I am the queen of taking on as much as I possibly can. A typical day for me in the US is jam-packed with productive activities, workouts, homework and seeing friends.
I remind my yoga students the value of being present, unplugging, and slowing down; yet I never fully take this on myself. Even though we have been here less than a week, I have found the pace of life in Rome to be easily the greatest difference between here and the US. Here’s why those Romans might be onto something-
1. Carpe Diem
Romans take their time to do everything. The internet is slower, everyone makes meals fresh rather than microwaving a frozen dinner and a repair man coming at 3 p.m. might mean 7 p.m.
However, this value of time is reflected in the beauty of the buildings, monuments and sculptures surrounding the city. You could spend hours in each must-see every week and still discover something new. Furthermore, you should.
This city was meant to be enjoyed and admired. The more present you are in every adventure and experience, the more there is to remember.
2. More Patience & Compassion
Normally, tentative start times would drive me up the wall. In the US, class starting at 10 a.m. means most students will be there by 9:45 a.m. Let’s just say that habit doesn’t translate.
However, professors not responding to emails instantaneously and stores being closed more frequently is a humbling reminder that people have lives outside of yours. Here, there is a point where work stops and life begins.
While waiting for friends at the metro, I discovered more room for understanding. Instead of thinking they’re late, I bet they overslept, that’s so like them, I found myself not even thinking of optimistic excuses for why they were late. Rather just admiring the city, enjoying a cappuccino and truly waiting patiently.
3. Real Conversations
In the US we are accustomed to fast food, hour-long sit down dinners, and wait staff politely hinting at the exit. Here, fast food is still made fresh, dinners last for many hours and the bill only comes upon request.
Throughout these “long” dinners, I have found the conversation never dulls and the question of what time is it? becomes irrelevant. Italians will stay for hours after eating, conversing on a level that goes past the superficial.
The other day when overwhelmed with the understandable need for a crepe, instead of getting it to-go, I stood at the counter and ate. This is very common in cafes, regardless of who you are with.
So as I stood by myself, iPhone out of sight, I realized how much more present I was. I began practicing my Italian with the barista. Holding up my knife and fork, I asked “Come si dice?” He taught me the new vocab and laughed as I attempted the Italian accent.
Taking the opportunity to slow down allows you to meet new people in places you would normally never look.
4. Routines Filled With Simple Pleasures
As Romans commute to work each morning, there is not the same chaos we associate with rush hour. These tentative start times allow them the luxury of going into their favorite cafe and sitting down for a cappuccino.
While that may sound expensive, the 90 cents I’ve spent at Cafe Amore each morning before class has created one of my favorite traditions. The owner, Fabio, greets us every morning and helps us learn Italian as he repeats the name of pastries and corrects my french pronunciation.
It’s the little things.
5. Because You Can
Maybe all the yoga gives me an advantage, but somehow my Type-A tendencies make me think if I can embrace this lifestyle, anyone can.
I’m sure you found that finding the time to Skype with a friend, enjoy a book or try something out of your comfort zone always seems impossible at first, but is always worth the effort. Making time for what you enjoy and what energizes you makes faulty wi-fi’s, late friends and unpredictable bus schedules much easier to cope with.
There will never be enough time or money for anything, unless we begin to see more value in experiences, memories and truly living in the moment.