I usually cycle to school, although it’s only 3 km away. It’s the fastest and the cheapest way. But lately, my bike started breaking down a bit too often. Last week, I was forty minutes late because my brakes stopped working. I almost ran over a kid, so I decided to leave my bike and walk the rest of the way.
Unfortunately, going to the bicycle repairman is just like going to the dentist. You know you have to, but you always find better things to do. So, at the beginning of this week, my bike was still out of order.
When I woke up on Monday morning, I found out that I had already missed my bus. Since there was no other way to get to school, I had to go on foot. I left the house way too late, so instead of walking like a normal person, I had to racewalk.
While walking, I was noticing much more than I did when I was cycling. For example, I saw all the cyclists, whose bikes still worked, catching up with me. I saw the time on all the apothecary crosses indicating that I had to walk faster. But I also saw the churches in the center of Ghent, illuminated by the morning glow. And I felt the chilly, January wind pumping the blood to my cheeks. In the evening, I walked back home again.
I know that for some people, changing their routine in this way wouldn’t have been that big a change. But for me, it was. I love trying new things, but these new things must have a purpose. The way I spend my time must be useful. And walking kind of took away the time to do some of these useful things. The half hour I had to sacrifice prevented me from reading the extra 25 pages of a book, or writing those 300 words, or studying German. That’s why I started to doubt. Maybe next evening, I had to take a bus. And then I realized how much we care about productivity, more than about the quality of life, more than about health. I threw my doubts aside and decided that, from this week on, I would walk everywhere. At least until my bike got fixed.
The enjoyment didn’t come easily. I tried walking as fast as I could to lose as little time as possible. At the end, I just ended up exhausted. I also felt kind of laughable because I suddenly remembered my dream of hiking to Santiago de Compostela and realized that to get there, I would have to walk much more than I did.
But I was starting to let go. On Tuesday, I didn’t force myself to finish reading a book. To me, reading is not only a way of relaxing. Throughout the years, it had also become an obligation because I firmly believed that it made me smarter. But on Tuesday, I allowed myself to watch Harry Potter instead. On Wednesday, I allowed myself not to write. And on Thursday, I didn’t make my homework. Although maybe that one doesn’t say much. I rarely do.
I became less productive. But I also noticed that I felt calmer and not on the verge of hysterics, as I usually do. When I did get to reading, or writing, or studying, I was more concentrated and enthusiastic. Instead of counting the hours, I started appreciating them. Meanwhile, I kept walking.
Today is Sunday, which means it’s been precisely one week of walking everywhere. My dad fixed my bike, so I didn’t have to go to the bicycle repairman. But I think I will keep walking to school anyway. And in the summer, I might hike to Santiago de Compostela.