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There are lots of cute, new-agey sayings about life’s speed bumps, but somehow I never really thought about their relevance until my husband Ron totaled a borrowed car on a monstrous speed bump in a small Spanish town. It’s not like we weren’t looking. I was looking at my GPS. Ron was staring at a big painting of a tomato on a packing plant to the left. There had been no speed bumps up to that moment. I looked up but didn’t even have enough time to think the words, “Look out!” let alone say them before the crunching sound of the oil case? Motor? And of course, being oblivious to the possibility that a car could have such low suspension, we drove down the highway, leaving a trail of oil, till the car died. Lessons learned? Never accept gifts from strangers. Pay attention to the road ahead. Never assume your husband is paying attention. (Which really, I should have known after 40 years don’t you think?)

Spain is filled with roundabouts.

We have recovered from our shock (though we still don’t know the outcome as of this writing) and rented a car to travel a bit. In our air bnb in Ronda, there was a Nespresso knock off for coffee with some of those coffee pods. We managed to destroy two pods, and argue for about a half hour about how the damn thing works before we finally gave up on the machine and made coffee in an old espresso pot. I’m positive there’s nothing wrong with the machine. But we had reached our technological Peter Principle – our personal level of incompetence in this Brave New World. Lessons learned? Not every machine is a time saver. When in doubt, Google the manual. (It had actually never occurred to either one of us that that was an option.)

Spain is filled with roundabouts. Mrs. GPS often says to take the second exit, or the third exit, when it’s not clear whether a certain road is an exit or just an afterthought. Or even that this roundabout exists in her map plan. During those moments, which are numerous, Ron and I ride around and around the roundabout because if we choose the wrong exit, we end up (so far) on a highway where we can’t get off, crossing a bridge with no turn around, and in a cow pasture. Ron says we can relax as we circle, considering our options. I feel like a crazy person trying to choose what’s behind door number 3. I like to think taking the wrong exit will lead to other adventures, but so far, just a lot of honking horns as we panic and listen to Mrs. GPS say, “Head Northeast on Calle, head south, make a u turn, make a sharp left, re-routing.” Lessons learned? Sometimes it’s better to go in circles than to jump to conclusions.

On January 1, 2017, I made a resolution that I would travel to Spain for six weeks this year. It’s my 65th year on this planet and although I’m not a fan of the “bucket list” idea, I did feel that it’s time to re-examine my priorities. I don’t know about other people, but for years, I would hear myself say things like, “I love Spain! I definitely plan to go back and spend time there. I was there 10 years ago. 20 years ago. 30 years ago. 40 years ago.” When I counted back, I realized I had been saying I’d like to spend time in Spain for 45 years. Hillel the Elder said over 2000 years ago:
“If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” In other words, what the heck was I waiting for?

Some people say there’s no point in traveling for wisdom, that if you look inside, you will find all you need. But I have found that I need the shock of the unexpected speed bump, the moment of admitted incompetence and the infinity of choice at the roundabout to grow new neurons. Moshe Feldenkrais had a saying about his method, that it was intended to help people “realize their avowed and unavowed dreams.” Here I’ve been teaching this for 25 years, and yet, I still hadn’t made it back to Spain! (OK, I was there a couple of years ago, but it was for work – not the same thing by any means!)

As we walked through the streets of Seville, (24,537 steps in one day according to my trusty iphone app) I watched Ron grow younger and younger. He had become a cranky, old man with swollen ankles and painful varicose veins, constantly complaining about back pain and fatigue. But camera in hand, he became a man on fire, dragging me (almost literally) from Cathedral to moonscape to the Plaza de España, till it was me almost in tears and delirious with fatigue, begging for a place to stop for dinner. And if I hadn’t followed his whims, gotten exhausted, then found myself wanting to scream at the thousands of tourists, bad mimes, wanna-be flamenco singers and immigrants selling tissues, (Tissues! Every stoplight, every tapas bar, there they are, selling 10 packs of tissues. As if perhaps in the last block, we suddenly realized we needed tissues. They are more ubiquitous than Starbucks) we probably would not have ducked into a quiet restaurant with black walls and red velvet drapes that served the most exquisite tapas. This morning he informed me that his legs are looking better than they have in years. Heck, that in itself was worth the trip.

I see how quickly we can go back to our habits. We get Netflix no problem, and we’ve mastered the European stove. We even have a cat who moved in with us – just like home, he sits at my feet when I meditate. But who knows? I still have a month to go, including a trip to Barcelona, where a revolution is brewing. What kind of learning will take place and how will that help form my plans for next year’s adventures?

When not facing her foibles, Lavinia helps others live the life they want teaching the Feldenkrais Method and much more.

Lavinia Plonka
Written by Lavinia Plonka