As I take a sip from my espresso overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, trying not to give in to my after-lunch-dip, an Italian man on the couch next to me is loudly enjoying his siesta. Why shouldn’t he? After all, it’s a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon and the red wine he and his family drank during ‘pranzo’ is doing its work. I start wondering why I’m resisting the urge to take a nap as well. Moreover, why didn’t I ever take a nap on lazy Sunday afternoons back home?
Why my search for A Tribe Called Rest brought me to Italy
In my previous article I wrote about wanting to find different ways of working together and about believing there is wisdom to be found in the way communities of various cultures organize themselves. However, I actually did not have a clue how to start. Then I remembered an article I once read about the so-called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are places in the world where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on earth. There are five Blue Zones in the world and one is located in Sardinia, Italy. So that is where I went.
Why start there?
I am brought up academic style so I need a definition first. What is a community? What defines a community? I have to rely on the Internet as a source of truth since I am living the #vanlife but I found a nice definition saying: A common definition of community emerged as a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings (MacQueen e.a., 2001).
It so happens that Blue Zones are geographical locations where a group of people with diverse characteristics, linked by social ties, common perspectives and joint action, live much longer than others. After five years of on-site research, Dan Buettner and his team identified why. It seems that people who live in a Blue Zone are characterized by their lifestyle. Simply put, they live a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, daily exercise, plenty of sleep, and a low stress life that is enriched with strong family ties, a sense of purpose, and healthy dose of spirituality. I decided to have a look myself.
Learning my first lesson
Our Volkswagen took us all the way from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, through Belgium, France, and Switzerland to Livorno, Italy. From there, we took a ferry to Olbia, Sardinia. That same day, I learned my very first lesson as I waited hungrily for the supermarket to open (closed from 12.00 – 15.00). Lunch is sacred. It’s not something to be rushed and it’s preferably consumed in the company of family and friends, accompanied by a glass of red wine. For about three hours, Sardinia takes a lunch break, followed by a nap and an espresso before going back to work.
Where are my centurions?!
Other findings weren’t so easy to obtain. We drove to a couple of mountain towns that were identified as Blue Zones, but nobody was around. Literally, not a soul on the street. But all of a sudden, a door opened and Ignacio (88) peered out. He invited us in showed us around his workplace. Being 88, he was still working as a mechanic and quite disapproved of our previous occupation because we didn’t work with our hands. After this encounter, we drove to a restaurant run by a nice family where we were served delicious culurgiones by chef Maria (77). Although both Maria and Ignacio weren’t the centurions I was hoping for, they were ‘quite old’ and remarkable in my eyes. They were still vigorous at their age and both fulfilled an important role in their communities.
The magic of the Sardinia’s Blue Zones
From what I observed and experienced so far, old age in Sardinia seems to go hand-in-hand with drinking a glass of red wine daily, going to church every Sunday, taking naps, having three-hour lunch breaks with your loved ones, taking long strolls, staying active in the community and generally not giving a f*k about keeping up appearances.
Next steps: pursuing the emerging idea of a community-based cooperation model
As I said in my previous article, I think that a common, collective goal, could provide a starting point for a new way of working together. A way that is more fun, more intrinsically motived, and eventually reduces stress. This assumption is fortified by the research done by Dan Buettner stating that people that live in a Blue Zone possess a prevailing attitude of collectivist rather than individualistic thinking which limits the onset of high stress levels. However, to limit my stress levels about this project, and simply because I can, I will take a nap first.