Robert Fulghum: “I feel like 40”

He lives in the USA and part of the year in Crete but he’s slowly becoming a Czech. After his massive summer tour through 40 Czech cities he knows the Czech Republic better than many natives. ,,If Trump becomes a president, I’ll move here” says Robert Fulghum, who still has many plans in life. He feels like 40 years old and apart from writing he wants to try also shoe making.

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I know that you like the Czech Republic but after intense travelling throughout the whole country, aren’t you a bit fed up with us?

No way! You know, the kind of writing I give is about people and that’s why I wanted to travel through the whole Czech Republic, not only Prague, and I wanted to talk to them. Everyone has a story. Such kind of story you’ve heard from your dad or granddad millions of times. Everyone has it and I want to hear them. Meeting readers gives me as much as what I give. It’s fuel of my life and I’m very grateful that although my body is around already for 80 years, I’m still able to do it.

You turned 79 only recently and you already talk about yourself as about 80-years-old?

That’s funny. When you ask a 4-year-old, he says that he’s 4 and a half. So OK. I’m 79 and 2 months but I feel like 40.

You’ve visited the Czech Republic for the 10th time but this time you’ve been to places not even many Czech people have ever visited. What new have you learnt about us?

I didn’t know what a beautiful landscape here was. I’ve visited places which I wouldn’t as a tourist but in every single one I’ve found something interesting.

Are you taking home any interesting story from the tour?

From every single city I’ve got one. I was strongly moved by moments in which I’d a feeling as if I’d already met the people before. There was for example a man who asked me to sign a book for Lenka. That’s his mum who likes to read my books. Then he realized that I had no idea who Lenka was, we saw each other for the first time in our lives. Some kind of connection has been between us for years, though. That’s why I went for the tour, after all: not so that readers saw me, but I wanted to see them. Each reading I took a picture of them and when I write my next book, I’ll look at the photos and I’ll know who I’m writing for.

So you get on well with Czechs?

I’ve been to Austria, Poland or Hungary but I do not feel the same there. I can’t really tell why but I simply feel well here. You’re very friendly. I remember one of the very first press conferences in the Czech Republic. Journalists had read my story about tree climbing and they wanted to interview me sitting on branches. I was fascinated: they were willing to climb trees to talk to me! That was the moment when I learnt that Czechs and I would be good friends….

… and that’s also why Czechs have a privilege to have rights to your books? If American publishers want to publish one of your last books, they have to ask for permission a Czech publisher.

The Czech publishing house is like my family, we’re good friends. When you ask me how many friends I have in publishing houses in New York, I will say: none. Book publishing is a big business over there. Publishers probably do not even read books, it’s about money and I feel like a machine to produce books to make them profit. I miss a human side in it, which I find here in the Czech Republic. But don’t you think that it’s not about money at all. I’ve got a special contract with the Czech publisher that they’ve got rights to my books for 1 Czech crown. Now I want a new contract. I want 3 crowns (he laughs).

You visited the Czech Republic for the first time in 1989. How has it changed since?

You were walking in this way: he crouches a bit and makes blinkers from hands around his eyes. You were closed and afraid to say something, as if there was still a worry “Russians can come back at any time”. Since then you’ve opened to the world. When I asked during the tour how many people spoke English, almost everyone raised his hand. You’ve become citizens of the world. But you are still able to keep your culture and you remember history. You have rich history, which we are unfortunately lacking.

What is happening right now in the USA will without doubt go down in history. What do you think about presidential elections?

It’s like start of fascism. Trump has lots in common with Mussolini. People think that they need a dictator who would take charge and solve everything but that’s not how it works. Americans do not know how fragile democracy is in the way you do.

Debates about the elections turn mainly around Donald Trump and what a failure it would be if he won, but would Hillary Clinton be any bingo?

The best president would be Michelle Obama, a black woman (he laughs). There was a lot of slander about Hillary. Republicans made an evil woman out of here. But I believe she would be a good president. If Trump wins, I’ll move to the Czech Republic.

You know, we tend to think that elsewhere it’s always better than at home but believe me that here we have our issues too…

You’re right. It’s complicated everywhere and it always will. But despite all the tragedies happening in the world today, I don’t think it is worse than before. I’m not a pessimist or optimist but as a realist I think that there’s as much bad as good. We only hear about the bad more often. We read in the paper that ten people were shot somewhere, not that no one killed anybody today. And I truly hope that there are days like these too.

You learned all you need to know in kindergarten but what have taught you 80 years of life?

To be generous. I’ve never regretted when I gave something but I did when I didn’t. It’s not about money but about little things. With a band The Rock Bottom Remainders we raised money for charities but we also hoped that our music would make someone happy. I play the guitar and mandocello and hopefully I don’t do any harm to anybody by my playing. That’s what I actually try to do in my life. To live in a way so that I didn’t make any harm. There are days when I say to myself: ,,Well, you could have done better today, Robert.” But when I go to the bathroom in the evening and I can look into the mirror and do: he raises thumb up and winks, it was a good day.

Can fame change you when you become famous after 50 years of age?

I’ve never strived to be rich or famous, not even to become a writer. I’ve been writing for my whole life. It happened only by coincidence that my writing jumped from a drawer into the world after I was 50. At that age you already know your values and what is important and that’s why I do not think that fame would change me a lot. I’ve got the same friends, the same car for fifteen years simply because I like it. I should put a note on the window: steal it please so that I can finally buy a new one!

How did your family accept it?

It was difficult for my children. They didn’t understand why someone would be interested in what I think. I am their dad, they know how angry or even unfair I can be sometimes so maybe they think that it’s not fair and I understand it. But I think we’ve already managed that and we’ve a nice relationship now. I’ve got my role of Captain Kindergarten but I’m also a normal granddad and my grandchildren do not even consider me as a famous writer. For one granddaughter I’m a bank robber.

Well, taking into consideration what all you’ve done throughout your life, it wouldn’t be a big surprise…

She was about 7 years old and asked me what I do for living. I replied that I’m a bank robber and she run to her mum and cried: ,,Mommyyyy, grandad says that he robs banks!!” And for her I’ve been a bank robber since, no matter she is 18 years old now.

When I make a box for the interview about yourself, it will be a tough job. Writer, philosopher, painter, pastor, cowboy…Shall I write also a bank robber?

You can write that I’m a person who is not able to keep his job. When adults ask kids what they would like to do when they grow up, they expect one single answer: a lawyer, for example. They wouldn’t be very pleased if the kids said ,,I want to try many different things.” And many people do the whole life ,,what is expected that they are” and they can’t wait to retire to be able to do what they truly want. I’ve never wanted to be in this situation. I’m too curious and life offers too much to do only one thing.

What job brings you the best memories?

When I was 17 years old I wanted to be a cowboy. And I truly was. Here is the proof: he shows a bent finger. I’ve got many happy memories. And how many beautiful girlfriends I used to have at that time! You can be a cowboy only when you are 17 but not at 80 and that’s why I later had to try something different again.

In your books you write about “closed doors”. What doors would you still like to open in your life?

I want to learn to make shoes. Shoes for men in shops are incredibly boring, only black and brown. And I would also like to learn to make paper, so that one day I can make a book which would be my masterpiece in every single detail.

Is behind that closed door maybe also a new woman?

Now I’m single again. Alone, not lonely though. But I will keep the door open. You never know what life has in store for you and when you are 40, you still have lots of time.

Before you get busy again, what will you do when you are back home after this crazy Czech tour?

I will sleep. I can’t wait!

Don’t worry, Robert does not speak this horrible English, it is translated from Czech from an interview published on August 6, 2016 in a newspaper Lidove noviny 

About my meet up with Robert you can read here

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Nice to meet you, Robert Fulghum

Robert Fulghum is American, partly lives in Crete but is slowly becoming a Czech. After his massive summer tour through almost 40 Czech cities he knows the Czech Republic better than many natives, including myself. Once I learnt my favourite author would be here, the mission was obvious: to interview him. And I have: Interview with Robert Fulghum

Meeting Robert Part  I

My first encounter with Robert Fulghum happened when I was probably 4 years-old. You might ask how this is possible when I wasn’t able to read at that time. I  wasn’t but I was fascinated by his books even back then. I used to like not reading books but “playing” with them, for their colourful covers and different pictures. Fulghum’s belonged to my favourite ones in my parents’ library because they were small, thin with colourful shaky letters on the cover. They looked fun.

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When I was old enough, I learnt that they are also fun to read. I think that Robert Fulghum has become my favourite writer because I felt a certain connection with him. I pay attention to little details in everyday life (I like to take pictures), I am interested in people and their stories (I am a journalist, after all) and Robert seems to fancy the same. I am particularly into love stories because I consider love as one of the craziest and most beautiful things ever and even the most unbelievable stories are based on reality after all, and when I meet a couple, I am always eager to hear how they met. Robert collected such stories from his readers and the public in his book True Love. I am a passionate tango dancer and so is Robert, as shows his book Hold Me Tight, Love Me Slow. He’s the most famous for an essay collection All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten but he’s gained my heart with a less known three-volume novel Third Wish, which belongs to Top 10 on my reading list. It is considered a kind of autobiography of his and it simply tells me: I must have something in common with this guy.

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Meeting Robert Part II

I’m not the only one, though. Despite being an American and published in more than 100 countries in the world, he is the most read in the Czech Republic. Czech people love him. And he loves them. A couple of hours before he went to the airport to finally have some rest from us after six intense weeks of travelling throughout the country, we had met. It was a last-minute interview and I was rushing there by the first train from Colours of Ostrava music festival, meaning that I slept three hours and I only quickly changed from smelly dirty clothes and muddy trainers but had no time for more improvement. As the festival is called “Colours”, I painted every nail in a different and shiny colour. It looked not only crazy, but also pretty ugly and flaked away after three days of the festival. Believe me, not a thing you want to show off.

The first thing Robert said when he saw me: ,,Cool nails!” Of course, typical Robert, paying attention to little crazy details! Thanks God he was at the festival too, I was understood. We started sharing our experiences, how happy both of us were that there had been no drunk people and plastic beer cups lying around. He was jealous that he hadn’t heard all the great bands as I had because he’d had no time for it. He promised he would come back both to the festival and to the Czech Republic again next year, to finally get off the stage and just simply live here in peace.

Robert, a story-teller

In this way we could have carried on talking forever, it just felt so natural and then I realized: what about the interview?! That’s the thing with Robert, and it also explains why he doesn’t like to talk about himself as about a writer (no matter he has sold over 17 millions copies of his books). To be a writer is isolating, you’re on your own and you have to tell everything with words on paper. I’m not surprised Robert might struggle with it – when he tells a story in a book, he cannot touch a reader’s shoulder, use gestures instead of words, or interlay one story with another because it had just come into his mind –  as he did when he talked to me.

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Robert Fulghum has had countless professions throughout his life, from a cowboy and digger to a pastor or teacher, and he doesn’t like any pigeon-holing about what he “actually is”. He calls himself simply Robert Fulghum. I will give him one label , though. For me he is a story-teller.

This is the story he told me:Interview with Robert Fulghum

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Aymaras: people of the lake

An insight into the lives of Aymaras, indigenous people of the Andes and lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru; about their women, fashion style and admirable self-sufficiency.

After a 14km hike throughout the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), where Incas were born, we arrive to an Aymara community above Titicaca Lake at a height of 4000m. Eight hungry English, three Australians and one Czech invade one of tiny local restaurants and occupy its entire space. La dueña de la casa (the owner), an older Aymara woman, has panic as well as excitement in her dark eyes; excitement about the coming profit, panic how to feed such a hungry bunch of “gringos” (foreigners). Panic – excitement 1:1

The menu is long but the woman avidly confirms that everything is available (I guess she says so out of fear that we would run away if something was missing.) She advertises famous  Titicaca “trucha” (a trout), a local specialty made in 100 possible ways (you cannot make a difference in between them on the pictures, though). But as I say, we are hungry and we go for a couple of pizzas, extra large. (Panic – excitement 3:1). And the buzz begins….

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The restaurant transforms into a bee-hive. Women from all neighbouring restaurants are rushing to ours and now I understand why all of them offer the same menu. The rule is that cooking takes place where customers are. If ingredients are missing at the place of action, they will come from a pantry next door, and at the end pizzas come to our plates not only from the kitchen of our restaurant but from all possible directions, resulting in a great success. We all eat at the same time, we are full, add to that a bottle of Bolivian red which painted rouge on our faces already burnt from hot altitude sun. The lady gives us a black or gold wide smile, happiness on both sides. (Panic – excitement 3:5) Mission “dinner” completed.

Mamitas

When meeting Aymara women on your trek, usually accompanied by a cute infant or even cuter donkey or llama, you greet them “buenos días, mamita”. I would easily have lots of adoptive mums here in Bolivia. Looking at them invites me for giving them a hug.

They have round smiley faces, deep wrinkles inscribed on their sun-burnt dark skin. They are plump, wihich is even intensified by their large colourful “polleras” (skirts), and have a décolletage of an impressive size, on which little Aymaras must have the sweetest dreams.

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The first thing to spot on Aymara women is their outfit, all looking like two peas in a pot. The most remarkable item is their bowler hat, which you usually see on English men, looking quite funny on described-above Aymara women. This fad found its place in their wardrobes in 20s and have stayed there since.

The legend has it that the hats were initially brought from Europe for Europeans working on the rail, but were too small for them and were passed to indigenous people instead. However, they look small on Aymaras either, what they do not seem to mind, resulting that they are rather loosely laid on their heads than properly put, as to be blown off any minute – funny but definitely stylish.

Apart from the hats and polleras there is also a short jacket, an indispensable “aguayo” a blanket to carry kids, crops, shopping or all at once, and two long raven-black braids, usually tied together at the bottom. Single ladies can add a red flower to their hats as a sign that they are in a hunt for husband. I find this particularly useful and I wonder how many potential husbands I missed on a ride in the tube for example. As a western woman I probably have to transmit different signals, maybe Bluetooth to connect out iPhones first before we connect ourselves, exchange Facebook details, or give a “swipe right” on Tinder first and meet in the real world later.

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Many countries, many customs

Passing by Aymara humble dwellings on a small island in the middle of the nature makes me think, what a range of different lifestyles there is on the planet. Especially when looking at children.
They are not even 5 years of age and they are already professional negotiators; “I’ll give you discount if you buy two”, counting coins quicker than croupiers in casinos, and a little Aymara lady in pink dress purses her lips and hugs a llama, because she knows how cute she is, and is ready to hold out a hand for cash in exchange for a photo.

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Parents are very well aware that their cute offsprings can win western hearts more easily and that there is a lesser chance to haggle and bring the price down, and therefore they send kids to sell stuff instead (although in my case you can sell me anything for three times more and I’ll happily buy it. Poor co-travelers of mine who have sometimes searched my assistance because of knowledge of Spanish, but in the end I think I did them more harm than good).

There was something sad in it, though, lacking innocence and purity of childhood. On the other hand, seeing them play hide and seek in the fields and ride a donkey seemed idyllic, compared to western kids today constantly glued to smartphones, cyber bullied or stalked by a pedophile online who passes off as their peer.

 

I understand every “boliviano” (Bolivian currency) comes handy in this remote area and I do not blame them for ripping tourists off. On the other hand, do they actually need much? I marvel how wonderfully self-sufficient they are. Dishes they eat from made from clay, houses and furniture built with help of the whole community, clothes woven and food grown on the fields. They must laugh at us when we spend fortune on bio food at farmers markets or on a little package of quinoa, their daily dish they eat in kilos, which is now in fashion in Europe on the list of so-called “superfood”.

It’s impossible to say what lifestyle is better or the right one. It is simply different and thanks god for this diversity in the world. And for a chance to travel, witness it and take the best out of it.

Brazil: Sexy nation

In every ranking Brazilians are featured among the top 10 most beautiful people in the world. Fairly. During my stay in Brazil I discovered why. Thanks to their passion, confidence and way of life.

A “paulista” family (from São Paulo), mum, dad and kids, is seated in front of telly, with a soap opera on. A sexy young Brazilian chic on the screen is fed up with her life in the countryside where time stopped, and barely-clad because of the heat with slow cat moves washes sweat and boredom off her body, moaning the futility of life.
One day a stranger appears at the farm, with a caramel-tone skin, piercing eyes and raven-black wavy hair, and the gal’s life turns upside down. She gives him the kind of look with only one possible meaning and without surprise it ends it that way, in a passionate sex scene.

That’s how my stay in Brazil kicked off, a couple of minutes after I met my Brazilian family for the first time. And while I wished to be invisible, the dad did not even look away from his laptop and the girls carried on chatting as if an ad for washing powder was on the screen in front of them. You would not show this before 10pm back home, not mentioning at prime time, but in Brazil I was only witnessing an ordinary evening on a weekday.

Sex versus penance

The spark of sexual energy has followed me all stay long. Necessary to mention that I was in a country with the highest Catholic population in the world. I encountered some funny contradictions:
Sex is openly displayed, but pre-marital intercourse is a big issue. On the street a woman furiously tore off an ad for Tarot reading because a true Catholic shouldn’t descend to such profanity, but she was not wearing much on herself, with a big neckline offering a view into the depth of her “soul”. And on the beach you are banned from sunbathing topless but the bikini style is as if it was allowed, as it reveals more than it covers. Thong leads the way. My friend’s bikini, with a half butt uncovered, was sold in a category of “extra large”, and my shorts-like panties were sticking out like a sore thumb. (Now I understand what my dad must have felt like when he, shortly after the fall of the Communist regime, showed up on a beach in California among surfers in swim-wear long to knees with his Y-fronts popular back then.)

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Sexy mix

Every year there are lists released with the most beautiful people in the world, and I guess there hasn’t been a case when Brazilians were missing among the Top 10. I cannot but agree. A subway ride is a pleasure, looking at all the beautiful people getting on and off.

The diversity is particularly impressive. The range of skin tones, hair styles and body shapes. In the 16th century in the period of sugar cane empire slaves from Africa were brought to the country to work on plantations. During the World War I there was a boom of Japanese immigrants, with Brazil being the country with the largest Japanese population outside Japan. When all these start to mingle, as love does not know borders, the results are pretty interesting. Brazilian-Japanese mix is my favourite.

Goddesses of Brazil

An old man, “Carioca”, as the Rio locals are called, resting under the shade of trees along Copacabana beach, started a conversation with me. He was impressed I am an European, not so much with my European appearance, though. With pride he praised the city he was born in, and the sensuality and beauty of Brazilian women. My blond hair and blue eyes didn’t win him over. I do not blame him.

I couldn’t have stopped staring at them either. With their grand boobs and even grander butt, looking like Venuses, they are true embodiment of fertility and femininity. They can have 10kg more than I do, which is nothing difficult here, with all these pasteis, empadas and pleasure in fast food, but still look awesome. They follow the “carpe diem” motto, when they sink their teeth into a hamburger, but with no worries about the calories because it all goes to the right parts of the body to their benefit.
And even if it is a bit over the top, a piece of flab is no biggie and they don’t hesitate to show it off in their sexy outfits. So you see them walking on Copacabana beach with a head up, chest forward, swaying hips and a message in their eyes: “look how beautiful I am”.

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Men have their bonus points too. Tanned, dark-eyed, mostly tattooed. Some are well-built, when they spend good enough time rehearsing for World Cup on the beach. However, they have big appetite too and regrettably, compared to women, calories don’t go to preferred body parts in their case.

Go Brazilian
(nothing about shaving!)

Written by a heterosexual woman, you might expect more drools over Brazilian men. Sorry guys, ladies won. They earned all my attention and taught me a lesson too.

Once I am back from my travels, I’ll put some effort into reducing the impact of Brazilian delicatessen on my figure. I am an European so unfortunately the additional meat never goes to the right parts and I have to adapt to local culture where a piece of flab is not that happily celebrated.
However, I want to take a bit of the Brazilian confidence as a souvenir back home, accept and love myself the way I am (quite a challenge, right? It’s not always easy to be friends with a mirror).

So girls, when you walk on the street, walk like a Brazilian. Since the way you see yourself, you will be seen by others in return.
Show the world your inner goddess each of us has inside!

What to do before 30 (to tick off)

I’ve looked up one of the lists with points of what to do before 30 and tried to apply it to my own life. In the first post I included those which I can tick off. Here comes the harder part…those that still must be worked on (or need not?, who is here to say this?)

6. HAVE 2 or 5 YEARS PLAN

Haha, right now I’ve no idea what will happen in my life in 1 month, not mentioning 5 years!

This is one of the most common interview questions. And although it usually concerns work and climbing on a career ladder, it’s not off the point to give some thoughts also to personal life.

I know a couple of people who have got a dream job or found “the one” and got married pretty early in life. One of the reasons was that they made clear what they wanted and directed their actions to achieve it. So if you have a 5 year ahead plan, with some effort and also luck, you might truly be there.

I remember the moment when I was sitting at the airport five years ago, holding a passport in my hand, and by coincidence I noticed its expiration date in 2016. It made me think what stage in my life I would be at in that “far far future” (oh yeah, time passes more slowly when you are younger). Believe me that I would never guess I would be here and what all would have happened until now.

Today, taking off to Latin America with a new passport expiring in 2026, I’m painting a picture of what Marie 2026 might be like and hopefully she will be like that (no matter what paths, roundabouts or blind lanes will lead to it).

7. APPLY for a DREAM JOB

To be able to make this step one must raise a question first what that dream job actually is. I’ve always been jealous of people who knew when they were 18 or sometimes even kids what they wanted to do. Every joband experience they gained on their career journey brought them closer to their dream job and they truly might have got it by 30. (Well, I wanted to be a dust-woman when I was a kid so thanks god I wasn’t pursuing this dream too hard).

Sometimes I call myself an eternal experience gatherer, jumping from one thing to another. However, all these experiences I’ve got lead me to my dream job too. What I thought would be so much fun to do when at the university, I discovered not to be fun at all when I tried it in practice. And what I thought would be too boring, revealed much more creativity than I expected.

So yes, we should apply for a dream job to maybe realise that it’s not a dream job at all. And if it is, to be lucky that we’ve found something what fulfills us. No matter what people say, work is one of the most important pillars in our lives. If this pillar is missing, our lives and happiness are shaking (OK, lets not generalize, mine are shaking). At work we spend a third of our day and that’s why I believe we should devote our time and energy to something what is truly worth doing.

8. HAVE a LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP & LIVE TOGETHER

To get married by 30 is not on the list. But there are things to do in 20s probably to have a ring on finger in 30s, such as having a relationship that lasts longer than mere couple of months and  sharing home with a partner.

I guess that it’s useful to have some fun and meet different people, as every person and every relationship teaches us something. But jumping from one fling to another never teaches us to commit to someone and take responsibility. After the butterflies and crazy infatuation of a new relationship is gone, time comes for some real stuff and hard work. But if you get bored instead and are too lazy to try, you can never learn what love actually is.

I imagine coliving is probably the best test ever to see if a relationship can work. The person is in your presence constantly, on your good as well as bad days, there are times when he/she pisses you off without even doing anything wrong, there is everyday routine and weird habits (loo seat up or dirty socks everywhere might be just a piece of cake and there are obviously not only male habits). If this can be overcome and the spark is still there, that’s a green light for another step ahead.

9. LEARN to COOK

No matter if a woman or man, it’s quite embarrassing to keep buying ready-meal boxes, which used to take up space in freezers on university campuses while fridges were sadly empty; or to present spaghetti with tomato sauce as a chef’s masterpiece when you are in your 30s.

I dare say I’m not a case in point of the mentioned above. However, as I better devote time to different activities than to cooking for myself, my abilities in the kitchen slightly lag behind. My current resolution is to take my “lonely cooking” as an advantage and a chance to actually learn to cook because it will be only me, who that burnt, oversalted or unaesthetically looking food will have to consume. And once I serve it to others, it will be perfect. I wish!

10. START a NEW and DIFFERENT HOBBY

One of the points on the before-30-to-do-list was also to take up a class of an activity, which we have never done before in our lives, and surprisingly also which we might think we are not the best at.

Today, with hectic lifestyles and lack of time, when we hardly do activities we love, it might seem weird to devote time to something what we might not even enjoy doing that much. That’s the point, though. We do not know if we are good at it or how much we like it until we try. We might discover something completely new and surprising about ourselves.

When I’ve written an article about the university of the third age, its students for example started to learn French or work with Photoshop only when they retired. A man, working the whole life as a car mechanic, fell completely for astronomy, a woman, an accountant, for fashion design.

Well, it’s never too late to start something new and old years, when you finally have time, might actually be a perfect period to do it. No need to hurry before 30 then. However, the difference is that when you fall for something in your 20s, you have much more time to enjoy it than when you discover it in 70s. Now I’m only wondering where my secret X factor could be hidden

The first five points of the list to read here.

The post Life starts (not) in 30s?

What to do before 30 (ticked off)

We come across these lists all the time: books to read before we die, films to watch, places to visit…and last but not least, what to do before 30. In my late 20s and with birthday after me, with a grain of salt, as I’m not a big supporter of any of these lists-to-tick-off, I tried to apply 10 points on one of them to my own life. Here is the result.

Before I begin, I would like to say that in these posts I do not intend to give any life advice and lectures. No way!  I haven’t lived and learnt enough to do so (and I’ll never stop learning no matter the age) and I would need advice myself. All this is just a reflection on my own life and maybe an invite to reflect on yours too.

1. TRAVEL (far or/and alone)

Celebrating my birthday in Peruvian Cuzco this year, heading to the kingdom of Inca with a backpack on my own, I dare say I accomplish the first point.

Going through an existential crisis or standing on a crossroad in one’s life, people tend to take off to faraway places, the further the better, and staring at rough sea, majestic mountains or peaceful desert they discover “the meaning of life”.

A chance to get away from everyday routine, land in a completely new place, and have time only for yourself and your thoughts encourages to think, feel things differently, and it truly can lead to some new ideas and awareness of what has been hidden before. On me travelling has also an effect that with so much new to absorb, it brings me back to times when I was a little kid and did not stop to marvel, marvel at everything. Those were wonderful moments and fortunately they have not disappeared entirely and I hope they never will, but travelling guarantees them.

However, I think that travelling is overrated in a way. If you are not a globetrotter, and it doesn’t fulfill you as much as it does myself, I do not think you’re missing a lot only because you haven’t experienced a typhoon in Vietnam or haven’t been camping on the beach in Peru as I have. You do not have to leave the city you were born in to find “the meaning of life”.

When they say that you should travel before 30, they are right that it obviously gets more tricky once you become a parent, have a full-time job and limited holidays and start losing courage and energy. I follow a rule to start faraway and the older I get, the nearer to travel. However, I think it’s sad to know the world but not the country you come from. And admit it, how many places every tourist visiting your country has seen you have not? So maybe the next big travel of yours might be to a neighbouring village and you might be surprised what adventures and how much new you discover there. Peru might not be able to compete with that.

2. LIVE ABROAD & LEARN a NEW LANGUAGE

Having lived in three foreign countries and speaking four foreign languages, I can tick this one off as well.

Living abroad is something completely different to travelling. You never learn the culture and its people properly when only paying a visit.

The experience to live abroad has been a great benefit to my life and personality. It made me grow and broaden my horizons. I have become more flexible, tolerant to difference and also humble, as I tried to become part of a culture different to my own, respect it and be respected too. There have been situations that got me out of my comfort zone, when I wasn’t understood because of a language barrier or was feeling lonely and far away from home, but I had to handle it. And I survived.

It also made me realise where I belong, be grateful for my origins and complain less. When we travel, we tend to see things through rose-coloured glasses and everything looks better than back home. When you stay abroad longer, sun stops shining and you take the glasses off, you realise that home is not that bad after all.

3.BE COOL with WHO YOU ARE, ON YOUR OWN & KNOW YOUR FRIENDS

Only 1% of the world population is of the same personality type as I am. I’ve gone through many situations when I wished there were more of us like that to be more understood, or to be completely different, for example to be that “popular girl in the class” or the entertainer of the society. However, having been in this world a couple of years already, I’ve had time to come to terms with myself and I’ve accepted that I will probably always be a lone wolf or considered “weird” (no matter what people mean by that) from time to time.

Once someone accepts me too, I can guarantee deep love and loyalty. People keep entering and leaving our lives and I think that not everyone must stay. They were probably meant to be there only for that particular moment to enrich or teach us something or we were there for them. But some people should stay forever. I do not care how big my circles are but how much value they have. I know what I want people around me to have and I’ll try to do my best to make them want to stay around.

It’s probably very easy to say this when I’m that lone wolf, but it truly is important to learn to live, and be happy, on our own. It is only our life journey, after all, no one else’s and we can never expect from anyone to make us happy. That’s not their job, it’s ours. They can make us only happier😉.

4.GET YOUR HEART BROKEN

I do not wish any pain or suffering to anyone. And the truth is that when a vase is broken and you try to put it together, it’ll never look like new again. It doesn’t mean, though, that it cannot hold beautiful flowers anymore.

To me a broken heart means one of the most important life lessons ever. Maybe I’m just stupid that I cannot learn from life normally and I have to get my ass kicked first, but what has hurt lots or been the biggest struggle, has also taught me the most and made me really careful not to repeat the same mistakes again (wo hoo, time for new mistakes!).

It teaches to be grateful and not to take things for granted. It’s a shame that with a broken heart often comes fear, lack of trust or self-confidence, which is difficult to overcome. It steals ideals but at least you no longer live in a fairy-tale and you are prepared for a real life story.

5. BE CRAZY & EXPERIMENT

I’m not sure this is truly necessary. If I try bungee-jumping, sleep around or do drugs, it probably won’t make me much happier (or should I better try first to be sure to say this? :-D)

But I understand why they say you should experiment in your 20s. It’s the time when you have the most courage and freedom, and when you enjoy some fun when young, maybe you will feel more ready to calm down and take responsibility later. I find it pretty sad when men (but women too) have a midlife crisis in their 40s and behave like twentysomething. So if, better do it at 20. Anyway, I am of the opinion that you should never stop to be a bit crazy, no matter the age.

And yes, although I’m not an extreme-seeker, I have some stories to tell to my grandchildren too😉.

The list continues here (with points to be ticked off).

Life starts (not) at 30?

We hear it all around that true life starts at 30. I wonder if it is only a comfort for single ladies in their 30s watching Sex in the City or a way to give hope to someone who has miss the boat that there is always a second chance, or if there is a grain of truth in it.

In her TED talk and book “The Defining Decade” an American psychologist Meg Jay claims that “30 is NOT the new 20”.

Nowadays people get married and start family later, study longer, and it’s not a surprise to live until 90, so it would make sense to assume that adulthood is postponed too and you enter it not at the age of 18 or 21 but at 30.

Meg Jay puts you right, though, when she says that 20s is actually “the defining decade of adulthood”, and the most transformative period for work, love, happiness, as well as the world itself.

She backs it up with a couple of facts, such as that 80% of life’s most defining moments take place by the age of 35, 10 first years of career have an impact on how much money you earn, and ½ of Americans get married to, or start living with, their life-long partner by 30.

To all twentysomethings Jay advises not to waste their time and work on who they want to become, expand circles and gain new contacts, pick their family, choose who they want to spend their future with, and take life into own hands.

Life starts in 30s

Judging yes and no, I’ve come to a conclusion that to call 30 the beginning of “true life” might not necessary be a mere white lie. True life obviously starts from the very first second we are born and every year and every experience form, who we end up being late in life.

I completely agree that it would be a shame to waste years in 20s and look back at it with regret when it should be, full of youth and energy, one of the best times in our lives. I believe our 20s should not be a time of procrastination, which we are masters of, but time of action.

However, 20s can be a trial and error period, to learn a lesson from mistakes, make clear our values, goals and priorities, and take it as a starting line to truly take off at 30.

Better late than never

I do not support the idea, though, of ticking items off on a list of what an “ideal thirtysomething” should have already achieved in his or her life, and look down at them if something is missing. (Lets say that I hold this view because my own list is slightly incomplete ;)) Why must it be so surprising when a beautiful successful woman in her 30s is not married or a talented smart man in his 30s has some inferior job and is not a manager in an international company instead?

Before making any judgments, we have to be aware that we have no idea what his or her personal story is, what they are fighting in their lives, or maybe that they are absolutely happy without ever achieving what they “should”.

Also, everyone has own journey and own pace. I have written articles about women who started own business, in a completely different field to what they had devoted their professional life to before, in their 50s, about people who went through a “grey divorce” (meaning that they got divorced at a higher age) but gave it the second or third chance anyway, or who found the first true love in retirement home (all true stories!).

I’ve no doubt they would be happy to have achieved all this in their 20s (tribute to all twentysomethings who have!). However, I consider them lucky to have made it EVER, no matter when.

What to do before 30

As my birthday is drawing nearer and being in 20s myself, with 30 after me, out of fun as well as curiosity I’ve searched a couple of lists about what you should do and experience before you turn 30. In these two personal posts I describe 10 points on the to-do list. Lets check how many you and I can tick off .

5 points ticked off

5 points to tick off