Happiness and traveling: Finding my favorite things

Happiness and travel is a speech exploring the joy we can find when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone. It's about Gaudi, Gershwin and growing up.

Brown paper packages tied up with string  *hand to ear*

*confused face*

Hmm my audio doesn’t seem to be working  *looks knowingly at audience*

*presses drawn rewind and play buttons on whiteboard*

This’ll do it!


(Audience) – ‘these are a few of my favorite things!’

Ah, Rodgers and Hammerstein…

My favorite things.  I have two favorite things that can dive beyond the surface of my happiness and deliver joy at the very core of my being.

Two years ago, for the first time in my life I traveled overseas…for Gaudi, Gershwin and growing-up.

My first joy AKA ‘brown paper package’ the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

In 1882 Antoni Gaudi took carriage of the design and construction.  Each year about 3 million people flock to be awed by the structure, many returning to see the mind-blowing progress that continues to creep forward, with completion expected in 2026.

Before arriving in Barcelona I knew of the beauty within the towering gothic façade.

Even with the benefit of google exploration and the enthusiasm of converted friends, being inside filled me with awe.

The reaching tree shaped supports, skyrocketing organically to the 45 m height of the main nave. The stained glass windows designed to follow nature, sparkle the light of the forest on the cork flooring.

I was taken with the magnificence of my surrounds.

Equally, I combed architectural displays relishing the imitation of bee hives and shells. Admiring the multitude of natural geometric elements smoothly integrated within Le Sagrada Familia.

I enjoyed my solitude and long wander within the basilica.

One of the pleasures of travelling alone is the opportunity to choose completely the memories you wish to create.  Prior to my time in Barcelona, I spent the first leg of my journey unaccompanied in glorious Prague.

I had spent hours scheduling my favorite things in Prague.

Careful planning, to squeeze in as many classical music performances as I could.

I began my immersion in chamber classical music, enjoying Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the glorious Mirror Chapel that sits within the grounds of the Prague Klementinum. The chapel surrounded me in beauty, my visual senses delighting in the installations of Baroque mirrors on the ceiling, and the ornate decorations covering every space.

The experience left me swooning and gave me wings to race through Prague’s cobbled streets in my heels (what was I thinking?! – travel newbie), to the next concert.

At Art Nouveau styled Smetana Hall, I enjoyed the listening to Czech musicians from Symphony Orchestras across the country. It was both grand and glorious.

In the last day of my two and a half day stay, after visiting Prague castle to mix things up a bit, I squeezed in a third performance. With not even enough time to finish a real meal, I scoffed down coffee and cake (there are worse things!) and entered what is known as ‘the most beautiful synagogue in Europe’.  At the Spanish Synagogue in the old town, I was greeted by gold laden walls in Moorish style. From the pews I soaked in Bolero and Evita. I’d travelled so far and I floated on cloud nine as the small ensemble, and Michaela Srumova, soprano vocalist, wrapped me in Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’.

Leaving Prague was like leaving missed opportunities.

Travel opens our eyes, and our ears. It lets us know that we can do things we never thought possible. It broadens our minds and our hearts.

And of course…

*seeking audience participation*

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things,
d then I don’t feel so bad.”

My Favorite Things (1959) Rodgers, R and Hammerstein II, O. The Sound of Music.

I should note when I delivered this speech I confused my very kind audience with my long-held belief that the chorus began – “when the dawn comes, when the day breaks, when I’m feeling sad…”. There was no talk of ‘dogs biting or bees stinging’ when I delivered my speech!  My apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein!

Adapted from my speech delivered at Robina Sunrise Toastmasters November 2016. Project 4: How to Say It. Toastmasters International CC Manual (2015).

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