Recently I took my first flight after a very long 2020 (and part of 2021) full of different feelings. Last year everything and everyone changed. We lived a period of history where people spent weeks and months inside a box thinking about what next background in Zoom they should use. We will certainly remember it. No human contact became mainstream increasing loneliness, depression, illness among thousand of abnormal condition that negatively turned our world upside down. A massive disorder. We missed the noise around I have to admit. Today (crossing fingers) I see how everything is (very) slowly (and I hope carefully) healing and people are going out to talk face to face with whoever, planning trips, going to stadiums, events and so on. The noise is back and stronger than ever.

Who knows what's next. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions.
I wonder what we really learned during pandemic, what we really care about now. We wished noise again and it seems we have it now. Looking backward can help us forward. A crisis comes with the side effects and maybe there is an invisible threatening coming out. In a world full of uncertainties I would like to think everybody has one thing clear: mental health is NOW.

There's no mask for mental health.

Back to my flight. It was the starting point for a road trip of two weeks through the beautiful Mallorca. It was above expectation in a broad sense: stunning beaches, clear and transparent water, tasty food, sheltered coves, limestone mountains and stone-built villages. Speechless. Perfect place to find peace around the corner, although it was not always easy. I really had lovely moments even though I found myself avoiding crowded places, young....and kids. I don't know about you but if I want a moment of peace I need a really quiet spot wherever it is. By quiet I mean zero/low noise pollution. I don't want a noise cancelling device in my ears. I want to hear the sound of nature, the sound of my surroundings.
The truth is, in such wonderful and so popular place for tourism this is a big challenge. This happens in a millions of places around the globe, of course.
Even though I would come back a thousand of times, this situation made me think about it. The world is lacking of moments of pure stillness because people seem to need to fill the gaps with weather information.

😰 Noise is Harmful

I wonder how many people worry about "invisible" pain, injury or damage. It's well known along history that after significant events come a time and process of healing but it's also truth we have learning (for those optimistic who highlight the bright side on bad things). The idea of desert streets in big cities seems to be terrifying, like a zombies movie facing the end of world. But, is the silent really bad? is a quiet place sign of zombie or apocalypse? I would say on the contrary.
Noise pollution is an invisible danger. A silent killer. This is not new. But certainly it is something we rarely care.
Noise pollution causes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, annoyance, cognitive impairment, hearing impairment and tinnitus, and reduces quality of life, well being and mental health.
(Sources: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorder)

👂Listening first

The impact of noise pollution is big and very important but in addition to that I think we have an extra danger in front. The noise in all its flavours does not allow us to listen properly. Listen to people, listen to the environment and listen to ourselves clearly.

I think we as a society should learn to listen again and I believe the silence of nature is the right context to do it. The more we walk through a quiet place, the better we are going to listen.

“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything . . . It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”
― Gordon Hempton

🔊 The sound of silence

This experience made me think about my life and how noise and quiet affect me for the good and bad. I remember the first time I thought about it, a time when I truly listened to the sound of silence (and it was not the song by Simon & Garfunkel 😄).

Years ago I was in the south of Norway, in a place called Preikestolen, a very popular steep cliff with a stunning view. I enjoyed a lot to reach the top after hours of hiking (hard because of winter). The view among the fjords was a dream. But the picture on social networks does not reflect the full picture: crowded top of cliff, people speaking loudly, people worried for getting a good shot instead of enjoying and listening to the nature. For some people that place is a beautiful place for a picture but for others it is a place to find peace. Although I really really enjoyed the view I have to admit I felt a bit annoying and irritating. I wanted just silence for a moment. People like me don't be in such place everyday. I guess it is normal in places like this but it’s a shame. That day when coming back I got lost for a while (some signs were hidden by snow) and I ended up in a magical place between 2 mountains, trees fully covered with of snow where for first time I could hear the silence. Just the sound of silence. The nature was whispering and I loved it. I was full of joy. I turned down my camera, stayed quiet for a few minutes which seemed an eternity. I arrived at that spot hearing something and I left listening to the whole. A moment like this gives you  answers, thoughts, breath and peace we need from time to time.

🌳 Everybody needs quiet right now

Why on earth I can't find a quiet place easily? A place with only sound of nature.
Nowadays we can share a good picture from the right spot with our family and friends and they hardly can appreciate the moment. But today we can't share a quiet and healing experience easily. This is a missing piece out there.

Since then I aim to find quiet places wherever I go. At least for a while. It’s not easy though but I ran into a really good project called Quietparks, a non-profit committed to saving quiet for the benefit of all life. WHAT?. I loved them, I loved the idea, I loved everything. Quiet Parks International was formerly known as the One Square Inch of Silence Foundation.  They are encouraging the world to listen to nature to improve physical, mental and spiritual well being

“The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.”
— Robert Koch, 1905 Nobel Prize Winning Bacteriologist

💪 Preserve Quiet for Good

"We are losing the ability to listen the nature without noise pollution."
Matt Mikkelsen, Executive Director of Wilderness Quiet Parks.
The fight to preserve the last ‘quiet’ places on Earth - CNN Video
Noise pollution has a huge impact on humans and wildlife. This grassroots movement wants to protect natural environments from manmade noise.

Rarely I think about my heart rate, blood pressure, a minute ventilation. Truth is quiet is full of gifts to decrease anxiety and improved cognition, attention, reasoning, lower/reduction stress and increase engagement with green urban spaces. (source: benefits of quiet and nature)

🧘‍♂️ Closing Words

Stop talking and start listening.
Be Kind to Your Mind.
Preserve quiet.

📚 Sources

Quiet Parks International
A non-profit to preserve quiet for all life. We award quiet places, educate & research quiet & provide quiet experiences. #SaveQuiet by volunteering, donating, sponsoring & hosting a quiet experience.
One Square Inch
The fight to preserve the last ‘quiet’ places on Earth - CNN Video
Noise pollution has a huge impact on humans and wildlife. This grassroots movement wants to protect natural environments from manmade noise.
This Sound-Tracker Is on a Mission to Preserve Silence - Goodnet
Gordon Hempton says there are only 10 spots in the entire US void of human-made noise
Listening to Silence: Why We Must Protect the World’s Quiet Places
As more people push into once-remote areas, truly quiet spots — devoid of the noise of traffic or crowds of tourists — have become increasingly scarce. Now, a coalition of activists, scientists, and park officials are trying to preserve the last quiet places on the planet.


The invisible threat of noise pollution: How do we protect quiet?

Noise pollution as a silent killer

What Is Noise Pollution?