The last couple of weeks have been an odd combination of incredible shock after losing my job and simultaneous joy as I explored parts of France and Spain. My time in France was solitary, journeying through the southwest part of the country on a personal blog trip. My time in Spain though was something entirely different. It was a very social and dynamic blog trip through the Costa Brava region along the country’s northeast coast. More than just a pleasant time exploring the culinary and cultural side of the area, the experiences helped me personally through a very difficult time and I think have changed my outlook on the future.
I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the job for which I now grieve. But it was a paycheck, something all too important in our modern lives. It also allowed me a certain level of flexibility I enjoyed but was it personally rewarding? No, not entirely. When I found out I lost my job the feelings were a mixture of shock, grief and even despair. Even though it wasn’t necessarily my “calling” I didn’t realize just how much of my ego was tied to the occupation. When it was severed in one brutal stroke, I felt as if I had been stabbed through the gut. Throughout my time in France I kept busy, but simultaneously tried to process not only what had happened, but also what to do next.
So when I arrived in sunny Costa Brava, I wasn’t necessarily in the best frame of mind. Three events occurred however that I think have rescued me from my doldrums, a condition to which I am somewhat prone, and have set me on a path for the future.
On the first day the group of bloggers and our hosts were treated to an extraordinary experience; a private tour of the Ferran Adria exposition in Barcelona led by the great master himself, Ferran Adria. Ferran was the head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, and is considered one of the best chefs in the world. Adria single-handedly transformed the culinary world through the creation of plates the likes of which no one had even considered before. Foams, gels and unusual serving vessels all had their start with Ferran and El Bulli was considered the best restaurant in the world before he decided to close the doors.
Just a glance at his impressive accomplishments would be enough to inspire just about anyone, but for me the moment of stark clarity arose from a simple phrase he shared with us; his own mantra for life.
“It’s not important to be the first, it’s important to be the most innovative.”
That struck a chord deep in my soul and instantly raised my spirits, a feat mere words are usually unable to accomplish. Prior to that moment I feared that I was too old to start a new career, to find a job that would enable me to pursue my passions. I feared that a lack of experience on paper would lead some potential employers to ignore my talents, in spite of the fact that I am sure of my own abilities. Ferran taught me with that one phrase that I need not necessarily worry about others and instead, I need to concentrate on myself and find ways to set myself apart and to truly create a career that is unique to me and which drives me to succeed.
The next instance of Spanish spirit lifting occurred during a leisurely lunch at the fishing cottage of some local residents. That afternoon was amazing for everyone involved thanks to our hosts and the feeling of hospitality and inclusion that emanated through the repast. But it wasn’t the food or the views that caused my outlook to change, it was the incredibly positive and happy outlook exhibited by our guests. They were enjoying life to the fullest, not worrying about minor things and instead reveling in the most basic form of human interaction, the breaking of bread. My colleagues and I have since looked back at that day as one of the most relaxing and enjoyable of the week, but for me a lesson was delivered. Life is short and instead of languishing over past events that I cannot change, I truly need to be happy for who I am and look forward to the future not with dread but with titillating anticipation. And copious amounts of wine, that apparently helps too.
Finally, the night before I left Girona, Spain, our trip host took us out for a casual meal of pizza and beer. It was a fun evening of friendship and camaraderie, but a moment came at the end when our host shared an allegory. The point of the tale was that we can only accomplish the impossible if we push ourselves to make it happen. It’s too easy for most of us to exist in situations that are familiar but not necessarily good for us. Instead, it is the rare individual who pushes himself to do the impossible and he is almost always the happier for it.
Of course I wouldn’t say that every guest to Costa Brava will have similarly illuminating experiences, but I did. These messages came at a time when I needed them the most and I wonder whether or not I would have even heeded their warning had my own personal circumstances been different. But they weren’t and I did. My soul was in need of direction and direction was given. Not towards a particular career path necessarily, but towards to path of more positive thoughts and for taking responsibility for my own future.
So what are the next steps, what will I do? Well, that still remains to be seen, but whatever it is I am determined that it is something that not only feeds my bank account, but which feeds my soul as well.
Have you ever had an illuminating moment while traveling? What was it and how did you react?