About 25 years ago I shared a lift descending several floors in the Shangri La Hotel, Bangkok, with a group of wealthy looking middle aged women who I knew were on a first class all expenses paid trip to Thailand with their husbands. Their conversations went something like this:
“My god, it’s just too hot and sticky out there.”
“Yes, and the bloody smells in the streets.”
“I know dear, and none of the buggers speak English, ‘innit!”
“Never mind that, the noise and the traffic, just awful.”
“That’s nothing, have you seen all those tarts hanging round outside the Hotel, I’m sure some of them are men!”
“Never mind girls, let’s have some Champers and spend the afternoon having a Thai massage, group style hehehe!”
You couldn’t make this up, it’s all perfectly true and reminds me of a conversation between Patsy and Edina in Absolutely Fabulous! That these 5 wealthy women were as “thick as pigshit” goes without saying, but to be slightly kinder one could say they lacked a great deal of mindfulness. To them, culture was something connected to yoghurts or grown in a laboratory. The hotel didn’t have a private beach so was useless, and because they didn’t understand the restaurant menu (even though written in perfect English), the food was classified as “foreign muck”.
These women were about as mindful of their environment as a fart in a lift! We’ve all come across them, and hope we never become like them. So ….. here’s a source of wisdom, a set of mindfulness tips to help you on your travels. Interpret them in your own way, they work for me:
- Leave your materialistic thinking at home: Wealth and possessions tell you nothing about a person.
- Keep an open mind: Suspend your judgement of people’s behaviour and culture.
- Engage with everything: People, food, music, take nothing for granted.
- Embrace the culture: Learn something new each day about their history, traditions, lifestyle, art.
- Eat local: Don’t be afraid, try things out in places where locals eat, ask questions, learn.
- Make friends: The best way to learn the culture, open your mind, visit the same cafe or bar each day
- Learn: Be positive, apply the above ….. your glass is half full!
And remember, there are no foreign places, just foreigners visiting someone’s home!
We are certainly needing to be mindful over the next FOUR days as our ship calls in at Cagliari, Malta, Catania, and then Naples. Our planned excursions are “Ancient Sardinia”, then “Mdina and Valletta”, “Classical Syracuse”, and finally a tough day from Naples with Pompeii in the morning and Herculaneum in the afternoon. It may take some time to write and post mostly due to a lack of internet. But ….. stay tuned!