I’m still camped out in a rural corner of western Spain in a town called Almendralejo, and with the photography on hold for the last while, I decided to work on a new project in the little free time I have, one that doesn’t require a full on adventure to complete.
So, here was the plan, I was to stop some random people, some of whom were complete random strangers on the street, others were people who I invited for a coffee. The plan was to convince them to have their photo taken and to answer a deep philosophical question, the answer to which would be published. The idea was inspired by Tim Ferriss who often concludes his podcast episodes with several such quick-fire questions.
It’s a worthwhile exercise on so many levels, and the frequent ventures outside of one’s comfort zone trying to establish rapport with a complete stranger in a short period is no doubt beneficial. It was hard to convince some people to have their photograph taken and published, but generally when I threw the question to them, their expression immediately changed and they quickly came around. Some encounters lasted a few minutes, others 30 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by many of the answers, to some extent they all made me think, and one almost made me cry….
It’s another lesson if I needed reminding, that everyone has something to offer and teach, and knowing this can make any travel experience all the more fulfilling. The act of seeking it out is what can make living or travelling in a foreign country so rewarding. No matter how someone appears on the outside to our oftentimes judgmental nature, there is often a rich fertile landscape of experiences, stories and emotions within, and digging for these riches through thoughtful questions can be a hugely rewarding experience.
Sorry for the crappy photos, some were snapped on a phone, others at f6.3 on a sub-par lens, and, in my hour of need, my flash was 1500 km away in a wardrobe in Donegal…
If you had a large blank billboard and could put one message for the world on it, what would you put? and where would you put the billboard?
The message would be “The life of an animal is worth more than the man who mistreats it”.
I’d put it outside a bullfighting ring!
What is the worst advice that you see or hear being dispensed in the world?
When people tell me “don’t worry”. I mean it’s the most useless advise you can give. If I don’t worry I won’t take action. A little worry is needed to advance. To all those who ever want to tell me not to worry, stay by my side in silence and understand my situation. This will help me more.
If you were the President of Spain what is the first thing you would do?
All people should be treated equally by the law. The sister of the current king of Spain shouldn’t get preferential treatment, and should be sent to prison just as quickly as anyone else.
What is the biggest change you have seen in Almendralejo in your lifetime?
We had much less when I was young. For example, in September a tractor towing a trailer of grapes meant that a crowd of kids were chasing it down. Workers stayed up on the trailer with sticks to hit the children who tried to grab a bunch of grapes because they were starving. If you robbed grapes from the field, the Guardia Civil would batter you! The only way you could get grapes was to collect those which had fallen on the road from a trailer. If you were lucky enough to come across grapes on the road, you brought them home to your mother and that was dinner that night!
What is something you believe that other people think is crazy?
I think that our culture should have a ritual of sorts, a rite of passage as we move from adolescence to adulthood, like those which indigenous cultures have. There would be a lot less therapy required if we did this. Spain used to have such rituals, for example changes in your daily routine after a death in the family, but modern society has forgotten about this and hasn’t replaced it with anything. So many people are lost in pain because of this.
What advice would you give to your 20 year-old self?
Maybe to have shown more affection to my parents before they died. When they go you always think you could have shown them more affection, most of all to my mother. They were so good to me. And now with my own children I realise that I miss them not showing me affection, but I quickly remember that I too was once that way.
When you think of the word ‘successful’ who comes to mind and why?
Pablo Motos! because he loves what he does. I watch El Hormiguero every night and he is one of the happiest people I know. He is doing what he loves and he always gives me that impression, regardless of what he is talking about. It’s so important to love what you do. I love journalism and would love to host a show like this.
What is something you have changed your mind about in the last number of years, and why?
I used to work as a graphic designer and then one day in the town hall I saw an ad where they required someone to work with disabled kids. I applied on a whim and somehow ended up getting the job. I never imagined myself working with disabled kids and now I can’t imagine my life without them.
Despite their disabilities I now see them like anyone else. I see the good in them, and working with them really opened my mind to a whole new world. It’s us who put the limitations upon them. They can achieve much more than we give them credit for. I get emotional when I speak about them, they mean so much to me.