I hate stereotyping. As a victim of it myself, I try and always avoid pushing others into pre-built notions of what’s right and what isn’t. 

But with Texas, I couldn’t help it. 

When I learnt I’d be visiting Austin, Texas for a couple of weeks, I was expecting vast mounds of sand, and cowboy boots on every other street. Yet in the most spectacular way possible, the city proved me wrong. On my first day there, a colleague was gracious to take me along as he ran errands. Aside from being a hot city, Austin, I observed is a rather small town. With the river flowing through the city, it was quite easy for me to figure out what’s where.

Zilker Metropolitan Park
Zilker Metropolitan Park

For the love of public transportation, I chose to use the Austin bus service to explore the city. From where I stayed, the bus stop was a ten-minute walk away. Waiting for the bus wasn’t too bad—In no longer than five minutes, a bus trudged my way. Perching myself on a seat by the window, I gawked throughout that short ride at the city that was more green than I’d ever imagined it’d be. Trees and bushes lined the pavements, punctured on occasion by shops and buildings. About 20 minutes of slow riding later, I had to transfer to another route that’d take me to where I’d been wanting to visit first since I first heard about it from colleagues: Zilker Park and Botanical Garden. As soon as they heard I enjoyed parks and open green spaces, many people, from friends and colleagues, to even the passenger next to me in the flight, recommended the Zilker park. I couldn’t pass the opportunity.

And so I waited. With bated breath and mounting excitement, I stood at the bus stop for ten minutes. No sign of a bus. According to my online resources, the bus showed no signs of a delay. I was beginning to get restless when another passenger, travelling on the same route, came along sulking. Within two minutes of conversing with him, I realised the bus schedules are often a mess. Although most of them arrive on time, they aren’t as frequent as you’d like. Having waited for over 20 minutes, I gave up, and so did my co-passenger. It wasn’t a long walk, but it wasn’t a short one either. To make up for the disappointment, however, it was scenic and rather enjoyable.

Zilker Metropolitan Park
Casual Sunday at the Zilker Metropolitan Park

About 40 minutes later, a wave of green valley hit my eyes hard. Zilker Park is a 351-acre expanse of greenery like I’d never seen before. And the people of Austin knew its value, for there were families picnicking, owners change their dogs, young students practising soccer, and some adventurous kids climbing the rocks. II had a little adventure myself as a dog bounded at me with gnawing teeth. Within seconds, though, I knew he meant no harm and I was petting him as his owners walked over to apologise. 

It was a Sunday, a day spent well for all them. And as I observed them go about their life, I understood how much they’ve incorporated nature in their livelihood. In their opinion, there couldn’t be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and having seen families spend entire days whiling away on television, I would’t ever contend the Austin way of life.

Turning away from all that was difficult, but something else promised to be a much greater experience. 

Zilker Botanical Garden

Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical Garden

And what an experience that was.

Much like The Washington Park in Portland, this garden contains smaller sects, like a rose garden, Japanese Gardens, desert plants, waterfalls, streams, and a prehistoric garden. Texas Historical Commission has established exhibits too, a model of a classroom, as well as a Swedish log cabin and blacksmith shop to depict the lifestyle of the first Swedes of Texas. There’re also live demonstrations of the recycling process, the workings of solar energy, and a spiral garden. 

It’s these little things that depict people’s dedication towards making a cleaner environment. And as I walked into a large clearing with a massive spade thrust into the earth with a social message on it, I knew that it was all more than just talk. The population of Austin is taking steady steps, small though they are, to leave this earth better than the way we found it.

I lingered a little longer for the fresh air, glistening grass, and beautiful flowers, but when I left, peace reigned.

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