On Noticing

I travel a lot and I’m good at. Travelling out of a small airport make connections tough so I often have to come up with ninja moves in order to get where I need to or get home at a reasonable time. I know exactly how long it takes to get through security at customs at almost every airport and can time things pretty well. I also move through airports like the wind. I might be old, but I’m fast. I can take a carryon on a 15-day trip. 


But that’s not really what makes me a great traveller. I think what I do better than many of my fellow road warriors is enjoy it to the fullest. Not just the airport stuff but I take advantage of every place I go. I don’t take it for granted that I have the privilege of seeing many parts of the planet. Even on the fastest trip where I get in late, do my thing and leave, I always try and see something I’ve not seen before. Whether it’s a museum, a famous landmark, a hole in the wall restaurant or just a weird neighbourhood, there’s always something to see. Today I was in San Diego where I’ve been a few times but I’d never been to Balboa Park. I only had an hour to explore but I walked over and strolled through the beautiful park. I have colleagues who stay at airport hotels and after a day of meetings or conferences, head back to their room to work. That makes no sense to me. Even in places I’ve been dozens of times, I don’t want to waste my time working or sitting in my hotel room. That’s what flights are for. (I’m writing this on a plane). I was in Edmonton earlier this week and I always try and find even 30 minutes to explore one of their amazing walking trails

Japanese garden in Balboa Park, San Diego, CA


This habit I’ve developed is an extension of the simple habit of noticing. Ellen Langer talks about it in the context of mindfulness. She talks about making sure that when you notice something you linger in it for at least 15 seconds. That way the moment sticks. I’ve also tried to be better at noticing even when I’m at home. We live right beside a beautiful park and I walk my dogs there almost daily. I try and find something new to appreciate and notice every time. It’s the great advantage of living where I live. 

Another great benefit of my job is meeting new people and having wonderful connections with people in various locations. Seeing them a few times a year is always a treat. But I also try and apply this to those people I work and live within my day to day. I find great delight in noticing the little things they do. Without naming names, I have a colleague who loves to complain as he drives. His Italian background comes into full play as he gestures and yells in traffic. Another colleague’s interest in craft beer fascinates me. Even though I’m not much of a drinker, I still love the level of nerdiness he displays. Yet another co-worker’s attention to detail and sharing great templates and resources not only makes my job easier but she’s so efficient it’s almost mind-blowing. While my family focus of late has been on my granddaughter, I still take great delight in my wife and children. My wife’s creative skills are on display in our home at every turn. Each of my kids has special qualities that emerge and noticing them brings me delight. 

I write this if only to challenge you and to remind myself to notice things. Even if you don’t travel, you live somewhere and spend time with someone you’ve missed or taken for granted. The advantage you have that I don’t if you live somewhere unique and you live with people who are somehow unique. What is it about those things you’ve missed? What didn’t you notice?