Category Archives: New run

Liebster Award – 11 surprising answers, 5 excellent bloggers

The team of the great surf- and travelblog saltinmyhair was so kind to nominate me for the Liebster Award (“favourite blog award”). Thanks a lot! With that, they asked my 11 questions which I am going to answer in a minute. But what is the Liebster Award actually and how does it work?

The Liebster Award is passed forward from blog to blog for the reason of connecting and getting to know new blogs. Great thing! 11 questions are asked and after having answered them, the award is passed on again to different new blogs with new questions.

So these are the questions I got and my answers:

1. What drives you forward?  My natural curiosity to see places I couldn’t dream of to be real and to meet people whose lifestyle I couldn’t imagine before. My longing to feel, what I have never felt before, to be surprised and challenged in my mind by things that are far apart from the “norms” I know.

2.  What is your favourite post?  It’s China – a parallel universe. After many strange feelings for this fascinating country and not knowing how to define the reasons for it I finally managed satisfyingly to get it black on white. I like it to have some founded (political) criticism – or at least reflection – in posts, which is not often with me but worked quite well with China.

3. At which spot on earth did you think “this is paradise?”  It’s hard to admit (because I wasn’t totally convinced from Thailand as travel-destination and we disliked the existing tourist-patterns for everything) but it was on a small Thai island on the west coast, named Koh Phayam. Palms, fine sand beaches, warm crystal-clear water, colorful jungle bursting with life, very few people and a hut next to a beach bar with fresh-fruit-yoghurt, Phad Thai, beer and a kayak rental! It was a place where everything was given to feel comfy and not to worry about anything.

4. Which languages do you speak?  Unfortunately my laziness overtakes my motivation when I get to the point in a language, where I can make myself very basically understood and understand the other. I always feel it’s enough when I know the most important nouns, verbs, adjectives, one simple past, simple future and just put it all together.  That’s what it’s like with my Spanish and French. (I am a little more eager on English.) On our trip through Kyrgyzstan I learned a few basic words of Russian and I would like to continue learning it until my personal level of “making myself understood” is reached.

5. Flip Flops or Trekking boots and why?  Definitely Flip Flops! (If not even bare feet.) Trekking boots get smelly and wet in rain and make me a lot of blisters. And they’re heavy. I experienced that even worst paths can be walked carefully in Flip Flops or bare feet. (Watch how the locals do it!)

6. What is your treatment against homesickness?  a) If it’s possible: connect with back home. Skype with a friend, post a blog or read facebook posts of friends. Otherwise b) distract myself and get drunk with locals or fellow travellers. c) If alone in the wilderness: Make fun of myself. Sing stupid made-up songs about my feelings in another language flavored with a saxonian accent and record it on cam, look at it and laugh my ass off. Or, always welcome: Make friends with little animals or plants and talk to them.

7. Did you ever get stuck in one place?  Quite often! Mostly because of laziness after exhaustive traveling. I got stuck in Goa for a month because it was just too convenient after two months of Indian hustle-bustle and again in Kashgar, China, for two weeks, almost not leaving the hostel, because of the security, comfort and the laziness after 9 months on the road, just enjoying internet, fellow travellers, story-sharing and no need to rush on and “having” to see new things.

8. What was the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten on a journey?  It was probably the dog we accidentally had in Yangshuo for breakfast because of the lack of common vocabulary. In China we often just pointed at pictures of meals that looked good. And although the restaurant owner was reassuringly asking whether we really wanted that dish, we were only making an effort to understand what it was about, when the unusually high bill came. Some young passing-by Chinese guys took the time to stop and translate because we were loudly complaining about the price. In the end the surprising answer was ”Well, it is that expensive, because dog is that expensive…” After the meat had already been really disgusting and chewy so we had to leave half of it (what we NEVER do), that information really turned our stomachs.

9. What was your most impressing encounter while travelling?  It’s really hard to tell. Impossible in fact. I remember, letting different faces of people I met slide in front of my eyes, that I very, very often thought: This person – his lifestyle, his story, his responsibility – is so impressive! In a way, most of the encounters left me baffled and in deep thinking.

One of them was surely our friend in Nyaung U, Bagan, Myanmar, whom we met down by the river when the sun was rising beautifully behind thick haze. We shared not a single word of the same language, but he was really patient and generous. Living in a tiny straw-hut with his three children and wife, he let us store our luggage in the hut and promised to take care of it (again: wordless) while we were looking around. After he had fetched us with gestures from the village square for dinner, he and his family were rapidly improvising a pure luxury dinner-set: They were getting chairs and pillows (sitting on the floor or standing themselves), installed a light bulb out of nowhere and provided a reach traditional meal while they were not eating themselves but smiling about our happiness and giving….

Another impressive encounter was our selfless friend Mr. Li in Guangzhou, who lend us bikes and showed us around town for two days, inviting us for dinner, insisting on paying all the bills, and revealing after we had got to known him a little better, that he had another “hidden” child, living with his relatives some hundred miles away, because of the strict one-child-law in China. He showed us a video of his hidden daughter, sighing, because despite he and his wife were working fulltime they couldn’t afford to pay off the government for the second child, which is about 40.000 Euros.

We met many “children” in Kyrgyzstan working as responsible shepherds already, looking after siblings and earning money for the family, having big dreams in their heads. So did many youngsters in India, working hard, selling, making business, being clever and focused and very responsible at a very early age. There were woman with heavy burdens of poverty, responsibility and husbands they didn’t love, sometimes couldn’t even stand but they never complained and never neglected their responsibilities.

And then there is our friend Alek Leka, who is traveling the world on his bicycle since 20 years. Living on nothing, not having a bank account, nor insurance but being one of the happiest and funny and wise guys I’ve met.

10. Where is your “secret spot” in Europe?  In the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands; in its history and mystery. Somewhere between… nah, I wouldn’t tell 🙂

11. Catchword “Eco-tourism”: Do you travel thinking about sustainability?  Sure whenever it’s possible we rather leave kids with a repair-kit for their bike than with a handful of candies. Eco-tourism is a delicate topic. It’s much talked-about and definitely difficult to place oneself in it. When it is possible, we rather take a bus or bike than a plane. But we are no Messiahs – when the duration and expenses of an overland-journey overdo the price of a flight by far, we still take the flight. We always eat at small unknown places, stay in the hidden hostel and don’t necessarily follow the number one recommendations of the lonely planet, so at least we naturally spread the money around community.

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For the next Liebster Award I nominate Alek Leka of aroundtheworldnomad, Helen of Helenstakeon, Sara & Matthieu of aveloversl’orient, Thom of ThomsTravelTime and Stefanie of Kurzvordersonne.

The questions are:

  1. Three places you want to travel (no matter if realistic or not)?
  2. Which feeling does blogging give you?
  3. What differs you from others?
  4. What is always with you on journeys?
  5. How important are travel-companions to you and why?
  6. Something you wouldn’t recommend anyone to do?
  7. A situation you doubted to be real.
  8. What are you doing while traveling when you want to withdraw and switch-off?
  9. How is your relation of planning and spontaneity while traveling?
  10. Did anyone ever say anything to you about yourself on a journey, that is still lasting until today; that changed concepts about yourself?
  11. Something you experienced on a journey that you decided to never forget.

 

And the “rules” for enjoying and getting connected are:

  1. Show on your blog that you’re taking part in the Liebster Award.
  2. Name the person who nominated you and link him.
  3. Answer the 11 questions.
  4. Nominate another 5-11 people for the Liebster Award.
  5. Create 11 new questions for the nominated bloggers.
  6. Write this rules in your Liebster-Award-post.
  7. Inform your nominated bloggers about this post and their nomination.

On the run 1: War of the Worlds

Possessing, not possessing. Settling, wandering. Security, adventure: Responsibility and binding – constraints of too much to care about, or freedom and fighting – constraints of too little to live carefree. What is easier? What makes happier?

Some days I only wanna run. From my habits, my laziness, the boredom, the dullness, my fears. From my history, my fate, my existence. From convictions. Rules. Routines. Expectations. Far, far away!

“Feeling free” – after basic human rights are fulfilled, the further necessary extend of that tickling feeling is discussable. It’s relative, it’s about hedonism, it’s about sense. We are, all, already relatively free – the standard westerner with standard wealth. Has a bloody lot of options. So I don’t want to complain, feeling silly doing so. But, still, somehow everything does not feel right! Someone close to me recently just nailed it and illuminated me with the discomforting truth: I still haven’t arrived yet from that big journey which changed everything. I am still staggering between life-concepts of there and here. Because such a trip does change everything. It changes you in a way you can’t explain. It changes your mind in a way that doesn’t make sense in our world. You can hardly explain the feelings you had in single situations during that trip, so how could you ever explain the conglomerate of “weird” feelings that stick to you afterwards? And suddenly you don’t know any more what is meant to be your way, your home, your meaning of life. You feel misunderstood and question yourself. What is reality? What is real? What is important? And what is you?

It might be tough to acclimatize to a strange culture. But after having immersed into several others, that are so far apart from your own, it might be the hardest to acclimatize to your own culture again. Seems to be the strangest. In this weird world of ours (freaking weird norms, expectations and demands!) people seriously are complaining because the decoration on their cocktail is made from the wrong fruit! (“But it said pineapple on the menu…”! “Yes dear, you are right. Sorry I forgot. In this world you have the right to get what you paid for. I’ll get you a new cocktail in a sec and, of course, sorry for your inconvenience, it’s on the house.” Epilogue: She sips it, quiet now, her red-colored lips tight around the black straw, but she still does not seem happy…) In the evening (9pm, finally home, daylight long gone, macaroni in the microwave) you get short-time-sentimental over a documentary about a small boy in a favela of El Salvador, smiling with pure, genuine joy, because he got out of the crimes of the merciless drug scene just by starting Capuera lessons that took him to a new environment! And the next morning you put the papers away (full of things, real things, you can’t even imagine but wished you never heard them) and you are supposed, expected, to just snap back to our world of smartphones, paperwork, enormous bills and leftovers again with a smile on your face – being so lucky in life – just sighing occasionally that you can’t save the world anyway.

Yes, our life is, for most parts, not comparable to that of billions of other people (really lucky, huh? But is that actually true?) And yes, on our own, trapped in daily-life-routines, no one of us can save the world. But as well as I sometimes feel far apart from the world I am currently living in, I feel part of it all, I feel trapped in it, I feel responsible. I feel pain. For things we are collectively doing wrong. Or not doing at all. I do feel guilty and unhappy and as much as I want to do things differently, I feel I can’t, I don’t know how, so I just want to run away. To the favelas, to the boy, to something that makes real sense.

It’s about fucking turning-time. (We all carrying at least a piece of that awareness.) And – for I haven’t arrived yet anyway – I don’t feel right about joining in again into some sort of life I do not totally agree with its terms of use…

 

The feeling of the Patiala

Everything starts with the right trousers.

One year, four months and ten days after I have bought my pair of Patialas (extremely wide Indian trousers worn under a Punjab dress) in a tiny shop  in Varanasi – busting with colorful fabrics and smelling smoothly of incense sticks – I have worn them for the first time today. And suddenly it all came back to me – the heartily smiles, the overwhelming noises, the exciting confusion of being thrown into a totally strange world with countless details to absorb. And suddenly I knew I would travel again. Soon!

When you wear such trousers, you feel as free as wearing nothing. You feel so feminine like the whole world would fall down to your knees. You feel so exotic like everyone was looking up to you. You feel so safe, you know, whatever you are going to do will be the right thing. You feel so cool as if you have seen the whole world already and you feel so ready for the whole world that nothing can stop you.

Of course I had considered another trip already. But the feeling of the Patiala had given me what I needed: The feeling of pure freedom that felt totally right. And the soothing conviction that it was a good decision when doubts where on the forehand.

So thanks to this amazing piece of purple Indian fabric I will be on the road again, starting on 17th of July in the direction of Hungary to the Ozora festival, with my Patiala of course. Having no idea where this trip might end I do not claim it isn’t a run from something I haven’t understood yet. Because it certainly is. I am on the run. But it is very likely I will some when end up somewhere I will feel happy. Because only when you move you can arrive at the right place.

Close to the meaning of life

Ants exist because someone has to milk the lice. Worms are there so the plants have a fluffy ground and the rain can drain. Deer walk about for there is some grassland left without forest suffocating all the fragile plants closer the ground and the wolves don’t starve.

Even the stones are there to provide the moss and plaits a base, to challenge the down-coming water in it’s run and to save some precious warmth for the lizard. The grass grows to feed the cattle and to give the ticks a spring board to their victims. Trees grow and fall and rotten and become rich soil again… Ok, admittedly, all of this is a philosophical or a question of belief. But everything at least seems to have a working order! What in hell is the meaning of the mankind? What is our reason, our excuse for being? What are we supposed to contribute?

I would love to send a questionnaire around the world to thousands of different people with different lives and read all the diverse opinions of this maybe most interesting and yet most difficult question of our existence. What answers would you get? I bet a list from A to Z! Maybe starting with “we exist to amuse ourselves”, “to become rich” and “we are made to form the world” or “to save the world”.. I have lost myself in that question long ago and keep struggling with the sense of human and my personal existence.

But there is a growing number of other people nowadays asking the same question. Since we don’t have to worry about surviving anymore but about the size of our TV and the best restaurant to eat at, we do have too many choices of everything – what to do, buy, think, become… Since we are let to decide for ourselves and not been decided about (yes, suddenly we are actively responsible!) by the nature, fate, the church, the parents or community which we were not long ago so dependent on, the meaning of our individual lives became blurry.

I think today two kind of people might be happy: those who don’t ask themselves that question and those who have asked it themselves long and insistent enough to eventually find wisdom in it. All others, I believe, must sometimes feel the same slight melancholy pain I do of that hidden and unanswered question. When they gasp for breath and realize people are just running about, chasing vague aims they don’t even know, feeling the need to achieve something the norms prescribe while they are distracted by things that promise a happier, more fulfilled life though those just pursue to push the nonsense they don’t need still in the hope to gain something they think they want.

When you turn your head towards nature it’s obvious that between birth and dead every living creature was given the duty to do certain useful things to justify it’s existence. What do we actually contribute to the world? What are we supposed to do? Some people would say they do useful things like they are involved with charity, help other people or they pay for reafforestation or things like that. Those things are good, no doubt, but they are admittedly only a compensation for what others or we ourselves have done bad before ergo should be naturally and not an achievement to pride oneself with. Those things are a syndrome of our modern society but no answer to the question for the reason of our existence. And unfortunately I can’t please you with the answer.

But back to the survival. What about living to survive? Since that is basically the main aim of every living creature there must lay some answer in that. I have had a light bulb moment recently while camping in Scotland how at least to kill the worry about the meaning of life. I already saw how it works many times in Asia and now really felt it for myself.

It’s really simple: When you are busy with surviving, the gnawing but obviously luxury question for meaning doesn’t exist.  For us – the standard westernized person – it is quite a while ago that we seriously had to concern ourselves with surviving. To concern ourselves with an outcome at the end of the day that would strictly and mercilessly decide about we living or dying. Hunger, cold, danger or illness. For many, many other people on this planet it is still a daily reality. When you have to basically work all day just to survive on a human level you don’t ask for another sense because that is the sense. Providing a dry, warm and safe sleeping place for yourself or even children, managing to have enough and warm food and warm, fresh clothes the next day keeps so many (predominantly) woman around the world busy permanently as a full-time job. They don’t have all the luxury we do, they can’t go to ALDI buy ready meals, stuff the washing machine with dirty clothes and put the children into day-care so they have some leisure time. They have to work really hard for all that and when they’re finished at the end of the day they can be seriously proud of themselves because it’s a bloody hard days work. Do you think they ask for another meaning in life?

So all that came back to me when I was camping some days in the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands – often twelve miles each direction to the next house, human, civilization. The weather is tough there in early May and I was fighting permanent rain, wind and cold. It took me some hours per day to pack or set up my tent and stuff properly, to prepare it against the heavy wind and wet from above and underneath. When that was done, depending on the distance I had walked that day and the spot I’d found, the preparation of food was difficult sometimes. Drinking water was to fetch from far, gnawing hunger and difficult weather conditions made it often a laborious act to eventually get some by then desperately needed food. I was wrapping up in my sleeping bag long before nightfall, exhausted, because when you don’t live in the comfort of a house warmth and light are rare goods and you don’t expect anything exciting to happen anyway (like I often do at home at 4 a.m. lurking around unsatisfied for something on facebook). But I felt truly happy because everything I had done that day had been absolutely necessary and therefore had been meaningful. I didn’t had to worry whether I did the right things or not, because I only did what I had to do and if it worked, I did it right. No questioned decisions, no struggles, no regrets.

I have thought about what is really meaningful in my life often in those early nights between those snow-capped mountains hiding myself very basically from the reckless whether with nothing to do. It came to me that feeling and enjoying those very moments were the answer. Being able to lay there in all needed comfort and satisfied with no further wishes. When I get close to nature and far from all the unimportant stuff of civilization I get very close to my basic needs. And I feel very clearly what it does not take to be happy. Not the nice flat, not the good beer, not the pretty skirt and not even the beach-holiday. In some conditions being able to “survive” the day is a proper reason to feel sense. I wished it could always be like this! Freed of options, freed of expectations, freed of temptations! I’d be happy and satisfied without even knowing the cause of the human being.