Pressurised by socially accepted ideals and values, we often find ourselves stuck in frames of somebody else’s perfect life.
Handcuffed by the limits of others’ expectations and norms screaming at us frantically, we open our eyes in a world that is nothing like the dreams of our youth.
Yet, some people set an example that it’s indeed possible to live differently and find satisfaction in a life of our own, devoid of stress, time, and the race for money and status.
The greatest plagues of today’s humanity is overworking, lack of meaning and identity, and civilisational threats, such as obesity, conformity, and dissatisfaction.
In the regular, 9-to-5 structure of life, people work to afford commodities they don’t need and two-week vacations they don’t find relaxing.
How can one break free of these cages and find a way to seek a moment of peace in this life?
Plovdiv and the Philosophy of Aylyak
Deep in south-eastern Europe, Bulgaria’s city of Plovdiv has grown to have the reputation of a place where time flows slower and life follows its own pace.
In this town beyond space and time, people have mastered the art of escaping deadlines and the race for money to just be and truly enjoy it.
The citizens of Plovdiv call it aylyak – this non-translatable word is an umbrella expression, combining carefreeness with relaxation and a mind free of stress or duties. The word itself was derived from Turkish aylyak, meaning ‘idle’.
This life philosophy all about taking one’s time and giving up on any hurry whatsoever.
People who visited Plovdiv would often report how amazingly easy-going the city felt. Plovdiv’s residents spend their days playing chess in cafes, strolling aimlessly around town, and chatting.
To a middle-of-the-road professional, all this might seem as a waste of time, and no surprise about it.
We’ve somehow grown to despise inertia. Relaxation can often be seen as a meaningless loss of potential. The more conscientious of us would often say that they even feel bad when not involved in some kind of work.
The most common leisure activities of the Western world are indeed meaningless. A statistical study conducted in Britain in 2018 shows that the most popular free time activities among adults are shopping, eating out in restaurants, or browsing the internet.
More people watch TV in their free time rather than spend time with their friends and family (though the difference is not so striking, it’s still quite significant).
Hence, one could argue that relaxing in the Western understanding is indeed a waste of time.
There’s nothing meaningful in turning your brain off to mindlessly watch late night shows or stroll the shopping centre’s ailes.
Furthermore, the aforementioned leisure time activities won’t let you truly relax both your body and your mind.
So what’s so special about aylyak? How is walking around shopping malls different from walking down the streets of Plovdiv? The right attitude is the key.
Freeing your mind of work, television, and upcoming bills will let your mind become calmer, henceforth allowing your entire body to unwind.
Other Places Like Plovdiv
The world is full of small towns and other places that seem to be devoid of the ubiquitous hustle and bustle of municipal areas and business centres. Where can you find those idyl hideaways?
Travel bloggers and magazines often list the most beautiful places in the world – pristine forests, national parks, and natural wonders.
There’s no doubt that beauty can nourish both our eyes and our souls, filling us with a sense of satisfaction and awe.
Had you been wondering where to go on your next holiday, you may take some of these places into consideration:
The Azores archipelago in Portugal offers an unforgettable, breathtaking scenery. The Portugese sun shines on the oceanside cliffs, green valleys, and baby-blue waters.
This entire area can truly give one a sense of disconnection from the troubles of everyday life and the outside world altogether.
In Asia Minor, the Turkish Cappadocia, not so far away from Bulgarian Plovdiv, a magical area with cities carved into rock, full of stunning tunnels and unparalleled constructions.
A frequent tourist attraction, air balloons, is the cherry on top of this exquisite region.
Ireland’s cliffs of Moher top above the raging sea waters and are often mentioned in travel-destination catalogues and listings. More often than not, the cliffs are called one of the most awe-inspiring locations in the world.
Getting in touch with nature, seeing its potency and beauty can indeed give us a perspective on our lives. Having contact with the wonders of our world will not only grant you wonderful stories to tell your friends, but it might also benefit your peace of mind.
Still, there are some countries were the pace of life seems to be slower and people enjoy their lives no matter their social status or the thickness of their wallets.
Were you to ever visit southern Europe, some Latin American countries, or the rural areas of Asia, you’d likely see the elderly sitting at cafes or on their porches till late at night, sipping coffee or wine and watching the day slowly fade into black.
It seems that carefreeness can be a culture-induced factor. It’s not only dependent on the physical place like a city or region, yet those two seem to be somehow intertwined.
However, you don’t necessarily have to leave your home to escape the rat race once and for all. How can one truly enjoy life, take control of one’s time, and learn not to care?
How to Enjoy Life, Wherever You Are
Reading about the easy life of Plovdiv, the beauty of Cappadocia, or the carefreeness of Greek seniors you might think that you need to get out of your regular neighbourhood to unwind and give your mind a break.
In fact, some might use it as an excuse, saying they can’t unwind because of the surrounding pressure and the pace of everyday life.
While the residents of Plovdiv and other places devoid of the rat race for money and status can be someone to look up to, it’s not the magic of geographical location alone that made them have the attitude they have.
Whether it’s the philosophy of aylyak or any other school of thought, you can pursue its teachings and change your life accordingly no matter where you are.
Why, instead of cultivating towns like Plovdiv as the last centres of true leisure, shouldn’t we try to change our big cities and systems so that they serve us – and not the other way round?
After all, this life is just ours, yet whether we fall into the boring, unfulfilling, and stressful life cycle is not always up to us – or at least not until we realiae it.
Any transformation of the world around you starts inside of you. If you think about it, you can notice that all of the enlightened gurus or spiritual leaders live in the same world as we all do.
What’s crucial is how you look at it.
Whether you want to become a monk or not is your decision; we don’t encourage you to take up any religion or practice, you do you. Yet, shifting your vision can truly allow you to enjoy life as it is.
How can the citizens of Plovdiv spend their days strolling around town without remorse or stress? Whether you’re in London or New York City, worries about the future are likely to barrage your mind.
As a first step, try to live in the moment.
By appreciating what you’ve got, trying to get as much as possible from the now, and being aware of what’s going on around you in the present, you can truly enjoy your life.
Trust – trust the universe, destiny, god, coincidence, yourself, whatever – that your decisions and actions will lead you where you want to go.
Wherever you are, follow in the footsteps of those who found satisfaction in life, be grateful for what you’ve got now, and start enjoying your life free of concerns.
And if that doesn’t help, you can always move to Bulgaria, can’t you?
Do you enjoy your life?
Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney
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