During our journey abroad, whenever someone we'd met along the way asked us how we had come up with the idea of embarking on this adventure, Diana and I would look at each other with a certain degree of anxiety, as if hoping the other one would answer because, frankly, we were starting to forget how it happened.
Ever since we decided to walk down this road, until now, we have experienced an exciting personal transformation, but which has also been (and still is) exhausting. And I'm not speaking metaphorically. We believe it is all actually the work of one single person, since one of us is always keeping an eye on our daughter and it's the other who must take on all that we need to do. Often it is the two of us who are busy with parental tasks. Maybe this can explain our amnesia, aside from the fact that our graying hair in this case is more of a handicap than an asset.
But there are things that I do remember (there's still hope!). I remember when we began to think about child-rearing, and then about education, a little over two and a half years ago. One thing led to another and, finally, we decided to take a year off work in order to devote this time to a project which, initially, was to be personal and quite unambitious, but which has ultimately gone far beyond that and even transcended the private sphere, growing into a multifaceted creature. Esto no es una escuela ('This is not a school') is now a blog, a journey, a documentary in the making: it will (hopefully) be a platform to meet and exchange ideas, a reference site for information on education. Who knows if it will someday be a non-school.
The process has anchored us in the present ad there isn't much time to look back or ahead. There's always some urgent or/and important matter to attend to. Planning and preparing the trip took several months, while the calendar added on pressure as the school year neared its end. We started to write on our blog, we wanted to tell all the things we were discovering and doing. But writing takes time. We had to divide up our tasks, read books, gather information on the schools; decide an itenerary, send messages to the places and people we wanted to visit and await their replies; search for the best ways to travel; administer our budget; buy plane, train and ferry tickets; equip our bikes, get the trailers and Jara's seat; decide how, where, when and with whom we would stay overnight; learn filming and interviewing techniques; get portable photographic equipment, try it out; get passports; arrange an insurance for ourselves, the bikes and the cameras; we needed to start building a network, nourish our social media profiles, tell our story, design our web site. The list was (and is) endless.
During our journey we have continued to be immersed in the process. We have usually stayed for only a short time at every place and for every place we have needed to find somewhere to stay, choose adequate means of transport and find our way there; we've had to pedal to our different destinations; have had to get on and off trains or planes, and every time we would need to empty our trailers of lugagge, detach bike accesories, fold bikes and put them inside (as you can see here). And the other way round. We've had to surmount obstacles such as lifts with narrow doors, train stations without lifts, or muddy streams; answer messages or comply with media requests; film, decide how to approach interviews and takes; charge batteries, make back-up copies of footage and audio; take pictures, upload updates on our social media profiles; do shopping, cook, or enjoy time with our hosts; do laundry, wash nappies, calm a crying baby.
In a wonderful article on Winnie the Pooh, Liam Heneghan reflects on how memory and childhood are affected by our physical environment –especially being in the outdoors, in direct contact with nature, as happens to Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. He also speaks aboout migrations, in time and space, as well as of the uprooting caused by them: in space and in time.
Sometimes, while we were cycling, Jara would ask us to go home, and we were always in doubt as to what place that could be. Where she slept with her parents every night, even when it was a different one each time? Or could she mean her own house, that where she was born, the one we have just returned to? How will her life be affected by the nomadism she has experienced these months? What will her space have been, when it has been a different one each time? I do not know. There is no doubt all this will leave an imprint on her, something hard to recall, but that will manifest itself in heavens knows what way. Perhaps in the future she will feel like us, not knowing exactly how we got here because we inhabit a dizzying process that has snatched us away from our origins and turned them into a flog-blurred forest behind us. A forest that, sooner or later, we must return to, even if just for a second, in order to understand where we come from and explain where we are.
Understanding whether this dislocation from our own childhood has been a process (I do not know whether natural or not) that has led us to adulthood is vital in learning to relate to our own children and to ourselves. We need to revisit our childhood, but to do it through (instead of with) our children could become the best way of robbing them of their own. We need to fleetingly return to our home, not to inhabit it, but to understand it. To go back to our roots, yes, but without taking our children with us. Rather the contrary: it's them who are now building their own home, inhabiting their own forest.
I think it is fascinating to be able to walk again through that wilderness alongside these expert little guides who help us find our way and discover its secrets. Forests different from our own, but forests at any rate that, with a little attention on our part, will evoke those in which we literally grew up. To follow an erratic path, to explore, to do it (in Heneghan's own words which I absolutely endorse) better in silence: walking and listening; listening and walking. And so, attempting to remain silent, I am returning to my own childhood, walking hand in hand with my daughter. Maybe that's also the way we will both, Diana and I, be able to find out how the hell we got this idea of embarking on such an adventure.