Seated in the upper deck of the ship connecting the Cies Islands with Vigo, I looked back to what was probably one of the most intensive weeks of my summer, an experience that will take me years to digest if ever I will be able to understand fully what I was about to wrap up.
The challenge was clear, a Walking Mentorship program for Parents & Kids along the Sand Trail for a full week, a coastal route between Portugal and Spain, a stone’s trow from the Atlantic Ocean.
Besides the standard aspects I knew would occupy my time and mind, such as logistics, weather and group safety I had the felling that the biggest test for me was going to be a different one.
How I was going to deliver exercises based on walking, thinking and talking when the first thing a teenager (and many adults) do when they stop is to grab a mobile device and turn off from being present ?
One of my favourite sensations every time I go out for a “long walk” is the capacity humans have to let serendipity take control of our plans, the more you resist the harder it is to proceed. In contrary, if you allow what unexpectedly happen become part of a new strategy, even the most challenging event cannot take you away from a positive flow.
In our first day, the weather seemed to be extremely moody, which is not strange to happen near the coast. Somewhere midway into our daily distance we decided to stop for a quick snack, water and continue afterwords.
I planned to arrive early to give enough time to rest and see how the party would be prepared for the next day. While we were waiting for our food the wind started to blow very hard and in few minutes the rain made us rush inside the very small store, the sky turned dark and something in mind told me that we were not going anywhere soon. Change of plan.
There was a little unrest among adults and young ones. What could we do? Order more food? Talk? Hide inside a mobile phone or hold space for the unknown?
While I was fighting with my assumptions inside my squared head, the kids saw what none of the adults could see.
Since we were inside a typical beach magazine, we had around us a mixture of chinese Disneyland, ice cream store and memorabilia museum from previous summers.
Out of nowhere the young ones picked up a fashion dummy that was not in use and stick it under a jacket and a cap.
As a consequence they create an hilarious new version of a beach alien and turned a gloomy afternoon into an happy playground where all adults around and the owners of the store could not avoid the enormous smile suddenly glued to our faces.
We stayed for almost three hours until the rain was gone and we could resume our journey. During all that time I totally forgot my initial conflict between off line and mobile & Co. I guess we all did. When a person is happy, being happy is enough.
The week went on and few times I had the feeling technology is becoming more of a problem where benefits are largely suppressed by the changes in human behaviour and quality of life among families and friends.
I was overwhelmed on how teenagers (not only) relate first with their mobile phones rather then communicating with other people, loosing focus, attention and the opportunity to “be there” and see what is happening around them.
In many occasions I was tempted (to say the least) to criticise and give them an hard time when I saw them pulling the mobile phones in every stop, meal or rest.
Finally I asked them the question: if you could place yourself in my position and having the need to do something about the uncontrollable usage of technology, all the time, everywhere, what would you do?
It was incredible the reply. Without much drama, the kids told me that I should feel very comfortable to tell them that technology gadgets and mobile phones should be off at all times and give them the opportunity to connect with their friends only during few hours in the evening. Simple, right?
I guess we are too often limited by our own beliefs and preconceived ideas which in turn do not allow us to take a clean slate approach in every new situation.
Next time you are in a similar situation, maybe you want to ask the question : What would you do in my place?
The Walking Mentorship helps you (re)connect with your ultimate purpose, revise your priorities and gain clarity where you want to go next. You can learn more : https://walkingmentorship.com