01 March 2009

Enjoy the "being", not just the "seeing"

If you've read the previous posts, you'll know I'm a meticulous planner. From destinations to routes, from timetables to opening hours: I will research it all. I'll even have a checklist in my head for each museum, gallery or sight to ensure that I get to everything I want to.

One of the hardest things is to combat the temptation to simply "tick the box" once I'm there, and miss the enjoyment of the moment. I had a wake-up call on an early overseas trip (with Yvette, but pre-kids). In St. Peter's at the Vatican I stood in front of Michelangelo's beautiful sculpture, Pieta. I'd seen it before in books, of course, but here I was in front of the real thing. The sculpture astounded me, but what really grabbed my attention were the significant number of other visitors who simply walked up towards the sculpture, clicked their cameras, and walked away. They didn't even bother to look at it for a minute or two. I knew I'd spent a small fortune to travel half way around the world to be there, and even if they'd spent less by travelling from elsewhere in Europe or the US it did seem a bit pointless. I wondered if those visitors would spend more time looking at their photo than actually remembering being there.

Ever since, I have tried as much as possible to experience the moment of "being" rather than just "seeing". To hang around for a few minutes. To stand still and look - really look, and not just glance. To talk about what we're seeing with Yvette and the kids. To just sit and take it all in.

This isn't confined to museums and galleries - but it works perfectly for them. When we were in Quebec City, Bendy needed an afternoon nap, so Yvette offered to stay at the hotel while I took The Bookworm out to keep noise at a minimum. We went to the parklands around the fort at the top of the city, where she could run around and enjoy the sunshine. We also wandered along the boardwalk overlooking the St. Lawrence River, just whiling away the hour or so before we headed back. We didn't "see" or "do" anything from our well-planned checklist. We just enjoyed "being" together. Later on the same trip, it was ice-creams in Central Park, New York with both kids while watching a great little jazz trio (and I took a long time to convince our eldest to put $1 into their busking hat).

There are so many possibilities:
  • you can sit and watch the world go by in a park, from a cafe, on the steps of the village church - somewhere with a good vantage point (and some aesthetic value)

  • sit and watch your kids in the new environment - and watch the reactions of others to them. You might be surprised at the pleasure they bring to others. At the Orangerie in Paris, The Bookworm had a camera which she used to take endless photos of her sister pulling silly faces in front of Monet's Waterlilies paintings. Watching it was very amusing for us, and we got a few positive comments from complete strangers about their antics. Even the museum attendants - while watching them closely - were entertained by the kids

  • stop. Take a breather in the midst of the rush. Sometimes I consciously remind myself to notice where I am and what is going on around me. When seeing something significant, I like to remember that this is what I have come all that way to see - so I should actually to the seeing!
The times of just being together, between must-see sights, or even at those sights are part of the pleasure of travelling. Sharing the "being" as well as the "seeing" with your kids helps them to get the point of what travelling is all about.

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