An Old Croatian Man Just Taught Me the Importance of Simplifying Our Daily Routines
On cutting out the noise
Simple + Straightforward is a weekly letter filled with essays, tips, and ideas to live life more simply and intentionally. This is a public post so feel free to share with friends and family you think would enjoy a dose of simplicity every Friday.
On the Dalmatian coastline in central Croatia, there is a local phrase Pomalo.
This is Dalmatian dialect with no direct translation but it means chill, take it easy. There’s always tomorrow. Stop rushing.
You hear this phrase - and see it being acted out - every single day here, particularly in the summer when the heat gets so intense, you can’t help but slow down.
Last week, an old man on a beach in the city of Zadar got me thinking about our daily routines, specifically how most of them could all do with an injection of Pomalo.
The same beach, every single day
Last year my husband and I spent 2 weeks in Zadar, the city with the most beautiful sunset in the world.
Every day we walked to the same beach. I say beach - Croatia has a rocky coastline so most beaches here are slabs of rock suspended above the sea with stairs to help you climb out. Our favorite spot in Zadar was no exception and is famous for cliff diving.
After a few days, we noticed the same old dude was always there, always soaking up the sun, cigarette in hand. I never spoke to him so I don’t know his name but for these purposes, I’m going to call him Marko. It’s a popular name here.
Marko was routinely joined by friends and family who would pop down and see him for a few minutes before going about their day. He always stayed.
And Marko would cliff dive. I’ve never seen anything like it. He would launch himself backward, very nonchalantly as if just falling off the cliff, getting perilously close to the rocks as he dove in.
On a return trip to Zadar last week, my husband and I had an hour to kill before our bus so we decided to head to our favorite cliff spot.
And there Marko was.
I had visited five countries, traveled thousands of miles, gotten Covid twice and written millions of words on the internet, all the while this dude hadn’t moved from his spot on this little beach.
That is his daily routine. And from where I was standing, it looked like a pretty sweet one.
Prioritizing what’s important
Daily routines are funny old things. We’re taught the importance of them but we’re seldom taught about the importance of simplifying them. I’ve seen some that are intensely complicated, filled with work commitments, family time, exercise, coffee, meditation, reading, leisure time, sleep routines - and more.
As I observed Marko, I considered the incredible simplicity of his daily routine.
I have no idea what the rest of his day looks like but considering I would head to that beach at all hours of the day - and he was always there - the chances are that everything else revolved around getting to those rocks.
Of course, he’s old enough to be retired and can stay all day at the beach. We can’t all do that, most of us have work or family commitments and whatnot.
But knowing Croatia, I’d wager that he has never lived far from those rocks and it could well have been part of his daily routine ever since he was a child.
He prioritized those rocks and dives. And he seemed to know them like the back of his hand.
When it comes to routines, go deep
Marko could dive off those rocks like a pro. He knew the angle of the cliff, what they look like under the water, and the depth of that sea. Thus he could dive with his head just inches from the cliff. It was both terrifying and awe-inspiring to watch,
Marko’s simple daily routine means that he’s had the time to perfect his dives.
He went deep (literally).
Daily routines that are filled to bursting are generally doomed to fail. No one can sustainably do hundreds of things and do them well.
Simple daily routines on the other hand give you the opportunity to become an expert in whatever you choose to do with your day.
Fewer activities = more time to dedicate to each activity.
Marko chose cliff diving. I chose writing. You could choose to go deep on whatever you like.
But only if you simplify.
Something to read this weekend
An article from my collection (paywall-free)
3 of the best pieces of content I’ve consumed this week
The Difference Between Busy and Non-Busy People - Joshua Becker
The Smitten Kitchen - Substack
Until next week amigos!
We used to notice the older men swimming in Split -- in the middle of winter! And looking over some of your other content we might very well have walked past each other at some point in the Balkans this year!