018Temple in the dawn mist, Bagan-2.jpg

I was a little stressed out the last two days working on my upcoming trip to Europe. Other than trying to figure out how to drive 3 hours in the countryside after a long flight to France, and the complicated route to a Spanish island, I rushed into a last minute decision to fit Russia and Switzerland in the plan. Of course it would be nice to see more places in one trip, but working on the travel logistics in the last minute during a high season means a lot of headaches. Unfortunately (and fortunately), the Russia trip fell out of the plan, as I wasn’t able to process all the paperwork in time.

I felt really relieved. I knew I was always “greedy” when it comes to travel. There are so many places I want to see in this world, and I feel I don’t have enough time to do it all. So I sometimes have a natural tendency to rush. On the other hand, I also well acknowledge the trade-off between quantity and quality. By sweeping across multiple places within a short period of time, I naturally lose the quality moments to enjoy the details.

I remember during my last visit to Europe back in 2004, a German friend of mine told me how he enjoyed “being slow”. Michael had practiced Tai Chi for over 20 years and kept almost an unchanged life, living in Hamburg, working as an IT professional in Airbus, being single. Once in a while, Michael traveled to Borneo in Malaysia to kill his long holidays. Life looked stagnant. But Michael told me he was enjoying the best quality in life, after he realized the treasure of being slow. After work, Michael sometimes just sat by his window for half an hour, listening to the singing of the birds, staring at the quiet street in the neighborhood. Those were the beauty he neglected in the past. I barely paid any attention nor tried to understand back then, but during the past month, when I started to take evening walks to see flowers in my neighborhood, observe the swans and ducks in the afternoon around the lake of Palace of Fine Arts, have a simple lunch at farmer’s market to watch people in Embarcadero, I truly started to understand what Michael meant. I have never found so many beautiful things in my close surroundings, but they have always been there. I just wasn’t slow enough to pay any attention.

Many of us might not have this luxury of time to be slow. Or, as many may put it, we are too busy, for ourselves, for family and kids, for reality. Many of us might also have heard the story of two old men living on the boat. One is a fisherman, the other is a retired businessman who conquered the whole world before finally finding peace in his retirement boat. The businessman could have chosen to live in this peace anytime in his life, but he waited and waited, until he retired with loads of money but probably not too much else. So he purchased a boat, and lives a fisherman’s life, in a slowness perhaps unbearable to many of us in the “real” world. So who’s the winner in this story, maybe it does not matter. If we take a moment to step back and look at what we have missed versus what we have gained in our “fast” life, maybe the answer will be clear.

So I decided not to stress anymore for the trip, even I still haven’t found the precise location of those chateaus in France, plus I don’t speak a word of French to ask street. I am going to take it slow. I might inevitably make some mistake turns, but the possible upside is to spend more time enjoying the ride in the French countryside. And eventually, I’ll get there...