The Farmers Who Taught Me to Slow Down
I received an incredulous look from the two middle-aged farmers sitting opposite me.
“You’re so young! You have your whole life ahead of you!” the woman exclaimed.
“Take life slow, otherwise you’ll miss the important stuff,” her husband thoughtfully added.
This advice was in response to my worries that I didn’t have enough time to see the world. Their counsel seemed so clichéd and familiar that I dismissed it that evening. Instead, I considered how many more hours of driving I had until I reached my planned destination. Already, I hadalready driven all day and would have continued; however, the creeping dusk forced me to stop for the night.
I sat there in the unbelievable stillness of that roadhouse campsite in the balmy night air. A ceiling of brilliant stars materialised in the darkening sky; towering ghost gums gently swayed with the weight of themselves. The near-empty campgrounds were the solitary sign of civilisation for hours in any direction, yet the bliss of that patch of nothing in the middle of nowhere, north-western Australia, was lost on me. Instead, my mind was racing, anxious to be somewhere else – so much so that I wasn’t present at all.
It’s only now, several months later, that I can’t stop thinking about that moment and what my new companions had said.
Not having enough time has always worried me. The stresses of exams, job interviews and money (or lack thereof) have always paled in comparison. I have a fear of running out of time to do, see and experience what the world has to offer. I’m terrified I’ll miss out on something spectacular. Because when I said I felt I didn’t have enough time, I meant while I was still young.
I think many young people fear running out of time. Even when travelling, we race around foreign cities and towns trying to do and see as much as possible. Then we feel guilty if we take a break, and it feels unnatural to slow down. Often, we barely really “see” where we are anyway. It’s like we feel that we are stuck in a crazy race to do everything while we are young, as if youth is a concrete concept and its expiration means we kiss goodbye our days of freely exploring the globe to embrace a life of office jobs and gym memberships.
But since considering my conversation with my new farmer friends, I have arrived at the conclusion that this is utter bullshit. Those farmers sat there in their matching flannelettes and oversized hiking boots with the biggest goofy grins on their face. They were so happy.
“I’ve been nowhere! And I feel so rushed!” my whiny self moaned, completely ignoring the reality that at the time I was in fact travelling.
“We never stepped foot out of Australia until we were 42,” the woman insisted.
“Aaah, yes. We had a great pea yield that year,” her husband added.
“We backpacked through Europe and saw everything we wanted to see.”
“It’s okay to take your time.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in a rush to go everywhere and see everything, but what’s the point if I’m not really there? Only now am I starting to feel comfortable with slowing down. I’m choosing to relish in days abroad where I do nothing because I truly have all the time in the world. I’m at peace with the fact that if I don’t make it to India in my 20s, my ship hasn’t sailed. Travelling in later life is no less legitimate or valuable as it is when I don’t have wrinkles. It’s okay to take it easy, to take it slow. Appreciating where I am when I’m there is infinitely more satisfying than worrying about the amount of time I have left to go somewhere else.
And all it took me to realise this was a couple of zucchini and pea farmers and an evening in the middle of nowhere.
Cover by Nicole Harrington