Recently, I was in need of an undemanding, entertaining book to read to add fun. I came across two travel books and settled for arm chair travel: Peter Mayle’s book- A year in Provence and Frances Mayes’- Under the Tuscan sun. To my amazement, almost all my friends read these books (May be a sign I aged and not caught up on the “right books” for decades). The first book talks of retirement in south of France with innately sophisticated scenery, food scene, slow pace, and new friendships with the locals and old friendships with the expat visitors. The second book is about traveling back and forth between the busy working life of San Francisco and again, the free-spirited insanely beautiful summers. These lifestyles involved “living local.” Back to this key concept soon. Surrounded by privileged snowbirds in my Chicago life as well as academic faculty who have their suitcase packed moving jobs/cities every so often hustling, I often ask the question how do I make my life humming all year round, without having to deal with the hassle of traveling, going between multiple seasonal homes, waiting till retirement or defeat the miserable rumination on harsh Chicago winters to start living. I actually ruminated on this topic almost like a personal scientific pursuit for years. I will keep this simple. These are the elements that seem to bring daily life almost close to living in beautiful places.
1.Maintaining routine so you are not bothered by what to do next. I have this odd habit of using mnemonics to feel safe. I call it “SEGR” these days- after work, eat your salad (or more), exercise, play guitar and read. Careful art of composing scrumptious ever changing seasonal salads can be science! If you like doing things and are bored, plug in things to do! Or book a regular time to put your feet up. Routine is a treasure-chest of stability and clarity that anchors you. Ruminating minds need distraction. Routine offers that!
2. Weekly routines may involve making phone calls. A friend suggested using rolodex cards to keep rotating to keep in touch with all. It may involve grocery shopping or hair appointments. They will be much more meaningful if you connect with the people. Would not it be fun if your Walgreens vendor asks about your sons’ wellbeing or your stylist brings fresh ricotta cheese from their hood or seasonal flowers from their garden?
3. Inserting slow paced paradoxical times like reading early am without hustling and getting irritated. I know a friend who said he likes to go to a local coffee shop at 5 am.
4. Observing rituals of holidays- planning and preparation like a religion. Get involved, for, it is your life.
5. Chatting up local vendors to understand culture, ideas, history- we don’t need to go to Provence to do it. Don’t laugh if I say I actually chat up local vendors and restauranteurs, for the heck of it, on the best methods to cook or prepare with what I am buying.
6. Cooking interesting (healthy, of course) food akin to tastes of exotic travel, recipes you like and recall can be fun. You don’t need to be Einstein to cook.
7. Nurturing rich friendships with old and new friends by opening your home over dinner parties. People are soul of our life.
8. Curate each day mindfully recognizing the preciousness of the time with your loved ones (not that you or anyone is dying or there is a tiger in the bush); That hug before work, that joy reuniting after work! I recall Ronald Regan saying once about his wife Nancy- ‘It is always nice to know that someone is waiting behind that door for you.’ as you return from work.
9. Splatter music, art, sport or any hobbies you have to enrich the life. My adult friends across ages of early twenties to nineties are involved in tennis lessons, bread making classes, pizza expeditions, comedy club classes, writing, bridge, cooking classes, cycling, serious seasonal gardening (at times involving glass houses or open garden patches away from their apartments).
10. I would make home to be minimalistic minus clutter, with whimsical memories of your life. See, you are living at home more than an occasional travel. Sweat on it. Make it your haven. Who knows if there is a heaven even if you deserve to hypothetically end up there.
11. See, folk enjoy ‘time away’ to experience change and different ways of life. Invite novelty and diversity right in home town too! It is all around you if you can fit it in, once in a while!
12. One thing my husband and I are enjoying lately- and you may like the idea- is taking day trips to all interesting places near home! Explore.
13. Avoid messing up what you have. There is always something you can say to your loved ones at the wrong time in the wrong place like- “You are sneezing too much.” Just joking (not). If we are able to mindfully appreciate, curate and respect what we have, life will automatically be lifted. On daily basis. Alongside work life. Actually integrating life as a whole. A curtsy to “Let’s live local”