When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel
is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time,
to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
– Bill Bryson

One of my favorite travel authors is Bill Bryson. With his wonderful mix of detailed observations, keen wit, and chuckle-inducing profanity, he’s never failed to amuse me. While we were living in London I read his Notes From a Small Island and was immediately hooked.

So it’s no surprise that I love his quote above. Traveling to new places puts a fresh spin on your perspective. You see things through different lenses. The ordinary becomes extraordinary! Here’s a great example:

At home we have a lovely teapot that we use regularly. For us it’s an everyday object, and if truth be told, we take it for granted.

A few weeks ago, while roaming the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania, we came upon these teapots … cut in half … stuck on a wall.

Teapots on wall

The shop, Gurman’s House of Taste sells tea … and teapots. It uses a striking advertising approach that works. These everyday objects definitely got our attention.

So we started looking closely at all the affixed teapots and realized we couldn’t just take them for granted because they began to tell a story.

Teapot with map

It turns out that the map on this teapot is a map of Vilnius (Wilna) first published in 1581. The name Wilna was used in older English, German, French and Italian language publications when the city was part of Poland. Hmmm, very interesting.

Teapot from IKI

And this beautiful teapot fits the “From the plantation to your cup of tea!” advertising slogan that used to be so popular. You may notice that the tea picker is holding a card with the letters IKI which seems out of place until you realize she’s probably touting the IKI retail chain that has over 250 supermarkets in Lithuania and Latvia.

And the close resemblance of the tea picker to this woman we encountered working on a tea plantation in Ella, Sri Lanka, is downright uncanny!

Tea Plantation Lady

Then, if you leap across Europe and Asia, ford the Pacific Ocean, and land in Zillah, Washington, USA you will encounter an entirely different type of teapot.

Teapot Gas Station

Under the heading of “novelty architecture” and “roadside attraction,” the Teapot Dome Service Station never served tea … just gas! It was built in 1922 as a reminder of the Teapot Dome Scandal, a nasty “bribery and oil” affair that became the low point of President Harding’s administration. Those folks in Zillah certainly had a wry sense of humor.

Wow! That really IS a round-the-world tour inspired by an everyday teapot … and some new perspectives.

So consider what Bill Bryson said and go “traveling” today. And by travel, I mean go somewhere different and see things anew. The Exotic could be as close as an unfamiliar part of your town, or a short drive away, or another continent.

Always Searching for the Exotic,

Blue & Yellow Teapot

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

28 thoughts

  1. This post fires on all cylinders for me. Love tea, love Bill Bryson, love the uncanny resemblance to a lady you photographed, and love the teapot you use every day!!! What an interesting building that is with the teapots mushed into the plaster. I love travel and oh, the places you’ll see! http://ohtheplaceswesee.com

    1. It sounds like we’re kindred spirits, Rusha! We were so surprised to stumble upon this fabulous tea shop with its unique advertising that we had to walk around it and photograph every half teapot. These people are so creative! ~Terri

  2. I love the idea of the ordinary becoming extraordinary (and what a great way to demonstrate it, with teapots from around the work) – I often find myself walking or driving down streets and roads very familiar to me and wondering what they would look like to a ‘stranger’, if encountered for the first time (doesn anyone else do that?).

    1. Thanks Vicki. I love your concept of seeing things with a “stranger’s eyes.” I used to teach Creativity Courses and one on the brainstorming techniques was coming up with ways to “make the strange familiar … and vice versa.” It’s amazing the great ideas that would surface! All the best, Terri

  3. Those are beautiful photos. I love tea, and tea sets and tea pots and all of that. There’s something timeless about them.
    This post makes me want to go and explore little cafes and stores just to photograph odd, interesting objects.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. are certain people ‘teapot’ lovers the say certain people love cats and others don’t? i am always drawn to delicate teapots, and just yesterday at my friend’s house, i examined the delicate beauty of one on her table.

    thanks for the assortment of beautiful images!

    1. Glad you enjoyed them Lisa. And great question you pose about predisposition toward teapots. Like you, I love the delicate porcelain tea sets … but I also love the feel of a sturdy coffee mug. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Jo, I developed my love of tea when we lived in London. I’d never had great tea before … then on to India and I was hooked for good. And Bryson just cracks me up. I credit him with curing me of my romantic notion of hiking the Appalachian Trail after reading A Walk in the Woods! 🙂 ~Terri

  5. This is amazing! I love the stories and images. And Bill Bryson has always been a favorite author of mine too. There is a teapot building in Pennsylvania too.

  6. Reminds me of Zen, Terri. I always find my mind opens up when I stop talking to myself. (grin) Suddenly the usual becomes new again. Enjoyed the tea pots. –Curt

    1. I like that Curt – “When I stop talking to myself!” You hit the nail on the head! It’s always a tricky (but worthwhile) challenge to keep “fresh eyes.” ~Terri

    1. Many thanks LuAnn. We’ve been spending the weekend with cousins we rarely get to see, so it’s been very special. Hope yours is going well, too. All the best, Terri

  7. Fun post! I’ve never been a tea drinker, that is, until now that I’ve been “travelling” and introduced to the ritual of Moroccan tea…and I love the shiny teapots and colourful tea glasses too! -Ginette

    1. It’s funny how that happens Ginette. We were strictly coffee drinkers until we moved to London. And if there’s anywhere in the world to develop a tea habit, it’s Jolly Old England. ~James

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