I am not anti-social, but more often than not, I relish to be alone.
While most people take being “alone” as solitude or loneliness, it is not. At least, it does not have the same negative connotation as its cousins.
Being alone isn’t bad if it is a deliberate choice. On the other hand, it can be healthy and something we all must have more of.
As a writer, being alone is a part of the trade. But if I want to have a temporary respite from it, I do either of two things: spend an evening in an island beach resort or take a long drive.
I did the latter two Sundays ago by driving north of Cebu, then turned west towards the towns Tabuelan, Tuburan, Asturias, and Balamban.
I started off at 6:30 am and, 242 kms and 9 hours later, was back home, tired and hungry but joyful for having fulfilled another item on my bucket list.
Long drives are physically demanding, but a lot cheaper than flying somewhere, and each has different things to offer, yet gratifying to mind and soul in very much the same way.
Benefits of long drives:
I take long drives to scratch an itch – the itch of hitting the road and breeze through places I’ve never been to before, punctuated by short breaks to stretch, eat, talk to people and take pictures.
These apparently senseless way to spend a day are beneficial the following ways:
1. It is fun:
Doing something outside of your routine is fun. Being out there with nothing to care about is fun, and living out the things you want to do is fun.
To be in a strange place, talking to people you haven’t met before, nor will ever meet again, is fun.
There are risks, of course. But they make long drives even more fun. Calculated risks test your mettle, your resourcefulness, and your ability to survive in unfamiliar conditions.
2. Relieves mental fatigue:
Most people relate fatigue with physical fatigue. It is rarely mentioned when people feel tired, sluggish and drowsy for no apparent reason.
Physical fatigue is done with after a few hours of sleep. Mental fatigue is more difficult to handle because it has different symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness and feelings of lethargy without any reason.
It’s like a brain-crash. You lose interest in doing anything because your mental processes freeze.
Mental fatigue is often caused by medical issues. But if you are healthy, yet feel its symptoms, take a long drive before it becomes one.
Long drives relax your brain and allow it to sort the kinks that are keeping it from functioning properly.
3. Informative and educational:
Long drives provide a wealth of information along the way. Some are funny, strange, and even worrisome like when I lost one of my bakes in the first town I passed through.
Luckily, I was led to a mechanic who condemned my rear right wheel brake. He did a marvelous job that I was able to go on my journey with three brakes functioning.
I love to take photos of street scenes and talk to people in every stop. The things you learn from them may not be useful, but getting connected with others is an excellent mental exercise.
The Filipinos are a friendly lot, bordering on being over-felicitous. They never pass the opportunity of making strangers feel at home.
This is probably due to his strong religious culture as manifested by the presence of a church in every town, no matter how small.
4. It beats boredom:
Aside from the itch to hit the road, getting away from boredom is another reason why I often take long drives.
The nemesis of live-alone seniors is to be cooped up in the same four walls of home day-after-day. While the home may be where the heart is, after a while, it can feel like a cage.
You see the same thing, smell the same thing, feel the same thing. Everything is the same making your world look like an empty box of gray.
Before it drives you nuts, get in your car and drive wherever you want to go.
The feeling is liberating. To feel the gust of wind against your face is therapeutic. To see different colors swirling around you, different songs of the birds, and hear the waves hit the shore are an excellent way of breaking the humdrum of home.
5. Gives you control of yourself:
My friends find my solo long drives weird. They think it rather dangerous, if not boring.
But that is the whole point of being alone – to be free from the influences and hindrances a companion would certainly cause.
Solo long drives give you total control of yourself, i.e., when to start or stop, or go to a toilet to pee; you can eat wherever and whatever you want without having to discuss the matter with someone.
You can take your own pace and not be stressed along the way.
It is the only time where you can entirely have a space of your own without having to consider other’s thoughts, ideas, or opinions. There is absolutely no disagreement or comprises if you go solo
Should you, at your age, drive? Why not
Though there is a running debate whether elderly people should drive or not, if you still can, you should.
Age does affect our vision, our responses, our sense of direction and many other medical conditions that limit a senior’s ability to handle the physical demands of long drives, but they should not deter you from giving it a try if you can still get behind the wheel.
Today is the time of doing something different, something exciting and something you may not have done before, or ever will.
To make it safer, get a medical clearance before hitting the road and turn on your smartphone’s GPS to be constantly connected with your loved ones.
During my drive, I texted my daughter in each town I was in – even my brake problem.
Please share with others so other seniors can appreciate the joys and benefits of long drives.