Category Archives: travel

Lessons on the job….when two worlds meet…

People watching – are we more similar or different?

Have you ever been to an airport, in a foreign country, and watched on as people similar, and yet in so many ways different to you, came and went, crossing your path as they continued on a very similar journey to you?

What were the things that you noticed and observed? Were you more taken by the commonalities of being complete strangers from perhaps different sides of the globe who were now living in the bubble of shared experience, or were you more struck by how differently you inhabited this shared experience?

Observing the unfamiliar:

Perhaps you noticed that you and all of these unknown people were all there for the same purpose, going to the same destination, all with passports to that place, boarding cards, suitcases and travel bags, maybe wearing similar clothing and all headed in the same direction.

Or perhaps what caught your attention was how differently you all looked, one from another, the unfamiliarity of overhearing languages that weren’t your own, or the rituals and traditions of families that were so unlike your own. Maybe you noticed that your passports were different colours, and that the clothes you wore were of contrasting styles.

It is fun to notice similarities and differences when we observe people passing through shared spaces such as airports, train stations, bus stations and such like. We can observe without being overly affected because we are all just passing through our shared experience and going on to perhaps a shared destination, but one in which we can part ways with our fellow travellers and continue on our own journey.

Interesting experiences:

The similarities and differences can therefore remain interesting facets of our experience without being intrusions on our more familiar ways of living life.

When ‘cultures’ collide:

However, sometimes cultures ‘collide’ or come together in a more permanent situation that causes quite different reactions than those of amusement, fascination, interest or curiosity for the traveller. What if the shared spaces you were inhabiting with unfamiliar people were to be more enduring than the fleeting experiences of passing through an airport terminal for example?

What if the different culture or cultures you find yourself faced with are not those of people you will see only briefly, but those you will spend time with day after day on a very regular basis? How would that change the way you perceive and experience change? What if the ‘cultural differences’ are not to do with countries, nationalities or location, but are new and different ‘company cultures’? How would you feel then?

Company Cultures:

I’m learning about this in real time. Last year my organisation was absorbed into its parent company, and particularly into one specific department of that company. The merger brought about a new name for the department and a new identity.

I was involved in the preparatory work of ‘business transfer’, novation and helping to coordinate certain formal aspects of the due diligence and legal work that needed to be done. It was a good opportunity to be involved in something I had never done before, and good to work as part of a wider team from both sides, as the formal transfer of the business was progressed.

Formal and Informal Transitions:

That was the formal side of things. Management often talked of it as a ‘lift and shift’ approach. Priorities were covering all aspects of due diligence, legal compliance, HR, payroll and physical moves, etc. Staff obviously had to be communicated with, but once again this focused on the formal and practical changes and logistics of the merger.

What was not as high on the agenda, however, as the key goal was to legally process these formal changes, was addressing the ‘softer’ transitions that were taking place, particularly in regards to communicating the ‘little things’ to staff, things that may take shape over time, and thinking about how to successfully bring two differing company cultures together.

The Destination:

The situation now is that fellow travellers from one location have now arrived at their ‘destination’ together. However, this new and shiny destination is already inhabited, and this is not a temporary ‘holiday home’ – it is where all of us, old, new and everything in between, will share a space and work together under the same new banner of what we have all merged into. However, being in the same place doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all of one mind, and that is going to be a fascinating and interesting learning curve for all involved.

Birds of a Feather:

Initially, as people began working in their new location, there was a tendency for those who knew each other, even only slightly, from their previous workplace to stick together, have lunch, and take comfort in the familiar. Totally understandable, and shared human nature. They were learning that the ones already here were also having to adjust to changes – changes perhaps in and between teams, working with new colleagues, perhaps even saying goodbye to people they had worked with for a long time who thought it was a good time to move on, and dealing with physical moves and relocation of desks, rooms, and teams. There was also the uncertainty for all regarding ‘what happens next?’, therefore finding comfort in the familiar was a totally natural and expected occurrence.

“The Times they are a ‘Changing”:

Now we’ve reached the stage where most people have relocated into the same building (although others work in different parts dotted around the city, but the majority of the workforce for this newly formed department is now in the one building). People are less reticent about mixing, work has been progressing and new faces are gradually, slowly but surely becoming more familiar. People are gradually settling into new routines, finding their way around, and the new is less daunting. There is more discussion and collaboration between teams. So everything is going smoothly, right? Well, not quite…at least not yet.

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”:

I wonder if you’re familiar with the old American sitcom set in a bar / pub in Boston, starring Ted Danson as the main barman, and featuring regulars and staff such as Carla, the sharp-tongued and tom-boyish barmaid, contrasted with Dianne the gentle, feminine and intelligent waitress, and many other lovable characters from different walks of life including a baseball coach, a postman, a psychiatrist (who later starred in his own programme – ‘Frazier’) among others.

If you’re familiar with the programme, “Cheers”, then you’ll also be familiar with the nostalgic theme tune, and it’s reassuring lyrics:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got,

Taking a break from all your worries, sure can help a lot,

Wouldn’t you like to get a way, and go someplace where

Everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came,

You wanna’ go where you can see people are all the same,

You wanna’ go where everybody knows your name”.

Isn’t this what we all long for? However, management of change when it comes mainly from the top down, is often focused heavily on strategic objectives, and forgets the human touch. I’ve been involved in some new emergent work following the formal transfer that is focused on engaging with staff to find out their views and to work alongside the Communications team to create a strategy for engaging staff, addressing issues of company culture, of communication, and finding out what they really think. Unfortunately, this has been an afterthought with the powers that be, but the good thing is that at least now, something is beginning to happen.

In one of the staff engagement sessions, I was struck by some feedback where one person commented on the lack of introductions, and the management of change, such that they didn’t even know the names of the people sitting in the desks next to and around them.

Everyone wants to be somewhere where people know their name, and where they know the names of those around them. It takes time, and some may be pessimistic but I view this as a great opportunity not to let slip by. And I am excited to be part of a new piece of work that I haven’t been involved with before.

So as I share these initial observations with you, I encourage you also to find a way in your day today to make someone feel a little more ‘at home’, known, and valued….because sometimes the greatest impacts for positive change are the collection of ‘small things’, little acts of genuine kindness that start from the ‘grassroots’ and grow to eventually reach the top.

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“Travelling Teaches You” (11).

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches youto put your problems in perspective.

For some, “getting away from it all” is exactly what we hope to be able to do. Not just in terms of getting away physically from the daily routine and responsibilities of day-to-day life, but as a means of escape from our deeper problems or issues or challenging circumstances and people.

Travelling teaches you, quite naturally, to look outside of yourself, to grow in awareness of other people, your surroundings, new cultures, ways of doing things and of life in general. One of the gifts of travel to you is that of a fresh perspective, and perhaps even renewed strength to go back and return to take on the tasks and issues of life that you needed a break from.

However, as naturally as this gift comes to us through the very experience of travel, there is a caution that we…

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“Travelling Teaches You” (10).

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you to know yourself. Sometimes we take it for granted that we know certain aspects of our character or personality well, however, it may be the case that we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned in a certain way in our day-to-day lives, or we may be drifting along with our ‘likes, dislikes, decisions or opinions’ being influenced or even imposed upon us by those around us. We may simply find ourselves going with the flow, and not really experiencing the opportunities to live in a way that authentically resonates with who we really are.

Travelling, especially when we are able to do so alone, helps us to grow in awareness of our own needs, wants, desires, as well as of our own shortcomings, failures and need to change or develop certain aspects of our character. Living a life of authenticity is so important, however, although travel is…

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“Travelling Teaches You” (9).

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you to plan ahead. Travelling also teaches you to leave your plans behind. 

There is so much to explore, and limited time, so we may find we gain the most from our experiences if we have in mind what we most want to see and do and focus on those. These lessons in planning and preparation can be useful and transferable into our ‘ordinary’ lives. We are so ‘wired up’ in the 21st Century to try to have multiple ‘tabs’ open in our lives, however, just as our computers and devices can only handle so much, so too we sometimes need a ‘re-boot’ or to close down some of the tabs we have so that we can enrich our experience of the fewer things we actually choose to do, and be more productive and efficient in making the most of our time in doing so. 

However, travelling…

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“Travelling Teaches You” (8).

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you that ‘selfies’ aren’t always best 😉 That is to say, travelling teaches you to look out for others, and to discerningly allow others to look out for you. 

It might be a little ‘tongue in cheek’ to use the example of breaking away from the ‘selfie’ approach, and asking a kindly stranger or fellow traveller to take a photograph of you, and maybe even to return the favour for them, which will create an end result of a wider panorama and view of your surroundings, and a fuller picture of yourself as an individual. Of course, I am referring to more than just the potential picture that you may come away with, but to the experiences of life themselves. However, I have found on my travels that offering to help others, or accepting help (and obviously being wise and safe in who you approach or allow…

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“Travelling Teaches You” (7).

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you the importance of Home. Perhaps this in itself is a challenge to some of us. It is beautiful and inspiring to get away and explore the world. However, there are inevitably challenges and annoyances along the way no matter what we do. Moving from place to place, living out of a suitcase at times, being in unfamiliar territory or out of our comfort zone, or simply not being somewhere that is our ‘own’, of living in a constant state of the temporary, of moving, shifting, changing, can give us a deeper longing for and appreciation of Home. Yet, perhaps some of us, especially those of you who have spent years ‘on the road’ (something I haven’t yet done) find the idea of ‘Home’ a strange and transient concept, and maybe you don’t have a place where you feel ‘rooted’ to.

As much as I love adventure and…

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“Travelling Teaches You” (5)

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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches youthe importance of connection, and of non-verbal communication. 

On a basic level, when you’re in a country in which you are unfamiliar with the language, a phrase-book and basic preparation can only take you so far. Many of us take it for granted that someone we meet will speak English, however, even if they do, that doesn’t mean that they will understand your accent, meaning or dialect and vice versa. 

Somehow we find a way, and practically speaking, we find other ways of communicating in order to realise our basic needs ~ perhaps one may point, gesture, use facial expressions and / or other non-verbal cues. (As a side note, I am aware, and admit that I speak with a lack of knowledge of how people with sensory impairments manage such challenges, and I apologise for that fact, and welcome any of your insights). 

However, communication as…

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Retreat Reflections -Day 3 (Part 4) ~ From ‘FOMO’ to ‘JOMO’…

I’m sure most of you will have heard of the popular acronym ‘FOMO’; if you haven’t and you worry that you haven’t heard of it, then you probably have it! 😉 For those of you who are familiar with the term, you’ll know that I’m talking about the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

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I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, or perhaps we experience it as a long standing condition! Missing out on what, though? We are often more concerned with doing rather than experiencing. We think our lives would be better (and by better, deep down we probably mean more fulfilled, exciting, happier, having more meaning, value, significance and purpose, and perhaps being more admirable in the eyes of others) if we had what that person had, or we could do what they did, or we looked the way they looked or could travel where they travelled, or had their talents, or family or friends….and the list is endless.

FOMO steals from us the precious moment that we can enjoy and live in right now. We anxiously look around us at others, or we get lost inside our own heads thinking of what we ‘ought to’ do to make the most of our time, and generally losing focus on where we are and what we are doing right now, and the value of simply experiencing it deeply. 

I got to thinking about this while washing the dishes – I was enjoying the experience of slowing down, appreciating that I had dishes in the first place to wash when other people sadly go hungry, of feeling the warmth of the water through my washing up gloves and enjoying the bubbles. Experiencing the experience, finding the value in it, enjoying the little, simple things, right in front of us.

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But then …then I considered the time, the fact that I am on retreat, taking a day’s unpaid leave from work, wondering whether I could get this done quicker and then go out for a walk or to a coffee shop or something more ‘retreat like’. I became more concerned with the doing rather than the experiencing and therefore allowed anxious thoughts to steal the joy of the moment from me. And maybe you sometimes think like that too. But we can come back from that…we can slow down, refocus, and be thankful…and find joy as we move slowly, quietly, peacefully and humbly through the day. 

Do you think that all of those people doing all of that amazing stuff really enjoy their lives more? (I’m not talking about in comparison with people who are in situations where their basic needs aren’t being met – that’s a different situation to what I mean, and a topic for another discussion). Maybe the people who seem to have it all ‘should’ enjoy life more…and maybe in some respects they do, and that’s a good thing for them, we should think kindly of them if their enjoyment isn’t harming anyone else- but chances are the reality is that like butterflies people who seem to have it all flit from one thing to another because they need the big experiences, they need to show off their relationships, or look a certain way and be admired for it, or go to so many places because they are not experiencing and enjoying the simple things deeply and so they don’t have contentment and never truly feel like their lives are ‘enough’. Perhaps we are all like this to some extent. All of these things are beautiful aspects of life – wellbeing, healthy relationships, opportunities to connect, to travel, to go on adventures, to experience and learn new things, to grow in ourselves, to develop our skills and our talents. However, if we focus solely on doing and ticking things off our list of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ then these lovely things in life actually become hollow. We rob ourselves of the true value of experiencing our own lives if we are constantly worried or thinking of something else that we might be missing out on, and putting a ‘price tag’ or value on that experience by outward criteria alone. 

adorable autumn baby blur
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So, that’s ‘FOMO’ ~ a rather unpleasant state of being and comparison either with others or with our expectations for ourselves. So what on earth is ‘JOMO’? ….

Have you ever noticed a very young child whose parents may be trying to show them something that they hope will be exciting for the child, and that most other people would think would be of interest to them, but instead, they are utterly mesmerized and absorbed by a leaf or flower at their feet (and nearer their eye level anyway), or an ant or something we have learned to dismiss as not being of much interest in our experience. Children can sometimes express such joy and glee at the strangest of things. I once saw a video of a baby in joyful hysterics, laughing its little heart out, when its dad ripped up pieces of paper. It’s silly, but we can learn a lot from young children like that. They don’t care about what else they should be doing, they are just enjoying the little things fully in that moment of their life as it happens. And that in itself, especially to adults, is extraordinary. 

I read a quirky little article a while back that talked about replacing ‘FOMO’ and anxiety with ‘JOMO’ – the JOY of missing out. Of not feeling we have to do the ‘big things’, but to find joy in not doing them and enjoying the little things that we love. The joy of missing out can really be translated of the joy of being here, right now, and fully experiencing the good things in your own life however insignificant on the surface they may at first seem. 

EnJOY your day 🙂