Road – by Tabitha

25 May

I have been on many lovely and memorable holidays, but the hiking trip Nathan and I took in the south of France in 2009 has really stuck with me.

It was only five days – out of a two-month holiday – but I can practically remember every minute of it. The different road textures, the different gradients, the food we ate, the things we discussed. There were immense stretches of of fields and farms and, even more so, immense stretches of time, every minute of it spent actively engaged in moving forwards, and being in no-one else’s company.

I like being in The Nature, sure, and I like walking, but more than anything, I love getting from one place to another under my own steam. Bushwalking is fun, but it’s an activity for its own sake; it’s about exercise and conquering various obstacles and being outdoors, not a form of transport. In the Blue Mountains, for example, you can find yourself starting your walk at Blackheath train station, spending days going up and down valleys, then ending up at Blackheath train station. This is deeply unsatisfying to me.

In France, walking along roads and paths, we ate up the kilometres, moving from town to town, to map to map, and ending up many train stops away. We could look at the rail network map and say, “We walked every step of the way from here to there!” While I guess there was no point to our hike, it felt purposeful, the way that running home from work is so much more satisfying than just running a neighbourhood loop.

The way I’ve described the hike makes it sound like it was paced like a race, which is far from reality. While there was a great sense of progress and achievement, it was also luxuriously slow, which is why I think it’s so vivid in my memory. We had so much more time to take every little thing in.

I think a walking pace is exactly the right speed at which to experience the world. I went on my first cycling holiday here in Vietnam, and thought even that was too fast. A driving holiday doesn’t appeal to me at all. I would rather cover less ground but get to see all the little insects on the flowers along the way, and at the end, know that the only thing which got me there was my own two feet.

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7 Responses to “Road – by Tabitha”

  1. Beth May 25, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    That sounds so lovely! I have never had a holiday like that, but it makes perfect sense.

    What’s that thing they say about your soul only moving as fast as a camel can walk, and that’s what jetlag is? I always remember that, because it feels true.

    I’m always amazed at how I never see some of my neighbours walking to get about to their daily business. I feel sad for them – always driving.

    As I always seem to have occasion to talk about, because it was so formative, we never had a car when I was growing up, and that feeling of getting everywhere under your own steam is very satisfying. Knowing that feeling from an early age is so important I reckon. Helps the mental state no end.

    • Tabitha May 25, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      I have been thinking a lot about your carless childhood. On your advice, I am dedicated to not being a victim of carlessness (“Oh there are so many things I can’t do!”) but instead one proud and happy carless mofo.

      One thing I love about travelling under your own steam is how it limits what you carry. You definitely consider whether you really need to buy something when you know you’ll be carting it back home yourself (except when you make your car-owning friends cart it for you… ho ho).

      • Beth May 26, 2012 at 10:37 am #

        ho ho indeed! Good for you guys! I must write a whole post about my carless childhood – there were lots of good stories.

  2. mischa May 28, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    i remember seeing your photos on FB at the time and thinking it looked absolutely beautiful. where did you walk from/to?
    ironically i am mostly annoyed by my lack of car (or car-driving skills) when it inhibits my ability to get to good bushwalking spots (much less accessible by PT in Vic than in NSW).

    • Tabitha May 28, 2012 at 6:37 am #

      It was from Villefranche-de-Rouergue to Ambialet, near Toulouse. We just picked that route completely randomly. From my experience all French hikes are equally as scenic.

      It’s true that often you need a car to access The Nature. Disappointing.

      • Karen May 28, 2012 at 10:22 am #

        I grew up in an almost carl-ess household, and have been taken aback by how much I have enjoyed having a car. It’s not that I *couldn’t* access all areas without one, but the truth is I wouldn’t. Having to drive my son across the island each day for school has cured me of excessive car enthusiasm though. I will gladly walk or take a short bus ride where practical. And the French hiking sounds superb.

      • Karen May 28, 2012 at 10:24 am #

        Also, driving makes you grumpy, and walking makes you cheerful.

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