The top 10 New Year’s resolutions hardly ever change. Lose weight. Exercise more. Travel. Live life to the fullest. Read more. Write that novel you’ve been carrying within your heart for so long.
And yet, and yet. These resolutions quickly fall by the wayside. By February, our wild longings of late December are a distant memory. Our lives are once more taken over by the pressure to save time, even as time to keep our resolutions runs through our fingers.
The experts say that the trick is not to try and save time but to create it. Saving time is about shaving minutes off your daily tasks. Making time is more creative.
Do you really want to write that novel about the rich crazy tapestry that is contemporary Malta? Many busy people who wrote their first novels while holding down a full-time job did it while using public transport.
The bestselling writer John Le Carré wrote his first novel on his morning commute to the office. His train-ride lasted around 90 minutes and that is when he squeezed in all his writing.
Jeffrey Deaver wrote some of his bestselling crime novels while travelling to his Wall Street firm. There is something about train and bus schedules, as well as the rhythmic movement of the vehicle, that is conducive to writing. Part of it may be the moving scenery seen through the windows – a palimpsest of landscapes and distant figures, triggering memories and fantasy. But there’s more.
Changing the way you move around Malta will also change the way you think about the country and your life
The early Communist poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky, advised all aspiring modern poets to ride a bus if they wanted to learn the rhythms of modern life: the fits and starts, the shaking, the braking, the jolts.
And there is no better gallery of humanity in Malta than on a bus, with the jostling together of different types, reluctantly sharing their space. Where better to find the characters and inspirations for your plots than to imagine where your fellow passengers are coming from and going to?
If you don’t want to write, of course, you can always listen to an audiobook or that language tape.
January is the best time to begin institute this bus habit. Statistically, January is the kindest month for bus punctuality in Malta.
Or is your resolution to travel more? Does it seem impossible given family commitments, or expense, or simply lack of sufficient leave? There is an alternative solution that, increasingly, small groups of friends in Malta are taking up.
These groups have taken up cycling. They get together every weekend or once a month, and cycle to a different town – the more ‘exotic’ the better. Once they arrive, they treat themselves to hot tea in a glass, or a stiffer drink, at the local band club or każin.
What these people have remembered is that to travel is more than just to get to a place. Travelling is also about how to get there – the cameraderie, the jokes, the sense of accomplishment. All the great travel books are about the journey, not the destination.
And few journeys get more interesting than a tour of Malta, the many Maltas that lie beyond our immediate comfort zone. A journey becomes like a treasure hunt.
As for the risks, there is strength in numbers. There is visibility. And there is planning – every group of friends has the specialist in map-reading, who can discern the unusual route through interconnected side-streets off the main roads.
Let’s not forget the most infamous resolution: shedding weight. That more exercise is part of the solution, apart from healthy eating, is obvious. But how to make time for it?
Some of the most practical advice has come from Valter Longo, a world expert on longevity (which he understands to mean living to over 100 years old). He suggests that one should adopt a simple rule: on the weekend, all errands should (as much as possible) be conducted by walking.
The sense of purpose will help you walk with determination and vigour. The minutes will add up. It’s good to remember that you only need to walk vigorously for around 60 minutes to burn off the calories of a bar of milk chocolate.
Changing the way you move around Malta will also change the way you think about the country and your life. You will find yourself travelling not just outward but also inward, into the depths of memory and the farther reaches of imagination.
Nicole Klaesener-Metzner is manager for the Aegle Project Foundation, a non-profit initiative with the mission to advance quality of life through improved mobility.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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