Walk it off…

 

Walking

Winter is coming! Winter is coming!

Well, it’s here. The temperature has started dropping, the sun now rises later, and sets earlier.  As if it wasn’t already hard enough to wake up early and go jogging, all these changes have now made it even harder. Heck, nowadays I’m thankful if I manage to just wake up on time for work.

As a result, the winter pounds have started piling on. However, I can’t blame just the winter or the Honey Bee’s delicious and indulgent cooking. The truth of the matter is I have gotten a teeny bit lazier with the onset of winter. This has resulted in us scrambling to find other ways to keep fit. We tried joining a gym last winter, but you can guess how that worked out. We went a few times, but given what we paid for the membership, it was far from worth it. We might have been better off investing in oil stocks. 😛

Thanks to the Honey Bee we have now started taking more walks. Every day after work, we walk around the city center. With the cool weather, it makes for a really nice way to wind down at the end of the day. Not to mention the many benefits walking brings. It strengthens the heart, lowers disease risk, keeps weight in check, tones your body, gives you energy, and best of all it makes you happy.

No wonder then that hundreds of people are doing the same thing. When we reach the city center, it is flooded with all kinds of people-young, old, families, and even babies. That’s right! It’s not uncommon to see week old new-born babies being hauled around in baby carriers, strapped to the front/back of their parents.

I personally, am embracing it with open arms and loving it. A simple evening walk helps me relax and makes me feel better. It makes me feel productive and prevents me from becoming an evening potato, sprawled out on the couch watching TV. In fact, I enjoy it so much that in addition to our evening walks, I decided to start walking to and from work. That’s right! Leaving the car keys at home, I tried it for the first time this week, and couldn’t be happier. I reached the office far more awake than ever before, and with a lot more positive energy. I’m trying to make the most of it before it gets too cold. Let’s see how much longer I can keep it up.

So, if you’re the intellectual Greek philosopher type, Hippocrates put it best when he said “Walking is man’s best medicine.”

If you’re not, then heed the words of another great philosopher, Homer (Simpson) after having a drawbridge land on his head “…I’ll just walk it off!” Doh

40 Hours in Milan

Galerias Milan

This last weekend we went off to Milan to celebrate the fact that we were able to, well, get cheap flight tickets. 😉

After a very very early morning flight, we reached sleepy, but enthusiastic- waiting to take in Milan with all its sights, sounds, and lots of pizza! Since we were just gone for the weekend, we decided to backpack it- no suitcases, no check-in luggage.

As soon as we reached the city center, we started for the Doumo right away. Milan, Florence, and other Italian cities allMilan Cathedral have a Duomo, which is Italian for Dome and refers to a cathedral. Milan’s Duomo is the Cathedral of Milan that took nearly six centuries to complete and is today the world’s 5th largest church.  It is an imposing structure adorned with hundreds of statues. Sitting under the sun on the Piazza del Duomo while relishing a cold beverage/ice cream is a great way to appreciate it and get lost in all its beauty.

Navigli

Among other sights, we also visited the Navigli District– a charming area with restaurants and shops lining a canal that runs through this part of Milan. Apparently, these are the same canals that were once used to transport the marble used in the construction of the cathedral.  

The Honey Bee and I visited Florence earlier this year, but forgot to purchase a memento for our collection. So I was hell-bent on buying a statue of Michelangelo’s David, in addition to a statue of the Duomo which we were going to buy as a souvenir from Milan. That was not as easy as we had anticipated. During the 40 odd hours we were there, we probably visited close to 40 souvenir shops, but with no luck. Surprising how everyone sells statues of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Saint Peter’s Basilica, even though we’re not in Pisa or Rome, but no one sells a statue of David from Florence. After having given up any hope of finding the statue, we were looking for a place to eat when we found one souvenir shop that we hadn’t yet visited. We decided to try our luck, and lo and behold, a statue of David (albeit overpriced).

Just before our Last Supper in Milan (pun intended), we chanced upon a guitarist with a dog (fairly common in most European cities) performing near the center. We stood there and listened while he performed 2 recent very popular American songs. He played the guitar well, but somewhere between the incorrect lyrics, and his funky pronunciations, he lost us. We noticed that of the people who stopped and listened, a few left him some money, and most didn’t. This is when the Honey Bee and I got into an interesting debate.

She said he was working hard, and everyone who listened to him should be obliged to pay him. Her claim was that if someone didn’t intend to tip him for his services, they shouldn’t stand there and listen to him. Additionally, she claimed that he was performing on the street because he was clearly in need of money.

However, I believe that couldn’t be the case, given the presence of the large and healthy golden retriever by his side. My Musicianconviction is that these performers play on public property, without obtaining any special permits. That, in itself, makes what they’re doing not so legal. Further, by playing in public squares, they create a nuisance, not allowing people to enjoy the sights they came to visit without a loud-speaker blaring into their ears. As often occurs at train stations, in metros/trains, etc. they start performing even when you don’t want to listen, and create an annoyance. Because of their singing, you can’t read the newspaper, or talk on the phone, or get any work done. Later they harass you for money.  I say tip them if you like what they’re doing and want to show your appreciation, but don’t feel obligated to.

In case you’re wondering, we finally did leave him a tip, but couldn’t come to a final agreement about whether or not we should feel obliged to tip him. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you…send me a message, or post a comment below.

Anyway, before we knew it our 40 hour trip had come to an end and we were on our midnight flight back to Spain. Our stomachs full of delicious food and wine, our bags full of mementos, and our minds and spirits renewed with great memories.

La Joie de Vivre

worklifebalanceThis week’s post is a bit different from previous posts because I want to talk not about a specific trip, or experience, but about conversations and perspectives. Let me preface this post by clarifying that I’m not saying one type of lifestyle is better than the other. This is just my take on the subject.

Often friends have mentioned to me that things in Europe are much smaller and tighter than in the US. That is true, and I’m not arguing with it. The lifestyle in Europe is generally smaller than the US. People also talk about the better work-life balance in Europe. This got me thinking, and I realized that these two things go hand in hand, and to look at each of these separately gives an incomplete perspective.

Living in Europe has given us the chance to do and experience things at a frequency and on a level that would be hard to imitate just about anywhere else. Weekend trips (by road, air, or rail) to nearby countries, cities, medieval towns or quaint villages; hikes and excursions to natural reserves and sanctuaries; visits to the beach, neighborhood festivals, or simply picnicking in open outdoor spaces. All these are experiences that significantly add to the quality of life, without necessarily burning a hole in your pocket.

Compared to the US where everything tends to be spread out, houses tend to be multi-storied, cars tend to be extra-large and meals tend to be super sized, European homes tend to be cozier, cars tend to be small hatchbacks and meals tend to be in small-normal portions (like Spain’s tapas). No wonder then that Europeans tend to experience more of la joie de vivre. Let me explain…

While both sides of the Atlantic are consumerist societies, normal everyday Europeans (I’m not referring to the super rich) tend to consume or spend less, on a lot of goods compared to their American counterparts. Earlier this week I was reading a blog where the European writer was explaining that while he is living a content life on a reasonable income, his single female friend in the US who makes 50% more (early six figures) than him, was still chasing more money and having trouble living within her means. This brings out a key difference in lifestyles. The consumerist attitude has resulted in large parts of the American population having to turn to credit not just for the comforts of life, but also the necessities.

The blog I referred to earlier went on to list some of the friend’s expenses. Most of the numbers are my own annual estimates based on a quick internet search:

Picture4

Obviously, not all these things may be applicable to everyone. But if you think truthfully to yourself, I’m sure you can substitute the items that don’t apply to you, with something that is applicable. If not, then kudos to you for being able to fight the urge to splurge. 😉

Nonetheless, the lesson to take away from all this is it’s fairly easy to spend US$ 15,924/ year (yikes!) on things you don’t need and not even realize it. Just imagine how much more awesome it would be to be able to save a part of that, and still have enough left over to spend on something that really matters to you…like that family vacation to the Maldives you’ve been thinking about.

It’s a vicious circle, that drives us back to my earlier point- consumerism. I’m sure a lot of you must be saying: Wait a minute! Is Vive Mas saying it’s bad to make a lot of money, or be ambitious and successful?! No. I’m not saying any of those things. All I’m saying is that if people didn’t spend money on frivolous things, and enjoyed life at a more basic human level, they wouldn’t spend their lives chasing more money.

Consequently, they could spend more quality time with the people they love, doing the things they love… which brings us back to where this whole blog post started and where it will end: Live smaller, spend more on what is important to you, and you and your loved ones will come out happier in the long run. Live More!