When we moved from Australia to the US back in December, we took a couple of months travelling. Our community had gradually become smaller the longer we travelled so arriving in small town Colorado was not as huge a shock from a cultural perspective. It was different for sure but we were already in vacation-mode so pretty relaxed. Coming straight from Melbourne to Crested Butte this time around, the differences are very noticeable. And I think big cities can learn a lot from small towns.
- Lesson One – Remove your RBF – I don’t how many of you have heard this term before, ‘Resting B*tch Face’, it’s one that I have noticed that I became really good at in Melbourne. The one that says stay away, don’t come near me. I developed it because I always had so much to do so didn’t want to be disturbed or engaged while I was out and about doing tasks. RBFs are a defence mechanism and I realised I became so good at it that it became a norm and smiling and appearing open became harder. There are not too many RBFs walking around Crested Butte, and it is so much more appealing. So put a smile on your dial and remove your RBF. If you really are too busy to be engaged, smile politely and say ‘sorry, not today, I’m a bit busy’.
- Lesson Two – It’s OK to Talk – This can come as a bit of shock the first time it happens, you look behind you to see if someone is there that the other person may know. Turns out most of the time around here, there isn’t. People tend to just talk to you and it can feel totally random. If this happens in Melbourne, particularly in a public space, like on the train, people generally think the ‘talker’ is somehow crazy. In fact a good friend of mine has just returned to work in Melbourne and sometimes commutes via public transport. She’s a bit of an extrovert and loves to have a chat with people but her teenage kids have warned her off for fear that she will be seen as ‘that’ person. The truth is, it’s actually really nice to be engaged with someone other than through a device. It can break down barriers that we put up around us, improve your mood and make you more connected to your community.
- Lesson Three – Slow down – The speed limit around town in Crested Butte is 15 miles an hour, that’s about 25km/hr. The only people that don’t do so well at sticking to it are out of towners. In fact if a local sees someone speeding through town, you may find them running into the middle of the road and waving their arms at ‘Speedy’ and telling them to slow down. They’re (I should say we’re now!) pretty protective particularly because there are usually dogs and small children off lead. I’ve noticed that everyone still gets to where they need to be when they stick to the speed limit and slow down. Driving is one aspect of this and I think it spills over into lots of the other parts of our lives. It feels a lot calmer. I know things are a lot faster paced in Melbourne and other big cities but slowing down, giving yourself more time to achieve things can make life a lot calmer.
- Lesson Four – Most People are Good People – Over time I have developed a pretty competitive nature. I’m sure most of it is inherent in my DNA however sometimes it has manifested in way that makes me second guess other people’s motives. Like they only want to get their own agenda across rather than wanting to work with you. It is one of those habits that gets ingrained when you have worked in a corporate environment for a long time. It takes a bit to get over and a small town is a great place to relearn the value that most people are good people and simply want to help. We’ve had people offer contacts for jobs, childcare, houses, all sorts of things and usually it had nothing to do with their own interests, other than to help out. It is really refreshing and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
These lessons came to me over the last week since my return to Crested Butte. I began writing this article on Thursday after an experience in ‘A Daily Dose’ getting my coffee where I ended up standing around having a chit chat with other customers and our barista. To my surprise the following morning in our Spin class, our instructor was talking about some of these very things. Smiling, saying ‘hello’. So it’s obviously not just me that understands the value of connecting to the people around you instead of rushing around with your head down. Therefore I challenge you to look up and smile on your way to work this morning. See how you feel when you arrive at the office.