Travel and summer adventures are memories that linger with us the remainder of the year. I recently read that travel positively impacts the brain’s plasticity; when on an adventure away from home, we expand our brain’s capability, adaptability and flexibility.

My biggest life lesson this summer was a visit to Croatia. There are over a thousand islands in Croatia, each with their own exceptional beauty and unique personality. I was lucky to visit three of these Mediterranean islets. I always approach other cultures by discovering the essence of a place from its wellness practices. Croatia’s past covers over 1,700 years of history with influences from the Greeks, Italians, French, Germans and others melding the best of many cultures throughout the land.

Below are four wellness lessons learned from this marvelous Mediterranean region.

Lunch is the biggest meal and olive oil over everything is ideal – The main meal features greens with vinegar and olive oil and served with pickled vegetables naturally fermented to boost good bacteria. The process of pickling vegetables is an ancient practice 4,000 years old. With seventy percent of land in Croatia devoted to farming, the majority of the population eats fresh foods from soil. Olive oil which lowers inflammation and decreases LDL cholesterol and triglycerides is present on any Croatian table. Unlike the American culture, more time is taken for this meal and leftovers are commonly used for dinner.

A little Grappa can only be a good thing – Grappa, a distilled liquor, is considered in many areas to be the national drink. Combinations of herbs, roots, plums, cherries, apples, quince and rose petals make grappa eclectic, intriguing, and thought to be a medicinal digestive. Small sips of grappa occur at the beginning and end of the meal for digestive purposes to toasts of “Zivjeli!” (pronounced Gi-vo-li).

Accepting compliments with pride is the Croatian way. There is a strong sense of self-respect that exists in Croatia and compliments are accepted with strong pride. Croatia even holds a large “awesomeness festival.” I found this to be refreshing; confidence is a healthy trait that leads to positive self-image.

Deep roots connect us. History, culture and tradition are prevalent in an ancient city, yet we can all find ways to connect to our deepest roots. When every cobblestone touched has ancient roots, it is easy to understand that there is a story and a soul to most traditions. This weaves itself around the people, the food, the community and the region. We can learn from this by connecting to our own roots. Learning about our ancestors is a good place to start. In the event that tradition is hard to find, creating it within our family and lives is a good first step. Healthy traditions carried down from generations, and the awareness we have towards every action approached, is the best we can do for ourselves and for the future generations we impact.

I hope your summer brought adventure and life lessons. Here’s to your good
health, “Zivjeli!”

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