Ambling Without An Automobile
The midday heat, with the sun at its zenith, irradiated the desert landscape on the outskirts of the Spanish town of Águilas, making the 30℃ / 86℉ heat feel as if it was much hotter. Not a whisper of wind could be felt. It was an unusually hot day for the end of winter, and I was still far from my destination. But I was happy. Joyous, Cheerful, Merry, whatever you would like to call it. I was surrounded by my family, talking and laughing in the middle of this arid and dry countryside. We were ambling to Spanish Class.
Cars whizzed past us as we walked down the small highway path that all seem to lead into the conglomerate of buildings that make up central Águilas. The motion of these vehicles, as they passed us, offered the only breeze in the stifling hot air. Despite the sea being only a few hundred meters away, the sandy hills that line the coast, keep much of the salty breeze out unless you are right beside the waters.
Another automobile raced past, and I saw two teenagers stare back at us, with a look of total disbelief on their faces. I suppose it is surprising to see a family of four ambling past by the road where there is no track, wearing backpacks and hiking shoes, in the middle of the hottest part of the day. Why weren’t we inside a car with the air conditioning blaring, in comfort?
When we first arrived here in Águilas, we requested to have our Spanish classes together as a family, scheduled on the same day because we didn’t have a car. We were met with some bewildered expressions, as well as a few frowns of misunderstanding, but after we had explained why, their expressions changed. The frowns moulded into smiles, in their minds’ eye, they could see the vision of what we had painted. A calm and relaxed 5 km / 3-mile walk through the countryside, time to think, time to talk and time to share experiences. Now, looking at their surroundings lit by artificial light, they began to wish they could walk through this landscape of liberation themselves. They began to understand.
It wasn’t too long ago when cars didn’t exist, and the only way people got around this region was by donkey and carts or their own two feet. The large metal boxes that have come into our lives and transport us around today have deprived us all of not only natural exercise but our daily connection with the Earth. We no longer feel the dusty paths beneath our feet, the delight when rain tickles your face as it falls from the skies, the soft breeze carrying the scent of Spring, or the silky caress of a living tree’s leaves. It’s gone, and we don’t seem to know what that small twinge of regret means, deep inside.
And what about our much needed daily interactions with others in a free and unconfined environment? When we used to walk everywhere, we could and would connect, communicate and interact with our family, friends, and even the kind strangers that we would meet along the path. We would be able to share our thoughts, opinions and dreams as we used our own two feet to get to where we had to go. Now we shut ourselves into solitary vehicles, avoid other human beings and are afraid of strangers walking opposite us. We have isolated ourselves, and now we are paying for it, with our health, with our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Too many miss out on these very important opportunities to share, especially families who want and need to be together. In many cases, families will only see each other at night after a long and tiring day of work or school, and then they are too tired to do anything but eat and go to sleep. In the morning, people will wake up in a box, get into a box, drive to another box, spend all day in that box before returning to the first box. I know what it’s like. Our family was there before, in that very same situation.
Our minds have become locked up with heavy chains, and we don’t know where to find the key. I’m not saying I know where to find it. All I’m saying and suggesting is that there is another way to slowly find our roots once more, that will lead us to finally unlocking the big padlock that has imprisoned our consciousness.
We don’t own a car. We live 5 Kilometres (3.1 Miles) outside of town and are 2.5 Kilometres (1.5 Miles) away from the closest store. Every week we will walk into the city at least twice and the stores and markets at least another two times. This excludes our usual daily walkouts (workouts), and every time, we make it a point to have the whole family go. No-one stays behind. As we walk, we converse, share our thoughts and ideas, discuss our worries and fears and turn a fresh new page with a totally different outlook on the current situation…one you couldn’t have found without this time spent together out in the open, and it is because of your sibling or spouse, mother or father, and their shared thoughts and ideas that you now have the solution.
We are also exercising, getting the blood to pump through our veins and renewing our sense and feeling of life. We exert our energy and then when we come home and begin to work on our projects again, we have a refreshed zeal and perspective that we can apply. Imagine just how much more productive as human beings we could be, if we took a simple hour’s break from our laptops and desks and took this time to walk in nature, reflect and renew, before coming back with a new perspective and a positive feel. We could be unstoppable, and all it takes is a small amount of time to stop and smell the roses.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against cars or any other sort of transportation. We do need to get to places and sometimes we have to get there quick, and our own two feet cannot get us there in time. Transportation has changed and moulded the way we live, and in many ways for the good, but in other ways we have become entrapped and imprisoned by it. If we would use these inventions we have created only for the most important situations and begin to reconnect with ourselves, each other and the Earth, we could be one step closer to discovering the secret of eternal peace and happiness…simply by being ourselves in the most natural of environments.
And now, I encourage you to try this, starting right now. Take a small break, go to a park, a trailhead, or simply your own backyard. Take a look around. Smell the air, see the sights. You’ll notice something beautiful that no-one else has seen before in that light, and I guarantee you will feel inspired, and you will have a new outlook on life. Then return to the world we are living in now and use your incredible power and zest to make it a better place. Even if it is only one small tweak, you will begin a chain reaction of change and that change will grow larger and larger until others can see it too, and then you will have inspired not only yourself but those around you as well. It’s amazing what a simple stop can do. And now, as I finish this post, I can once again see myself walking with my family, down the dusty road to Spanish class, feeling complete and utter jubilation and I wish that for every single one of you too.