I am totally fascinated by mountain climbing. I have never climbed a mountain, and I don’t intend to. I once went skiing in Vail, Colorado and fainted at 8,000 feet, half way from the bathroom to my bed. If I couldn’t handle that altitude I certainly couldn’t manage basecamp—at Mount Everest all preparation is done at 16,000 feet, with the summit looming 31,000 feet above.
My time at Vail was one of the most humiliating experiences I’ve had as an adult. I couldn’t adjust to the altitude, I could barely breath, couldn’t drink (got the worst headaches), found myself crying on the slopes as I tried to navigate my way down runs I had no business being on. I was traveling with a male friend (just a friend) who was ready to hit all the back bowls (wide, cistern-like expanses, very steep but open) and thought I should go too. I promised to meet him at lunchtime (after we’d had our respective morning runs, him on the black, me on the blue) and go, but after a few nasty spills with icicles forming in my hair I went back to the room to curl up, watch the movie Titanic and have yet another good cry.
Earlier that day I was forced to have a man and his two 6 year-old daughters escort me down the mountain. When I mentioned I was meant to be hitting the back bowls the kindly gentleman looked at me in horror and forbade me to do any such thing. So why do I love books about mountain climbing and what does my trip to Vaile have to do with risk?
Well, there’s a lot more on this in my upcoming book, but for now here’s my thoughts… We are all of us fascinated by people who are willing to take enormous risks, like mountain climbers (in my case). There is a part of us that secretly believes given the right situation we too could do such bold things. But then we are often faced with the simplest risk, in my case skiing a fairly innocuous mountain, and we realize we’re not really up for it (I was humiliated, but I did go back out the next day). Given our aspirations and our failures are we going to give up?
I find mountain climbing thrilling because failure means death. Most of us won’t die from making a bad judgment. I like reading about risk takers that are willing to take the ultimate risk, but do you know which one usually wins? Yes, obviously, the person that is well prepared. But guess who else usually wins, the one that is willing to turn back, even when they can see their goal, because it is TOO risky. Are they giving up? Nope, they know they’ll try again. And that is what a SMART risk taker is, someone who weighs the facts, makes a move, maybe fails but tries again.
I remember the first time I came to Europe in 1983. I was a fairly unsophisticated young lady from Miami, in Paris for 2 weeks. Un-chaperoned, didn't speak a word of French, didn't know a soul, probably hadn't eaten a meal alone at a restaurant in my life. Green, I was green. But I was excited and ready for adventure, and I sure had one. Better not share all the details here. Today, I am married and live between London and New York and have the great opportunity of visiting the capitals of Europe on a regular basis. A lot has changed since I first came. Global village comes to mind :-)
When I first visited Paris, the US was 6 months behind in fashion trends (no internet friends, no Style.com). You weren't in style unless you were rich and could make it over to shop. The exchange rate was pretty amazing then - 7 Francs to the dollar (this was before the Euro). But still...
I was concerned this go around, many years later, that the global village would have destroyed the beauty of the individual cultures. Sure there are chain stores everywhere - food and fashion, but the heart of each nation remains. I picked up some gorgeous coffee cups in Copenhagen (I'm a big fan of Danish design), had delicious potato dumplings (along with a native red wine) in the Czech Republic and Vienna is a great spot for coffee and chocolate – not to mention that the people there are warm, even when you don't speak the language.
Loving this new European adventure. You should come over!!
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I've recently relocated to London. I wasn't sure what to expect in the way of culture shock - so far so good. Living in New York City for 20 years can pretty much prepare you for any international move. I imagine relocating to somewhere a bit more exotic would pose a host of different challenges, but London/New York not so much - or at least not on the surface…
Some of the more subtle differences include how to dress (warmly and maybe not as fashionably). Reason? It is always cold in London, and cabs are not as inexpensive as in New York, so good-bye heels. Service. What service? People are VERY polite in London but the concept of service is another matter altogether. The happy offshoot of this development is that you are forced to slow down, things will not go as fast as you would like. Period.
London is greener than New York. For reasons I haven't discerned yet, London is more hectic (it's not just the traffic) than New York. And that green stuff, you need it. Green provides the "ah" factor. And social strata… There really isn't one in New York that isn't directly related to money. In London pedigree matters and you can't buy that for any money. Not really, anyway.
Long and the short of it? Love London. Love New York. Love them for different reasons. And Love is all you need!
Perhaps there are those of you who have secretly dreamed of living the ex pat life. I'm now stationed in London more than New York (my home for the past 20 years), though my business is all run through the States. Still, here I am, connected as if by umbilical cord to NY but rooted in this new home of mine, the UK.
It's quite the experience. Easier because I have a best friend to do it with. Easier because the two cities have a lot of the "tough" stuff in common — interesting weather, fast pace, expensive. I'm not in shock as I'm sure I would be if I was from a less intense city. Conversely, I'm not in awe as I would be if this was the first big city I called home. Some of the sense of glamour is removed when you've lived a fairly "large" life. But what's the point…
On this Thanksgiving Day I am thinking of my "old" home fondly. London is too new a thing to miss NY that much, if at all. But I will say this, America has a pretty cool "can do" spirit. And that's a great thing in business, because you look at a problem and think, "you know what, I'll bet I can do this." I haven't tested London out for this yet, but whether it's here or not, it's one of the things I hope to bring to my new life here. You can say a lot of unpleasant (and true things) about us Americans, but you have to admit we're scrappy. Lol.