“How do people spend their days?” I often wonder. Of course, such a question is an immense luxury. For most of the people of the world and most of the world’s history, the answer is, “Whatever it takes to survive.” Hunting, gathering, farming, weaving, building or else other kinds of work that brings in money to pay others to do that work that brings food to your table, insures a roof over your head, provides a vehicle to get from one place to another. In that context, it’s not a deep question.
It’s also a question relevant for my peer group of retired people. We all have worked some 40 hours weekly for at least 40 or 45 years and that pretty much accounts for a lot of our time. In my case, it was fun, fun work playing games, playing music, dancing and more with kids. But though it wasn’t backbreaking labor in the rice fields, it also was hard, hard work. If you don’t believe me, ask Bobby McFerrin. As a parent in my school, he once threw a party for his third-grade son Taylor in which his classmates went to a recording studio to record a song. Afterwards he told me, “I don’t know how you do it. That was the hardest four hours of my life!!!”
If we complain about working too hard and working too much— as all of us do or have— we should also consider the double-edged sword of retirement. The moments when you wake up and think, “Hey, I can do anything I want today!” with glee and just as often, “Hey, I can do anything I want today. But what the heck do I want to do?” Freedom without structure can be just as difficult as structure without freedom. And that’s when the question “How do you spend your days?” becomes interesting.
This bike trip has been a perfect blend of a structured schedule, a clear daily goal (bike from here to there), freedom to deviate and dilly-dally along the route if you so choose, then the predictable three-hour evening dinner in the restaurant. Once the bike trip ended, three of us went to an Air B &B near the hilltop town of Monte San Angelo, as noted in yesterday’s blog. Today, Karen and I bid farewell to Mary at noon and had the entire afternoon to ourselves. But what to do? There’s always the routines we bring with us—reading, writing, sketching, cards, crostics— but vacation invites something else. And so we did one of the finest things a person can do when nothing else invites us. We walked.
Just got out and put one leg in front of another and walked. As our “failed” hike yesterday made clear, it doesn’t always matter so much where you walk. Just walk and listen and look and attend and observe and get the old body moving as evolution intended. (One anthropologist theorized that our ancestors walked an average of 12 miles a day).
And so we walked. Took the right fork instead of the left and though that’s a terrible decision in politics, it was the perfect decision in hiking as we actually found a marked trail. I was already writing in my head this post about the joys of walking when I read this sign. Clearly I wasn’t the only person who thought this way!
We did get to the town on the top (the equivalent of some 148 flights and 7 ½ miles according to my phone ap) and feeling the return journey a bit much hiking in my Tivas and shorts and the air getting cold, we bought a bus ticket for a bus that never came. I was up for hitchhiking, but just when we were discussing it, a taxi came by and we negotiated the price down the mountain. Home again to the barking dogs and one final dinner here in Puglia cooked in our B &B kitchen.
So remember. When life is beating you down or the endless hours of the day are stretching out before you with no enticing invitation or you’re tempted to go down the rabbit hole of news or Facebook or Youtube, just get out and walk. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, walk. Walk to know the world. Walk to preserve your sanity.