I like to say that i’m not about genre: I simply like the very best of everything.
“Best,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder. For many, for example, the best travel accommodations are five-star resorts–and not just any 5★ resorts, but certain ones. I’m more general, enjoying things across categories. For me, posh hotels are certainly luscious, but they are not the only “best” beds, nor even what i usually prefer. (When i like fancy best: when i get it for free, when i’ve been laying my head in rather more *ahem* culturally colourful lodgings, and when i have a travel buddy with whom to gush over our amazing good fortune–preferably all at once, such as i enjoyed in Delhi en route out of India!)
Perhaps i would even split genres to allow still more best-of awards (more to love!). Because there are shitty $3/night Indian beach huts, of course, and then there are magical $3/night Indian beach huts. There are the dark and dirty ones with bathroom floors that never drain and no air circulation sans mosquitoes, and then there are those replete with 24-hour ocean sounds, intact and most romantical pink mosquito nets, and hammocks on porches beneath the big green foliage of banana trees and coconut palms.
Danielle LaPorte asks, in her Burning Questions series, “What in your life do you want to be of the highest quality?” Well, another reason I love those low-budg guesthouses–not to mention wandering less developed nations in general–is that the best trips i dream up are usually long ones. I was in India for 4½ months. I stopped in Italy and Brazil on the way home. Instead of a luxurious two-week yoga retreat for the same investment, i got a gradual unwinding, a complete education, more great stories than i could even tear myself away from their living to tell, and unplanned transformations of extraordinary variety.
So where does quality matter most to me? My ultimate answer: Quality TIME! Quality experience. These come from every direction. I don’t skimp. I insist.
What are the elements of quality time? To begin, i keep a fairly strict social budget. I don’t spare much energy for resolutely negative, unkind, or gossipy people. I can only afford the very best. The hurdle of my beloved solitude takes a high jumper!
A lesson currently in peak flower for me is not to confuse the value of money with that of time. To the degree that i have already managed to set aside that old paradigm, i am better able to appraise how much i actually have, rather than to compulsively pursue more money through my most immediate means. Hence there is more room for my still higher (and deeper) values. Time is not money. Time came first.
Time is experienced via the body. My taste for quality time therefore makes living quite lusccious! Sensually, i am a health-foodie and a connoisseuse of brilliant colour. My ears (or else my imagination) are generally resonating with music that levitates me in body and spirit, or with inspiring and edifying words, or with a warm, incubative silence. My lush of a nose relishes the scents of night-blooming flowers, wood-burning stoves, and finest exotic oils (for which conventional definitions of quality DO most definitely apply. Anytime i’m in New York City, i treat this discerning and ecstatic nose to a long sampling spell at Enfleurage in Greenwich Village. God in heaven, bring back that glorious sandalwood attar of jasmine).
A frugal one by nature, i’ll still splurge on top-notch material goods now and again, when those objects will somehow undergird awesome experience. I ride a BMW of a yoga mat. Once in a while i am wooed by truly gorgeous, well-crafted clothes that reflect a little more of my most scintillating and slightly numinous self-image. I am a tad fiendish for transporting, transcendent visual art. But many of the books that make the grade for me can be found in the library, so instead of buying one i can stay another week in India. With books, it is more often the content than the object that compels.
As for information, i strongly favour nontoxic varieties that get the job done: those that inform me–that is, “pervade or permeate with manifest effect”1–in useful and beautiful ways. It is in part quality information, after all, that feeds the development of quality perspective–the alchemical ingredient that lifts absolutely anything back into the majestic realm of appreciating everything. Minus all of the particulars above, it remains this inclusive appreciation that guarantees i can and usually will discover the quality in my time and experience, whatever guise it assumes.
1Dictionary.com, “inform,” in Dictionary.com Unabridged.