Change of perspective and appreciation
Having time off from work lets me do a lot of things, but what I see immediately and appreciate the most is the possibility of slowing down. My everyday life is not hurried anyway. I make sure of that already. But there are things here and there that make me make a list and use my time judiciously. Without those eight hours (or in my case nine, including time to get there) spent working, suddenly I have so much more time for myself. And not all this time has to be used for traveling and sightseeing, some of this time I use just for resting and observing and thinking.
And what I thought recently seems quite interesting:
I bitch and moan and complain about the urban infrastructure and traffic in the city where I live. I see and catalog problems that surround me and make improvement ideas in my head. Some of the problems seem so complex and long-standing that they become an obstacle and a reason to vote for a particular option with the hope that their promises will come true, and they will fix it (knowing that in reality, they don’t, and they won’t, but I vote for a hope of a change). But a trip away and time to have a closer look at the situation in other cities and areas suddenly changes that and gives me a lot more appreciation than I actually already have about my hometown.
I visited several towns and cities over the last week, some I have already seen in recent years, some I saw for the first time in decades, and some were a completely fresh experience. They varied in size from 10,000 to 600,000 in population and varied in cultural and geopolitical and historical standing — a good sample I think, for a quick analysis. One thing that struck me immediately while visiting was how much dirtier those places are than my city. I am under no illusion that my city is perfectly clean and anyone could find some issues in a quick walk around, but there are no overflowing trash cans in the center of the city, there is no dog shit visible all over the sidewalks, and there is no dirt and dust just covering all the surfaces. It seems that my city understands the difference between dirt and a patina and acts accordingly, but from what I have seen in recent days — not many other cities understand that fundamental difference.
Places with a lot of history are lovely to visit, but they are a nightmare to live in. And it is not just hordes of tourists everywhere, with special notice to drunk British men on a stag trip or just a boozy weekend away from home. The problem is that to preserve a historical layout and buildings, no major improvements in traffic patterns can be made. So everyone and everything is squired in the streets and sidewalks made originally for horse-drawn traffic. Modern sedans and especially SUVs just don’t fit there. There are bottlenecks everywhere and at all times. Even prioritization of car traffic over pedestrians doesn’t really help. Come on, Poznan — 5 minutes to wait for the light to change to cross the street, while cars are going by in an unending stream? And that’s the street crossings all over your delightful city.
In conclusion — traveling and having open eyes are helpful in maintaining a proper balance of understanding and appreciation of the place I live in. Of course, I also bring with me the ideas I noticed implemented with good success in other places to think about how to apply them to urban problems in my hometown. But the balance in understating the good and bad that I have now in my mind is a welcome change from doom and gloom that infuses my thinking about what I see around me every day.