I love road trips. I get that from my dad. He was up for a road trip anytime…anywhere. When we headed out on vacations he would be sure to stop at points of interest or significant landmarks along the way. I'm sure part of it was to get us out of the car for a while, but the other was the history lesson represented by a marker of some kind.
We've shared much laughter in the years since. How far would he drive so we could see a unique rock formation or an unusual waterfall; a solar energy station or a mud hut? We would sometimes leave the beaten path to find curious sights. I am so thankful for that. It serves as a reminder to stop and see what else is on the way, not just getting to the destination.
How far would you travel to see a hockey tournament? Dinosaur bones? A castle? It's unique to each of us. What about a book store? My sister told me about one located an hour and a half from where I live she thinks we should check out this summer. Would you drive more than an hour to see a bookstore?
What if you change the question and ask instead, how far are you willing to walk to see what you want to see? Or, like millions around the world, how far are you willing to walk just to supply a basic need? Like water.
The average distance people walk for water is 6 kilometers. In some countries it's a shorter trek, other places much longer, averaging out to 6 km around the globe. Each day more than 200 million hours are spent walking to collect water. Each and every day. Just give that a moment to sink in. An equally sobering thought is that the water collected is often not clean.
There are a lot of people in our part of the world who set a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day. It's a great target for health and fitness, and those who hit the mark are likely walking 7 – 8 km. So I set out one evening thinking just about 6 km.
I put on my comfy walking shoes and headed out. I walked on a good surface carrying little more than the device tracking my steps, knowing I was on a safe route and that waiting for me back home was a plenteous supply of fresh water and a tray of ice cubes to quench the thirst I might work up.
My experience bears little resemblance to the 14 million women who head out to collect water for their families. Barefoot, or in some type of sandal, they climb up hills or over rocks, they have an eye out for dangerous creatures, and then when they arrive they fill their container and begin the trek back, but now carrying 20 liters of water. More than once a day.
My dad passed away when I was only 18 years old. I wish I could have had more time with him, learned more from him, and had him as part of my life as an adult. Instead I cherish the love, the lessons, the memories…and yes, the road trips…particularly to those places that at first aren't easily noticed. The ones where you have to go looking to find what is unique or rare, or to see what was right in front of us that we might otherwise have just driven by and not taken a moment to look at.
Some sights are all too common, but if they are not the ones we want to see, it is easy to act as if they're not there. If I don't see them I don't have to think about the 16,000 children that die every day from hunger-related causes. Or the three billion people who live on less than $2.50/day. Or the women who have to hike to find a source of water to care for their families.
We drove a lot of hours and walked a lot of steps in seeing interesting and fun places. For that I am very grateful. But perhaps it's a walk to the tap that should give me even greater cause to stop and ask myself how far I'd be willing to walk for this. That's my outlook.