to the weekends with the same anticipation and expectation as a normal working week.

One of the joys of the southern European way of life aside of the fact that everyday is filled with blue skies and endless sunshine is how quickly you embrace the slowness of it all.

The European lifestyle beats ours hands down.

Can we really live life in the slow lane?

Staying up late, eating late, then rise early for the beach where you make up for the lack of sleep from the night before.

There is no set time for eating; if you are hungry you eat, if you are tired you sleep.Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_10

Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had. Anon. 

The Mediterranean way of life can be summed up as follows; no one lives to work, they all work to live.

The weather has a significant bearing on this way of life particularly when summer arrives. With such a hot climate people take time away from the heat and rest during their siesta.

The Spanish leave the beach from 2:00-3:00PM and are not back until after 5:00PM. Most leave the beach at 9:00PM either heading home to shower and then out to eat or, to the nearest Chiringuito restaurant.

This genuine love of life involves more than a diet they embrace life to the fullest, finding peace and happiness in everyday activities and ultimately living life to the best of their ability.

You don’t see anyone rushing, they are dictated by the weather, the hotter it is the slower people go.

DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity4-672x372With temperatures that soar upwards of 36-40 degrees you have to slow down because the heat is physically draining and even after five weeks of acclimatisation it still penetrates your inner core and makes you weary.

The Spanish appear to have the perfect balance between life, work and family.

Family’s head down to the beach with their cooler bags, sun beds and towels they look more prepared for an expedition to the Amazon rather than a trip to the beach.

Each one has a valuable part to play from the youngsters responsible for carrying their buckets and spades to the great grandmother who oversees the younger generation.

It is lovely to watch and I have to admit I am jealous of their way of life.

Nothing seems to faze them they have no concept of what it is to rush let alone run to get to their destination.

They plod along, stopping for a chat as a group, and then off they go again only to be distracted by another passing group of friends.chipiona beach

Compare that to our way of life, three days back in the UK I am back on the old familiar treadmill again, the summer holiday a distant but fond memory.

Anger, weather, impatience, queues, traffic, misery.

No wonder we are a nation stressed out over worked underpaid and incapable of enjoying ourselves.

And even when we are on holiday we are under pressure to check emails and work, to be seen to be doing the ‘right thing’.

Wanting to understand what it is about this way of life that makes people happy I discovered the “Blue Zones?”

A concept used to identify a demographic/geographic area of the world where people live longer lives?

Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain were the first to identify blue zone people and Sardinia’s Nuoro province as one of the regions that have the highest concentration of centenarians, people who live beyond 100 years.

Dan Buettner, author and national geographic fellow has written a book: “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the people Who’ve Lived the Longest”.

Some of the areas that have been identified include Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece.

The prospect of living to 100 doesn’t exactly fill me with joy but what does is getting the balance between work and living and many of us are living to work and not really enjoying living.

The most important thing is not necessarily how long we are going to live but how good and fulfilling our life is, full of love, purpose and meaning.

iStock_000016287028SmallFrom my own observations of the southern European lifestyle they do live with purpose and meaning, they are family centric, their diet is rich in vegetables, and fruit, fish and meat and they know how to enjoy wine.

Family is at the heart of their way of life and the extended family is an integral part of the way they live; grandparents provide support to parents who leave their children whilst they go to work.

Elderly people are looked after by younger family members they appear happy, content, fit and healthier than their western counterparts.

I think of the anxiety and worry I have about work, my children, life and the future and appreciate that there is something I can learn from this way of life.

Be mindful and purposeful; be aware of the wonderful people and good things I have in my life.

One day in the not too distant future I will be old and may find myself looking back on life regretting the things I should have done with only time and work to blame for stopping you and me from doing the things we should have done.

Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.

©Jawaharlal Nehru




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