One winter’s morning a few years ago I was standing on Oxford Street in Sydney waiting for a bus to Bondi. I noticed my friend who was catching the bus with me checking the time against the schedule, pacing, looking and wondering where the bus was.
Me, I was breathing and thinking ‘the bus will come when it comes, slow down mum (the friend was my lovely hikey mum).’ It stuck me in that moment that the essence of slow living is simply to stop long enough to notice. We weren’t in a hurry, we were on our way to do the coastal walk, there was time. Even if we were late, could we make the bus come faster? I wonder if she remembers that moment, she often walks without looking my mum, I used to be a bit the same.
How much of our lives do we miss because we forget to notice, forget to be present, or worry about where we need to be next? Of course it’s not easy to be present in every moment of our lives but with practice it’s a handy tool and in time it can become second nature (nice default – mindfulness). It’s one that’s especially handy in the moments when we don’t have control of a situation. Those ones that are often the most stressful.
It was a late, hot afternoon and we were parked at a service station in the concrete jungle outskirts of Madrid. The kids were topless as they sweltered in the back of the van. We were 70kms from the caravan park we had chosen.
A red light had appeared on the dashboard and my not so car savvy husband thought is was an oil signal. At the service station he topped up the engine with a litre of oil. I sat in the passenger seat of the Travelodge (AKA our camper) who was now refusing to start, he was choking on an oil overload. Um…feck (👈🏼 nifty fecking Irish ☘️ swear word, doesn’t feel too sweary). I listened to the key turn over and I looked over into a vacant lot where I noticed, not one, but two rabbits.
A situation with all elements that would normally lead to frustration, arguing and blame, but it didn’t. I think it was because I could notice the rabbits. What could we do? We sat, waited and pondered. We called the camper owners and waited some more. Eventually the engine recovered and we were able to get on the road. It was slow going as the engine struggled to breathe so with our fingers crossed we drove towards our chosen campground.
Wouldn’t you know it…the supermarket wasn’t open and the pool was still closed (of course – some days are like that). ** Camper travel tip – be mindful about pools in Mediterranean countries, they’re not open year round! After a late night phone call to my brother who does know about cars, we soon discovered that we were not going to be able to drain the oil ourselves.
Lucky the bar was open and we could drink a cold beer while the kids sweltered in a fairly gross plastic ball pit that had seen better days. This was not going to be a camp ground worth noting.
The next day my not so car savvy but good at problem solving husband rolled the car down to a service station where they drained the oil for a 6 pack. The Travelodge had a little more grunt but still something needed fixing. Thankfully, we were in Madrid which meant there was a FIAT garage. A quick polish of the rusted spark plugs and bob’s your uncle! The Travelodge was ready to roll again.
Did we visit Madrid? Nope. It was a bus and metro ride from the campsite. We were done. Too hot. Little things that said move on. We can’t do it all and when we try to – the mindfulness, the noticing, the presence gets a little harder.
At 5 weeks into our time on the road Madrid turned into a stopover. A time to check in with how we were travelling? How much we were noticing? It was a time to stop and re-evaluate what was important, to pack away the puffer jackets, read a book, maintain the van and to realise that we we don’t need to push too hard.
Slow living, noticing the moment has also taught me how to take the time to trust and feel what’s going on. It’s the natural next step and it makes adjusting easier when the fit is wrong. Slow travel is about knowing we can always come back. Or, maybe we won’t – but on this day the timing wasn’t right and pushing wouldn’t have been the answer (is it ever?). We packed up and headed off for the familiar comforts of something wilder where we swam across a lake together.
If you find yourself out on the trail, no matter for how long or how far and want to share, please tag it #hikeforonegirl so I can find it. Singing birds are well worth the effort. Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.
I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.
Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship.
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Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors: