Experiencing is Appreciating

So after telling you that I was done with posting about my trip, I discovered two blog postings that I drafted on my iPad while I was away with the intention of posting when I got home and then totally forgot about until just now, when I discovered them. Clearly, you should not listen to me when I make claims like “I’m finishing posting about my trip,” and “I’m totally staying home to do homework tonight1,” and “I’m totally done with going to school once I’m done this PhD!2” So, yeah, now I’m going to post both of these and than I’m 96.75% sure that will be all the blog postings about my trip.

They say that “seeing is believing” but this trip has shown me that experiencing something allows you to appreciate it in a way that you can’t just by seeing pictures or videos or reading stories about it. Of course, this should be pretty obvious, when you think about it, but I’m feeling it so much that I’m compelled to actually talk about it.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon before, but never really articulated it. Whenever I see a band play live, I hear their music in a completely different way afterwards. Once I started playing hockey, I started watching hockey games in a whole new light too. Once I started being mindful of what and how I ate, I develop a new – and healthier – relationship with food.

And now my trip – Ireland in particular, as I spent 12 of my 22 days there and went to so many sites and learned so much about its history – gave me so many experiences through which I’ve come to appreciate things in a whole new light. Some of it is little things – like Waterford Crystal, for example. I remember my mom having a few pieces of it and so I knew that it was beautiful and sparkly. But after seeing how it is painstakingly made by craftsman who spend years perfecting their craft, who make those beautiful designs in the crystal by hand, the crystal is that much more beautiful. And when I look at my vase, I think about the talent and the effort and the skill that went into making it. Similarly, I’m not a whiskey fan, but learning about the steps it takes to make Jameson Irish whiskey and, in particular, having the opportunity to taste it alongside Scotch and American whiskeys to make comparisons among how the three different, really allowed me to appreciate how smooth the Jameson was, how peaty the Scotch3, and how rough the JD was! As one of my tourmates who also did the tasting said, “I don’t think I would ever have appreciated how good Jameson is if I hadn’t done that tasting with the other two whiskeys as well.” I haven’t been turned into a whiskey drinker or anything, but I have a different kind of appreciation for the stuff now. On a more significant note, I’m now keenly interested in learning more about Irish history after having been there and walked on the land and petted the sheep and seen the graves of historically significant people – there was so much I didn’t even know that I didn’t know about and now that I’ve scratched the surface, I’m hungry to know more.

A friend of mine who has done more traveling than I4 gave me the following advice before I left: be sure to soak it all in. Don’t spend all your time taking photographs and forget to experience it. Now, don’t get me wrong – I took a *tonne* of photographs5, but not until I’d spent some time soaking it in. And then I’d take photos of the things I really appreciated, and then soaked them in some more. It was really good advice and I think I’d do well to apply it more to my everyday life – not just to when I travel!

  1. As I clearly am blogging, which is obviously not my homework. []
  2. Seriously, people keep asking me if I’m done with school after the MBA and I’m all “Oh yeah, for sure…. Except that I said that after the PhD and I really meant it, so even though I feel like I really, really mean it this time to, I probably wouldn’t trust me on this. ‘cuz, you know, maybe in 5 years I’ll decide I want to be a lawyer or a dentist or something. You just never know! []
  3. Which would be good if you like that sort of thing. Unlike me, who finds it a vile affront to humanity. []
  4. OK, so that’s not really a hard bar to cross. But let’s just say someone who is quite well-travelled. []
  5. I have a terrible memory, so I need the photos as triggers to remind me of the experiences. []

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