It was 1990 and my father, sister and myself took a trip to Berlin (I forgot why my mother couldn’t attend). It were exciting times. The wall had fallen only two months before and crossing to East Germany was only possible through several holes in the wall. The east was unlike anything I’d ever seen before: the houses looked like they were going to collapse, everything smelled terrible due to some (brown?) coal they used and the poor exhausts of the Trabi cars. Still the place bustled with energy and I couldn’t wait to discover it on my own.It was 1998 and I had just had the best year of my life. And it wasn’t in Berlin, but in Oxford. Together with great friends we had an amazing time. And suddenly I found myself looking for a place on my own. As luck goes with the stupid, I found the greatest place in all of Berlin. It’s a house with a tower that makes it resembles a mix between a church and a castle. The interior is even more amazing, not only 5+ meter high ceilings, but an amazing crowd as well. A 75 year old yoga teacher married to a 15 year younger man, a PHD in physics student, and a lesbian girl with personal hygiene issues. She lived in ‘the tower’ (see picture). This 6m2 room was unique. Thanks to the height, it provided an amazing view over the city. Due to its size it limited possessions to the most essential. Due to the poor heating it only attracted people with real character. And great balance, as in order to get to the room one needed to walk over a 25 centimeter wide wooden board crossing the roof with no fence to prevent one from sliding down the roof and smashing into the garden. Needless to say the bathroom was downstairs, adding to the fun of ‘nature calls’ during Berlin’s cold winter nights. It was 2010 and the pressure was on. I was seated in front of my manager’s manger’s manager’s manager and he shared a story of our the beautiful location where we had dinner with my colleagues. He explained that a couple of months before there had been a dinner in the same gigantic room inside the HQ of Axel Springer. The founder of the company had been an avivid fighter for reunification of Germany, which was the reason why this building was right next to the Berlin wall. Five years after the fall of ‘die Mauer’ the presidents who orchestrated it had been having dinner here: Gorbachev, Kohl and Reagan. In 2010 the USA was represented by George W. Bush and I sat on the same chair as he did 🙂 In 2011 things were very different. After over a year of traveling I was kindly hosted by a good study friend. One of the first things on my agenda was to visit my old house. It was like before. He told a nice story about his hitch hiking trip to Bosnia in the 50s. Rough looking local men caught him taking berries from some bushes. Neither side spoke much of the other’s language. They took him along to their village and sat him down without speaking. Then they shouted at their wife and only minutes later a delicious meal was prepared for him. He barely had taken a first bite when they gestured that:
‘Ffive years ago Germans came and were shooting at us from the mountains in the distance.’
‘Another German has come today.’ ‘And now we drink together.’
When the word spread that I was heading for Europe, family and friends assumed I was returning home for good. When I explained my plan for Was to stay several weeks and continue traveling, it instilled surprise and fear in the people I love.‘Isn’t about a year since you’ve left?’
True, I left on the 12th of October 2010. ‘won’t you have difficulties getting used to normal life once you return?’
Maybe, I will be very well rested though. I think that when I stop traveling life will be fine. ‘don’t you miss your friends and family?’
… ‘where are you going next?’
Good question. I’ll probably leave Europe around the beginning of November. By then I will have made up my mind. ‘wow, you must be very rich’
I got rich by wanting very little (Thorreau) So yes, I will continue traveling. For how long I don’t know. As some of my travel naivety has worn off, leaving Europe will be tougher this time. However, my curiosity for new people and places is still there. Which will keep me on the road for the foreseeable time.
It seems an eternity ago, at the beginning of my trip, somewhere on the coast in Southern India. Two very different Brits recommended me the same band. I dutifully noted the name in my ‘to listen to’ list and didn’t think much of it for some time.Once I downloaded the album (which isn’t easy in India), I didn’t like it: to much folk and they sounded like every other pub band. So I completely forgot about their music. Until a month or two ago. During one of my lengthy motorbike rides I gave Mumford & Sons a good listen and completely fell in love with their first album ‘sigh no more’. Why? I can only describe it as follows: sometimes when you listen to music you want meet the creators because they must be interesting and passionate people. The music is amazing and their lyrics put philosophers to shame. Try it and listen at least two times.
It has been a long time since I was this lost. The previous time it was different: a massive mountain in Argentina, fog, snow ice and rapidly changing weather. And I wasn’t alone.This time it was on a small island called ‘Bunaken’ of the coast of Sulawesi. Despite it’s ridiculously small size, I managed to walk for hours without a clue of where to go. Even more humiliating: it was on the way back from a snorkeling trip. Calling the surroundings ‘jungle’ would be an overstatement, as it were mostly deserted coconut plantations. I hardly met anybody and the few persons I did encounter didn’t seem to have a clue that any major tourism resorts on their tiny island. My frustration with the situation only increased the scorching temperature and my water bottle was nearly empty. And then, there he was: an intelligent looking man, early 40’s, the perfect guy to ask directions. Just like his fellow island dwellers I was ‘only ten minutes away in roughly that direction’. I didn’t buy his story, but bought him instead. The ridiculous sum of 2,5 euro for supposedly a 10 minutes walk. I was delighted though. When we where well on our way, he got a call on his mobile phone. Even with my limited knowledge of Indonesian I could make out ‘foreigner, walking many hours, go to resort’ and he mentioned the price. He had to explain it three times to the woman on the other side of the line. She didn’t believe that a foreigner could get lost on the island, let alone pay such a sum. He gave up explaining and passed the phone to me. Within 3 seconds she knew that the foreigner her husband mentioned really existed. I did my best in confirming the story, ensuring my savior wouldn’t get into trouble at home. When I arrived ‘home’ a lone turned around plate was waiting in the communal dining area. The story of the ‘lost foreigner’ quickly spread amongst the resort staff (thanks to my savior). This ensured a big smile from the waitress when she delivered my long longed for food.
It had been over a week since I drove my motor.Tthe sun was shining; the coastal road was flanked by palm trees on one side and a deep blue to bright green sea. Still I was sad.I only realized this morning that I will soon leave Asia. What once seemed an eternity into the future, has now become a 2 week deadline I need to make. So many things to do: see a park or two, dive in Bunaken, sell my motorbike… I’ve met great people recently: from Wana tribesmen to an amazing guide in Toradja. The tourists were eclectic: from a Lebanese ‘gypsy’ who had been traveling for 11 years to a Dutch 62 year old IT consultant, Italian documentary film makers and a Bosnian aid worker who establishes child abuse protection centers in Cambodia and Sierra Leone. So why leave to the country of Burgers and Bush? Because I’ve got a festival to go to? Because I’ve bought a plane ticket? Help!