A Mediterranean mindset for the everyday Michigander

This summer, I took the oppurtunity to travel through the Mediterranean for two weeks. With its gorgeous coastlines, constant sunshine and bevy of historical ruins, the Mediterranean Coast was quite the experience for an average Michigan girl like me.

It was my first time out of the country and I was awed by the marvels the Mediterranean had to offer. From Rome, Italy to Athens, Greece, I was amazed by how similar yet different each city’s atmosphere was from another, let alone to the culture of Detroit. As my vacation started to arrive to its end, I began to wonder how I could bring a little bit of the Mediterranean back home with me. Luckily, with its colorful Greek population and multitude of various Mediterranean cultures across the state, bringing back a little bit of Europe to Michigan was easier than I thought.

Here a few ways to spice up your life Mediterranean style without ever having to leave the country.

Try olive oil. You won’t believe it’s not butter!

The one thing I learned about Mediterranean food while overseas is that if it hasn’t been cooked in olive oil, then it isn’t authentic! Nearly everything I ate, from burgers to French fries (or Freedom fries, as they say over there), were cooked in olive oil. While I found it almost eerie at first, my wariness soon disappeared as I quickly realized how delicious Mediterranean food could be. My love for the flavorful foods only increased each day – and especially after I found out that olive oil was healthy! I had almost forgotten that olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which is a healthier alternative to saturated fats such as butter.

So, to bring back some of the Mediterranean back to Michigan, why not try substituting butter with olive oil for a little while? I can assure you that it’s not only delicious, but it adds a unique taste to what could be an otherwise dull meal. And if you’re not up for home-cooking, look up for some local Greek and Italian restaurants near you! Believe me, it’s not that hard.

If you’re thinking about skimping out on the butter and going for a more European flavor, just remember not to overindulge. Monounsaturated fats are healthy, but only in moderation. Besides, my favorite part about my mini-Mediterranean diet was how light I was eating and how full I felt afterwards!

Walk more. They didn’t have elevators back in 60 B.C, you know!

I got a little taste about what it would be like to live in a world almost two thousand years gone as my family and I toured through the ruins of Pompeii and climbed the eighty steps towards the Parthenon. However, as advanced as the ancient civilizations were back then, they still didn’t have the technology to build escalators or elevators for people to get around faster. And so, since I was without a bike or motorcycle and I was too scared to brave driving overseas, we instead walked.

No really, we walked everywhere.

In fact, by using my father’s pedometer, my family and I were able to calculate the total of how many miles we walked each day. By the end of our two-week trip, we were able to average out that we walked almost six miles per day! That’s four miles more than the average American walks per day! By walking each and every day for a consistent amount of time, not only did I get my daily exercise for the day, but I also managed to burn off any fatty calories from the cruise.

So my advice to my fellow Michiganders is to walk.  Maybe not six miles every day, but enough to get your blood pumping. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator one day. You could even park a little further from the office, a few extra feet won’t hurt you! As long as you spend a little more time that usual on your feet, you’ll feel more lively and awake for the rest of the day. I know I did!

Take a siesta. A one hour rest a day might keep a future crash at bay.

Believe it or not, in Europe, sleeping on the job is actually a benefit! Most stores take a siesta, or a period of rest, before opening back up for their afternoon shift. While it sure was an inconvenience to me as I spent the afternoon shopping in the heat of Italy, after getting back to work myself, I can understand why businesses overseas took a midday siesta before opening back up for the day. Although I like to consider myself a pretty lively person after ten a.m., even I’m not immune to those midday crashes.

While I wouldn’t advise you to actually take a nap at work, it might help to spend your lunch hour in a place that is both relaxing and quiet. Instead of taking a lunch with friends inside, maybe try to enjoy a nice meal outside in the sun by yourself. Get some music, a book or simply rest your eyes and enjoy your free time. A little time to yourself and a chance to enjoy the quiet might be enough to keep you feeling well-rested throughout the rest of the workday.

Enjoy the sun safely with some sunscreen and a swimsuit.

I’m pretty sure the Mediterranean is one of the only places in the world where you’ll never see a cloud. From the time we touched down in Rome to when we returned home, I saw not one cloud in the sky as I walked the streets of the Mediterranean coast. While refreshing, it meant there was no shade to escape from the blazing rays of the sun. To combat against those UV rays, I applied sunscreen almost every time I went outside. That way, I was able to get my tan on as I walked the coastline without having to worry about what harm the sun could cause to my skin.

While we don’t have the sparkling coastline of the Mediterranean in our reach, there’s no reason not to enjoy the beautiful beaches and lakes Michigan has to offer. This summer, take your family to one of Michigan’s beautiful lake fronts to enjoy the sun by staying safe with a healthy dose of sunscreen. That way, your fun in the sun won’t be ruined by a bad sunburn or worse.

While Europe was a fun experience, I found myself missing the sights and scenes of Michigan after two weeks abroad. The Mediterranean was beautiful, but Michigan was home. I knew coming back home didn’t mean that I’d be without authentic Greek food or constant sunshine. In fact, Michigan’s Mediterranean culture, particularly in Detroit, is actually probably one of the state’s most underground yet awesome features. If anything, this trip made me appreciate the diversity of the culture we have right here in our home state.

If you’ve been overseas, where are some of your favorite vacation spots? What sort of healthy living choices have you made as a result of the trip?

Photo Credit: Paige Wood

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