Today, Saturday 2nd of May 2020, people in Spain were finally free to go out and practise a not-physical-touch sports e.g. running, walking, cycling, hiking. However, there were conditions that we all must have obeyed, but that human nature and big cities over population made it difficult let alone realistic to follow.
A week ago kids up to 14 years old were allowed to go out and play in the streets accompanied by an adult. As many people expected parents and kids did not obeyed the government rules and social distancing was in most cases not present. Hence, many people, including myself, were making fun of videos and pictures shared on social media showing how kids and adults (some of them alone with no kids) were behaving and giving “the wrong” example. Yet, people saw it coming after being lockdown for over a month, because it is our human nature and like it or not the saying “the rules were meant to be broken“ was never more accurate despite having been in lockdown for over a month.
Set Them Free
Humans do not like to be inside a cage, because it is not in our nature. No animal in the animal kingdom likes to be inside a cage so next time you go to a zoo thing about the animal behind the bar or glass and put yourself in his or her role and try to feel how they must be feeling. Zoo animals must feel, and this is my personal opinion, just like we have been feeling since the lockdown. There have been many funny memes describing people inside the cage and the animals outside looking into our houses and live was until recently exactly like that, but the good news is that things will get better eventually.
The Spanish government took a long time to announce the end-of-lockdown timeline or process, and when they did this week the shared plan was as confusing as a three years old colourful drawing. On one hand, the plan did have a shape, just as the child’s drawing. On the other hand, it did have stages and just for the sake of this metaphor let’s say that the colours in the child’s drawing represented the stages.
You didn’t have to be the child’s parent to understand that even though your child told you that it was a plane, the drawing was so abstract that it was hard for you to see any wings or window shape.
The same happened with he government shared stages. It was a plan, but it was open to pretty much any possible interpretation. In case you were stopped by the police it would be up to the police to decide whether you were breaking the rules or not. Yes people complaint, debated, ranted, made fun, shared memes but in the end it is the plan we were given. I would like to make clear that I am a foreigner here so I do not get into politics.
The plan was shared on Wednesday, but as hours were passing by the rules were taking a different shape. First you could not run farther than X kilometres away from your house, then that turned into you could run wherever you wanted as long as it was your borough.
Another and perhaps the most relevant rule was the fact that adults and over 14 years old could practise sport from 06:00 till 10:00 and then from 20:00 till 23:00 but just once a day. One thing struck me though, I could not find any mention of people having to wear masks when going out.
First Run After Lockdown
Yesterday I went to bed at 22:00 because I was so excited to go for a run and I knew the streets were going to get packed quickly with people, not just runners or cyclists. I set the alarm at 05:00 and so I got up at that sharply. I was pumped and at 5:59 I was leaving the flat.
I started running and to my surprised I saw a girl running on the other side of the road. We ran pretty much all the way until the beach on different edges of the road. Then she slowed down her pace and I left her behind, I kept running and I slowly turned to torso to the left to see the sunrise colours. I stopped to see the beautiful sunrise colours. I checked the mobile and it was 6:14am, that meant that it was 15 minutes until sunrise. As I started getting closer to Barceloneta it was getting crowder and crowder by the minute and finally I saw the first police officers (not that I was scared but I was curious how they were going to control everyone) around the Mapfre towers (the tallest twin towers of Barcelona).
As I kept running I observed people and yes most of us were not wearing a mask and just a few were wearing it but taking it off as soon as they saw most people not wearing it. Some people were not even doing any sport at all but smoking, or using the e-scooter. I ran and ran and I spotted two girls by the sea doing a photoshoot, the sunrise colours and its reflection on the water made everything look surreal and the beauty of the sea hard to describe. I passed the W hotel and kept running even though there was a police ribbon that was tore down. Yet, no police were nearby so I kept running among many other people who were either running or cycling.
I got to the end of my run, 7.8kms, sat down and yes I shared pictures on IG, because why not. So far there were people but not too many or not as I expected.
After that decided to take 15 minutes to enjoy the sea, hear the waves, appreciate the smell of the ocean and see the sun rising in the horizon. It has been a long time.
Too Many Of Us
I started walking back home and as I was walking down the ramp next to the W Hotel I looked over the distance the amount of people running, and if I haven’t mentioned anything about social distancing until now is because honestly there were not enough people and the distance was kept most of the time. However, things on the way back were a completely different story. Barceloneta, was packed, over crowded, minimum distance was not kept, but in all fairness how could we have kept it? There was simply not enough space for all of us and not enough police to control us all. I would have run but my knees would not respond. I was starting to feel overwhelmed and anxious after seeing all these people, I started breathing faster and faster as if I had a short of breath. My meniscus were hurting so I kept walking trying to keep my distance but that was not possible until I turned left inside a side street and managed to avoid the crowd. Finally, I was out. I left the crowd behind. I started to walk slowly, I thought what had happened to me just a couple of minutes ago. I inhaled and exhaled deeply and kept walking.
Time for a Change
One of today’s consequence was my disappointment in ourselves but no because of we are not obeying the rules, but because we are too many living within a very small space (population density). We live in a place that presumably offers us all the things we need to be happy (bars, beach, supermarkets, restaurants, fashion shops, governmental offices, airport, landmarks) in life. Nevertheless, the truth which I hope many or at least some of us realise is that we do not need to live in big cities to be happy, but in order for that to happen a change of our mindset needs to happen.
The lockdown has changed me from a psychological point of you. It has made me realised or perhaps confirm something that I knew long time ago. I do not want to keep living in Barcelona or in any big city because of the setbacks that comes with them. Indeed, I am not asking people to think or embrace my way of thinking, this is my post-Covid-19 point of view. Still, I think some people, might have felt as overwhelmed as I felt when I saw all of us running as an stampede in the African savannah. Hence, I believe that in the coming months or years more and more people will move outside of the big cities in order to enjoy more space, freedom, quietness, nature and meet new people elsewhere, provided that the basics needs are met.
Time to Move Out(side of the big cities)
I could talk about many places in the world and I am sure that every single country in the world (except perhaps for Monaco, The Vatican, San Marino and Singapore) has a region(s) that has a good and efficient infrastructure and offers the opportunity for new people to relocate. In Spain for example there is a famous part called the Spain Lapland. In terms of size the Spain Lapland is twice the size of Belgium and it was population density of 7 people per km2, putting that in comparison to Barcelona where it is 16,000 people per km2 this region offers an opportunity, but that is not the only one, there are more places in the Spain that are empty or getting emptied due to elderly people dying and the young moving out. Once again, I understand that this is not ideal for some people but after COVID-19 I think and hope that more people will realise that this is indeed a future option for a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Companies & Remote Working
There is an important piece in this whole puzzle that is essential in order for people to leave big cities and that is that companies are more opened to accept and embrace remote working. If you look at e-commerce and most tech companies they have been able to keep trading and functioning without any problems. Moreover, if companies are aware of the importance of their employees happiness and its correlation with higher job satisfaction and performance, it is only logical for companies to rethink remote working at see it as an additional benefit to their employees. I think if one thing was 100% proven during the lockdown is the capabilities of some companies to adopt remote working straight away with little or no massive organisation changes within the company structure. In my view, this will not affect the company performance but in any case increase the company performance in no time. Sure, not everyone can work from home and some people actually like to go to an office, but if we take into consideration all the direct and indirect costs plus the environmental impact we create in order to go to an office the better option is to reduce office days and increase remote working days. In my view certain things must be accepted:
- Ask your employees what do they want, let them vote or choose what they prefer.
- Analyse what are the direct and indirect cost for you and your team and for your company.
- Slow adaptation, although after the compulsory remote working imposed by COVID-19 I think, tech companies employees have proven that it is perfectly possible. Old mindsets will have to be changed and adapt to the post-Covid19 era.
- Allow employees to live wherever they want provided they have an efficient internet connection.
- Physical team meetings can happen once a week in or outside the office premises. Team interaction or face2face meetings will still be important for our mental health and team spirit but not on a daily basis.
After today’s run I realised that my days in a big city are counted and when the move will happen is only a matter of time.