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The Trouble with Convenience

Italian Holiday

The Trouble with Convenience

Lana Hawk

Convenience is everywhere. Our world is full of ways to make life easy and efficient. Drive through fast food. Order ahead and pick up. Mail order groceries with recipes included. Automatic, monthly Amazon orders. Automatic payments. Instant coffee. Companies are created with the sole purpose of making our lives more convenient and efficient.

We can order items and have them delivered the next day (or same day). We can access information instantly and communicate in a million different ways with people across the world. It really is amazing. Unfortunately, I don't think convenient necessarily means better.

Our current Italian situation is a simplified existence. A small, versatile wardrobe. An apartment with the essentials, but no frills. It is simple, but it is certainly not convenient. We have had to break a bit of our "instant gratification" mindset, and I have found it to be a welcomed change.

If we want food from the grocery, it requires 1+ miles of walking plus carrying the groceries the .5+ miles home. No giant shopping trips or Costco runs. No car means the heavy lifting falls on us.

We made sure to book an AirBnB with a washing machine, but there is no dryer making the washing process a bit different. Our machine takes 1.5 hours to wash (and that is one of the shorter cycles) plus a 10 minute spin cycle to help get rid of additional moisture. Then, clothes require at least 24 hours to dry on our drying rack which is proudly displayed between our loveseat and refrigerator. Not exactly a quick process. It requires a good bit of planning to have the clothes you need in the coming days. 

Another appliance our little apartment lacks is a dishwasher. They packed a two burner stove top, a microwave, and a toaster oven in the kitchen, but the dishwasher didn't make the cut. So, after every meal, we hand wash the dishes and pans before dinner is complete. What we have found is with two of us working together, lacking a dishwasher hasn't felt much different. It takes a few extra minutes to clean up meals, but we often tag team the washing and drying and often use less dishes than we would at home. Not a bad switch.

The thing is, we aren't in an undeveloped country, yet we find life here isn't all about fast, efficient, convenient living. Things take time, effort, and planning. In the historic part of town there is no one stop shop for food, toiletries, electronics, and clothes. Sorry Target. You go to the market for fresh ingredients, the grocery for packaged foods, specialty shops for additional ingredients, and other stores for clothes, etc. There is a single department store and no mall. You walk, search, do your research, and try another store if needed. Even restaurants aren't convenient. Most close in the afternoon and don't reopen until 7:00pm for dinner service. So your options are limited if you want an early dinner or a late lunch.

It has been an interesting pace of life which is changing our perspective ever so slightly. We aren't as rushed, we are more prepared to make regular stops at the market and grocery, and we aren't overly concerned with speed and convenience. Coffee isn't grab and go. Our food isn't a one stop fix. It is subtle. It is small, but the difference has impact.

When I am surrounded by convenient options, I find myself more annoyed with inconveniences or slow processes. Waiting in line, slow Starbucks drive through, long grocery lines, traffic. Basically the whole waiting thing drives me nuts. Especially traffic, just ask Adam. Drives me nuts. But, what I am starting to realize is that the frustration stems from the expectation of speed and efficiency. I expect it to run smoothly and quickly, so when it doesn't, I am frustrated. Here, I expect a slower pace, longer lines, or frequent steps, and more time because of the pedestrian life. For me, more conveniences mean I naturally expect a faster paced life. More convenience translates into less patience. Weird right? I hurry more and busy myself because of the convenience mentality.

I love shopping for fresh ingredients from the market where I can grab our favorite ciabatta al formaggio (cheese bread) upstairs and fresh pasta downstairs. I like walking to the store and enjoying the fresh air as we shop for Christmas presents. So I find myself wondering about life in the States. How do we make this a reality at home? How do we stop the hurried, busy, all-about-the-convenience life at home?

Maybe we walk to the grocery or to get coffee. Maybe the farmer's market becomes our norm. Maybe it means finding local shops to support instead of always ordering off of Amazon. Maybe it is surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate a slower pace. It may be a subtle change, but for me, for us it is important. I'm grateful for instant access and communication, but I love the idea of simplifying life, even if it means dropping a bit of instant gratification.