Thursday, October 5, 2023


If there is something that leads to a deep sense of happiness for me, it is the feeling of being inspired. 

I felt inspired often during our recent trip to Malaga and Seville in Spain, and to Lisbon in Portugal. This was our third trip to Spain and our first trip to Portugal.

I tend to find inspiration when I am out of my comfort zone. On this trip I was quite literally seldom in a comfort zone because I had managed to mess up the soft tissues in my right leg in a variety of ways. Three trips to our physiotherapist in the week leading up to our departure was clearly too little, and too late.

Mountain ranges lie just off the Costa del Sol, Spain's aptly named Mediterranean shore. The mountains near Malaga where we were staying are known as the Montes de Málaga. It turned out that the challenge to climb fairly steep slopes pretty much started at the door step of our AirBnB. For the first few days we were there it mostly didn't matter. The parts of Malaga where we spent our time exploring were pretty flat and made it easy to stroll around. Even though we often walked more than fifteen thousand steps in a day, flat is flat. 

That's not to say that my leg wasn't complaining. If I didn't give it a break, it would steal one simply by leaping over my pitifully low pain threshold.

Things got more challenging once we rented a car to take our explorations into Malaga's mountains, to places like Frigiliana, Ronda, and the Caminito del Rey. We also managed a day trip to Gibraltar. The only parking available for our car was in the streets way up that hill at the end of the street. Mornings started and ended negotiating that hill, and in between we hiked on more slopes, hills, and stairs. 

My leg was the only one not enjoying the trip. As we dove deeper and deeper into our seventeen day adventure, my leg got grumpier, and testier. Now that we're home that leg is getting a lot more attention. I can't wait for it to forgive and forget so that I can kiss the bouts of squirmy pain adieu.

I can't really blame my leg, cause we did stuff like this:

All of this, including coping with my pissed-off leg, and breaking completely with the day-to-day of our 'normal' life back home, can't help but offer fresh perspectives and challenges, challenges for you to move on and live the adventure, when lying pain-free in bed seems to make so much more sense.

Unexpected rewards came our way every single day. Stumbling on Christopher Columbus's tomb in Seville; watching firefighter helicopters with sirens blaring slinging water at a cliff-side brush fire below us while we were on the parador lookout in Ronda; coaxing my darling wife to cross a crazy-scary narrow steel suspension bridge across a very deep gorge as massive wind blasts literally shook us as we crossed the canyon, while I pretended, with a reassuring hand lightly on her shoulder, to be her Amazing Race companion cheering her on in a loud enthusiastic voice with promises of a million dollars. "You can do this, you're doing it girl! You're a winner!!! YOU’VE GOT THIS!! One M i l l i o n DOLLARS..."

And the list goes on.

What I was finding, what was dawning on me ever so slowly, emerging from our adventure, from online browsing, from observing the very different pace, quality, and circumstances of daily life in Spain and Portugal, seemed different. It was inspiring me, offering insight into what just might be a different approach to life, a different way to be. 

I may have Jason Slaughter to thank, among others. I was already familiar with his Not Just Bikes YouTube channel. In this case, as I was lounging in our AirBnB coaxing my leg to calm down so we could stroll around looking for dinner, YouTube offered me this video that Jason posted about the benefits of a more walkable life, as opposed to a drivable life. What Jason calls the "Gym of Life".

This struck a chord for me. I was already on that path with my Brompton. I love getting around on two feet and two wheels. If you've been hanging around here and reading my journal you will know that I have explored my love of two wheel travel on many occasions. 

I would say that Jason's video planted yet more seeds. He mentioned Nebula TV and Curiosity Stream. I made a note because I am finding that, like so much of the low-hanging fruit on the internet, and particularly on YouTube, it's often just bait, and I am the fish.  Ads and commercials are everywhere, all the time. When you get to that point, to the crux of the video, when the YouTuber is about to reveal the true secret to everlasting happiness, first comes an ad, then a commercial, and another ad.

Yes there is good content, like Not Just Bikes, and yes there are amazing creators like Jason Slaughter and Casey Neistat, and there certainly are excellent videos by lots of passionate chefs, explorers, scientists, designers, entertainers, and fixers. But I am really tired of being the fish.

I absolutely refuse to pay Google to stop harassing me with advertising. I feel that it's blackmail, truly I do. This avalanche of advertising is just to make Google fatter, more bloated, and ultimately more anti-social than I could ever have imagined back when the motto that they long ago trashed was "don't be evil".

I plan to explore Nebula TV and Curiosity Stream. Yes they are pay-to-view platforms. But for less than $100 a year, that just might be OK with me. There was a time in the past, before streaming, when Susan and I visited the local video rental store and shelled out $5 or $10 a week. If these platforms turn out to deliver good content and free me from my life as a fish, it will be a small price to pay. If the content turns out to be satisfying and appeals to the creative and curious me in a sustainable way, I'll be an even happier person, I hope.

All of which to say that this vacation opened my eyes. 

Oddly, it started that way from the moment we boarded our outbound flight. 

My morning bicycle ride ritual introduced me to groups of people practicing Tai Chi in the local parks. I bought Pocket Tai Chi for Beginners - Simple Steps to a Healthy Body and Mind to read on the plane. I feel I was already open to a fresh perspective right from the start.

The final bit that capped off the sense of inspiration that was building in me was the award winning documentary I watched on the flight home directed by Nuno Tavares entitled A alma de um ciclista (the soul of a cyclist). The film explores the benefits of focusing our life on friendship, ecology, and minimalism.

Here’s the trailer. 

I actually watched the film two-and-a-half times during the flight home. Once without headphones (I just didn't have them), once with headphones, and once with headphones on and with the closed captioning switched on (my Portuguese remains virtually non-existent). Then I watched again this morning on my phone, while lying in bed, awakened courtesy of jet-lag at 4:50 a.m. 

It may appeal to you as well. You can find it on Vimeo.

This movie just resonates with where I feel I want to be. I feel genuinely inspired  

In the very last scene in the film, the leading person, Artur Lourenço, leaves us with these inspiring thoughts.

Now I see life from a new perspective.
I’ve realized that life goes by too fast, and, in the end,
we are not immortal.
We only have one life.
While we’re around, we must somehow enjoy it
 - without harming anyone, obviously -
and make it sweeter and smoother."


RichardM said...

For some reason I thought you were bringing the bikes and do a little bit of touring on them in Spain.

Nice photos!

David Masse said...

If it were up to me alone, I would take my bike on all my trips.

In this case I wouldn't have taken it because of the issues with my leg. My wife is not into cycling like me. Unless we are going somewhere where it would make sense to bring both bikes, like when we went to Montreal, Maine and Vancouver, it makes more sense to leave them at home. The other consideration is that even when we do have our bikes, the rides we take together are just local jaunts. We would never tour.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.