Blogpost, self-reliance

The World Cup and Learning How to Love Yourself

Best of friends ready to travel together.

In 1998 I spent almost a month in Europe with my best friend, Schaef, attending the World Cup.  When you think of life experiences, it really doesn’t get much better than that.  Spending a month engrossed in the thing that you love the most with one of the people that you love the most.  It truly was an amazing trip but when it was over he and I didn’t speak for almost two months.  The experience of that trip has helped me in a variety of ways, one of which I’ll share here.

The trip was planned extremely well by my friend.  He was the planner and I played the role of translator because I spoke both Spanish and French.  We flew into London and saw the sites there briefly.  Our main focus was the games.  So site seeing was kind of a fast paced game.  We tried to see as much as possible in the smallest amount of time possible.  Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc. were all done in a day and at a quick clip.

Then we took trains down to Barcelona where we spent a few days touring and watching games in the afternoon.  Again, the Olympic Village, La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s buildings and all were seen but not studied as we had to block out times for the matches which were almost social events along Las Ramblas.  Unfortunately Schaef lost his passport on our second to last day there.  For that story, CLICK HERE.

The LouvreOur next stop was Paris.  There was of course the visit to the US Embassy in Paris to get a new passport which took longer than we would have liked.  After getting it we had to rush to pick up our tickets to the five games that we were going to attend.  Our first match was Germany vs USA.  Despite both being American we were following Germany through the group stage.  The most memorable thing from following Germany for me was the warm-up.  Watching Jurgen Klinsmann get crossed balls for him to side volley from head height was amazing.  He was obviously a world class player honing his craft and I loved seeing it up close.  In addition to that match, we saw the Louvre in less than 2 hours.  Art lovers we are not!  Next was Germany vs Yugoslavia which was in Lens, a much smaller venue and not much around.

We fit in a quick trip to Munich Germany to experience Schaef’s heritage.  This was the first time that I felt like we needed some space.  I didn’t speak German but I felt there was an expectation that I was still on translation duty.  I learned quickly how to say “Zwei biere, zwei pretz” (two beers and two pretzels) which was about all we needed to survive.   That feeling of unnecessary expectation faded quickly because we were back on the road to Montpelier to see our final group stage match, Germany vs Iran, which ended with Germany winning the Group.  Montpelier was also the first place that we were able to kick a soccer ball around.  We met a girl from Chicago who got her brother to lend us a ball.  Her father’s only directions were “don’t pop it”.  Now I’ve never popped a soccer ball before in my life.  But sure enough, the very last kick of the ball took a weird bounce hit this tree with spikes on it and POP!  We felt so bad for the kid, I think we gave him around $140 in Francs to replace it.  At this point, the togetherness was getting difficult.  I even started smoking cigars on a daily basis just to get away for a bit.

Our final day of matches was filled with drama both on and off the field.  We went to the knockout stage match in Lens between France and Paraguay which Les Bleus won in overtime.  This was inconvenient for us because we had another match to attend in Paris that night and OT almost made us late.  On top of that we had to navigate around riot police due to an altercation that happened during the match outside the stadium.  Despite the difficult circumstances we got onto a fully packed train back to Paris.  Denmark beat Nigeria handily that night.

We traveled back to England in order to catch our flight home.  At this point, we have not had one argument or negative word said but we don’t speak much on the flight.  The next day we part ways and don’t talk for about two months.  Eventually we pick right back up in a good spot but we obviously needed some time apart.

This experience taught me so many things about relationships but the two main ones were: most upsets come from a mismatch of expectations and no matter how much you love someone, space is necessary at times.  These both came into play in the best possible circumstances.

On a daily basis, we are not dealing with the best possible circumstances but we are cultivating our most important relationship.  Each and every day we are in the closest possible contact with our key associate: the self.  Although it may seem odd to apply the same concepts to an internal relation as an external but they can be used to good effect.

First the mismatch of expectations with who you think that you are or should be is a common cause of upset.  We have a narrative about who we are inside of our head.  Some of it is conscious and other parts unconscious but when our external environment fails to meet our expectations of who we are, it creates issues.  Those issues can manifest in a variety of ways but the underlying problem is that our life does not match our expectations.  One way to combat this is actually create a definitive description of who you expect yourself to be on a daily basis.  Not the “best case scenario” or “ideal self” but rather standard operating procedure or bare minimums description.  This way you are setting yourself up for success.  Exceeding these expectations will be a gold star to shoot for but at least you have a definition of who you will accept going out into the world each day.

The second is slightly more complicated because getting distance from yourself can seem difficult.  I’m obviously not talking about physical distance but rather psychological distance.  The daily opportunity that we have for this space is sleep.  I truly believe that people who do not sleep well have a more complicated internal life because they are caught up too directly in their own story.  The inability to take a break from being puts additional stress onto the relationship with the self.  Other forms of psychological space from the self are meditation and exercise.  These can both be extremely effective provided that they can be done without intense focus on “results”.  Using these tools to take a mental vacation will have great effects provided that the vacation is not turned into a business trip.

So recognize that you’re on a lifelong trip, living out of a purse sized “bag”, with the same person that you cannot get rid of.  It would make sense for you to make them a friend, possibly your best friend.  In order to make it work though, you’re going to need to set expectations and give each other space.  Otherwise you could end up hating the person inside your head and that seems like a bad way to spend this great trip that you’re on.

Travel well!

Pete

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Travel Sites Never Suggest the Barcelona Police Department?

BarcelonaMetroIn 1998 my best friend and I traveled to Europe for the World Cup which was held in France.  Despite our main goal being to watch soccer games, we also made side trips to other cities inside and outside of France.  One of our stops was the Spanish city of Barcelona.  It’s a beautiful city on the coast with the architecture of Gaudi, the shopping of Las Ramblas and hosted the Olympics only a few years prior.  Despite all of those  magnificent characteristics, whenever I talk about that trip, I usually talk about the Police Department.  Let me explain!

My friend and I were staying in a hostel* about a mile from the beach.  So we usually took the metro from our hostel to other parts of city.  On our second to last day in Barcelona, we were at a metro station waiting for the train to come.  My friend was rearranging items in his money belt when the train arrived.  We hopped up and got onto the train.  After the train pulled away, he realized that he’d left his passport on the bench at the station.  By the time that we got to the next station and took a train back, the passport was gone.  This was early internet days, so we relied on maps and locals to make our way to the US Consulate in Barcelona.  Upon arriving there, we realized it was closed because it was a Saturday.  The only person there was a guard who only spoke Spanish.  Luckily I was able to use my Spanish to explain the situation and he put me on the phone with someone to help.  Since we were traveling to France the next day, he explained that we needed to go to the Barcelona PD and file a police report.  With that and a copy of his passport, we would be able to cross the border and get a new passport in Paris on Monday.  Luckily our visit to the Barcelona PD went off without a problem and we made it to Paris as scheduled.  The Barcelona PD is not actually a tourist attraction!  However it is one of the places that I mention whenever I talk about this trip.  The reason is simple, the destination matters but the road is more important.

Almost none of the stories that I tell from my travels are about the view from the Eiffel Tower or standing in front of the Mona Lisa.  They are the stories of what went wrong, things that were odd and personal.  If the point was to see the Mona Lisa, then Google is all that you need in order to have a fruitful life.  To the contrary, the journey to get to the Mona Lisa is more relevant and full of impact.  We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and that is clearly the point.  Goals are merely the excuse that we have for going on a magnificent journey.  The mistake that most people make is that they forget to enjoy the journey.

Every day is your chance at adventure.  If you choose not to see it, then you will be swallowed up by all of the petty and seemingly insignificant crap that you encounter.  Or maybe, just maybe going to the Barcelona PD could be one of the best times you’ve ever had!

Hit the road!

Pete

*If you’ve never traveled abroad, a hostel is like a VERY bare bones hotel.  You sleep in a room with many other people and have shared bathrooms etc.