XX/ Happiness is a choice

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”

Change is part of life, it’s even its essence. I’ve had to head that far away from home to find myself, what I really am and what I do want in life. “Getting lost will help you find yourself.”

Whether I like it or not, I think I sort of adopted that typically Aussie “no worries” attitude.
“If you are facing an issue, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can then do it, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”
I’m really glad of that learning, makes my everyday life much easier.
Happiness is a choice.

Well I spent those 3 past years traveling, and the 2 past months of my life literally on the road, living in a car. Nevertheless, after Ireland, Spain and Australia, I start feeling a bit like “I’ve been traveling in this world too long, it’s time to find my way back home”.

Only my definition of the word “home” has changed in the meantime. “Home” means Europe to me now. I’m more proud and glad than ever to be European, to know that I’m free to stay, settle down and live absolutely anywhere I want within the borders of our good old continent. How priceless is that feeling to be able to start over a new life anytime I wanna??
This is definitely something great, and when I see my American travel mate who’s talking about the 3 months he’s gonna spend in Europe, traveling between Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Faro, Seville etc., it actually makes me sad for him. Indeed, just like everyone else who’s not European, his tourist visa is going to expire after 3 months. Having an overview of what paradise is and then getting kicked out after 3 months only must be the cruellest thing I ever heard of.

Well well well, seems like time’s running out…
Let me tell you something now that the road trip is over; all along the way I never thought we would make it to Cairns. I mean this was a very ambitious project and our car was far away from being in good condition… But I never told so to my travel mates, I’ve always been the optimistic of the team, always going like “We’ll make it guys, tomorrow is another day!!” or “We’ll find a way, that’s what we always do!”. Probably because I hate pessimistic people, or maybe just because that whole trip was a kind of dream to me, and I never give up on my dreams.

“The only thing that motivates people more than fear is hope. But too much hope is a dangerous thing. A little hope provides a spark that keeps people going, striving.”

And surprisingly one day as I was driving I’ve seen a sign “CAIRNS 19Km”… And as weird as it sounds, it didn’t make me happy. I even remember slowing down on purpose after passing that sign, like I didn’t mean to arrive… You know it’s like when you try to fall asleep again when you’ve been awakened too early in a middle of a sweet dream…

All the way up, we were used to see signs like “CAIRNS 3780Km” or “CAIRNS 2428Km” but this time we all knew that was it, we somehow managed to reach our final destination.
That sorrow was only due to the fact that we all knew that there wouldn’t be any more stop after on, we would all leave Cairns on our own, after having spent 2 months together from dawn to dusk… “It’s not the destination, it’s the adventure along the way.”
Happiness: knowing that you’re running into a wall, and still accelerating.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”.

In the end what I understood is that a trip like a life in general doesn’t have to be perfect. One cannot spend his life waiting for the moment everything is gonna be perfect like in movies. It just has to roll out a way that makes you happy, glad to be alive or simply just a way that’s gonna make you feel alive.

I dedicate these writings to the ones who made my year: Marcellito, Carolin, Marcel, Teija, Alessandro, Fanny, Matt, Maggini and of course Gab & Max.
May the wind be always at your back.
One love.

“Nothing distinguishes memories from ordinary moments. It is only later that they claim remembrance. By their scars.”


XIX/ The circle is complete

Well this is it, back @ Melbourne, there where everything got actually started, the end of the loop…
More precisely I’m back at The Mansion! For the record this is the hostel where I’ve been living/working at the two first months I got in Australia and also the place where I first met Max the Germinator almost a year ago, the dude with whom I ended up spending 2 months on the road with..! The circle is complete.

The story ends where it began, with the difference that I’m not the same man.
This year, I would not only have learnt how to open oysters, how to surf, how to drive an automatic car on the left side & improved my photo skills, no, I have also learned much more subtle things, like patience and perseverance.

Damn you should see me now, since I got back in Melbs, I’m living like a lonely writer… I don’t know, I just don’t feel like going out or make some new encounters since I’m leaving soon. I feel like I’ve done my time in Down Under. I’ve done everything I meant to do down here and this feels great but now I’m just going through a transition time.
One must know how to pull oneself out on time. Ultimately, isn’t it there the goal of the game in life??

I nevertheless look at the new “long-termist crew” with a touch of nostalgia…
I just noticed that I haven’t change clothes in two days that I’m here, I live on the free food shelf of the hostel, I drink litres of tea cause it’s freaking cold now in Melbourne and my beard would scare the shit out of you… I spend my last days in Australia writing day and night about that unbelievable experience I’ve lived and this is all what matters to me now. Since this trip has changed me deeply, I want it to be remembered anyhow.
Writing is currently the reason why I set up an alarm early in the morning and get back to bed only late at night, once my eyes cannot even read my laptop’s screen anymore. Writing has become a hard drug.

Today I spent 8 hours writing at the Melbourne state library, surrounded by Asians & foreign students who all seemed to be bored as fuck by what they had to do. I was probably the only one in there happy to do something I love. Damn, it is so different to spend a day at the library when you do it voluntarily!!

And once back at the hostel, I met the Irish dude who took over my job at the reception (night shift), I think it felt good for the two of us to talk about how impossible is that job if you intent to do it the way the greedy manager wants you to do it, even if I must admit it also made me feel a bit melancholic. Also met my good old colleagues too, hope you guys are reading!! Big up Mattias & Ali!! Keep on rocking the Mansion!!

But this is it, time is running out, in two days I’m flying out of the country… Damn, this is so weird to write here, I feel like yesterday again I was sat on that exact same chair, asking for tips to some English dude in order to get my first job in Australia asap… But that day was almost a year ago… Time flies, and now I hardly remember the time I had an address, a watch and some kind of steady life. And looking back, I’m not sure I wanna remember it now that I know what real life is all about.
“Don’t forget, which is to say: remember – because remembering is so much more psychotic activity than forgetting.”

It’s been such a strange feeling to have to put on my shoes again after 2 months spent only wearing flip flops & board shorts… Oh yeah, for the record, I passed from a daily 30° up in Queensland to a 14° down in Melbs… I guess it’s a good thing since in a few hours I land in Paris where it’s still snowing…
Actually it’s been tough mostly because from now on I’m on my own again… Such heartbreak to leave my two vagabonding sidekicks at the airport yesterday after all we’ve been through…..
“The hardest thing is not to leave but rather not to regret being gone.”

I’m having some small pleasures of life for my last days in Australia, such as the famous two dollar sushi rolls or some delicious kangaroo steaks..! And for once, contrary to Galway or Seville, this time I don’t feel like I missed out anything during my Aussie year, I feel fulfilled. I generally found a lot of answers in Australia. Everything seems clearer to me now, I finally got some things that I couldn’t figure so far in my life.
Plus this final two month road trip has simply blown my mind away, being so much higher than my expectations…
And let me quote one of my travel mate who does some writings too:
“Events that happen at the spur of the moment are those that are remembered for ages because they blow any expectations you have and everything else is a surprise in itself.” The Kid.

When I look back I still can’t believe all I’ve accomplished this year, I’ve been successively working as a cleaner, as night manager in a backpackers, as kitchen slave (we’ll they call it ‘kitchen hand’) and from time to time for Coca Cola (filling up some surveys for their new advertising campaign). I’ve even ended up working for a circus for a while back in Sydney when I was struggling so badly to find a steady job…
And all that is over now… But be sure I’ve learnt a lot and I took everything that had to be taken.

I got back at Melbourne with $106.68 on my account and I had to pay $104 for my stay at the hostel… So when I met my banker this morning in order to close my bank account, he gave me $2.68 in cash, “Just enough for a last sushi roll!!” =)
Today is April the 19th. 19th?? Really?! Do you wanna know what it means to me??
Means that in exactly one month I’m off to Portugal, thank god I booked my one way ticket before I got broke..!
Sounds like a plan, Faro 2013, meet yah over there for some new adventures..!

“Love may not make the world go round, but I must admit that it makes the ride worthwhile.”

XVIII/ Sons of the road

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert.”
Same as “anger attracts anger”, “Life attracts life”.

And there we go again, us three devouring kilometre after kilometre with Max the builder as co-pilot & The Kid for a DJ on the back seat, mixing directly from his laptop on his knees, no doubt, I’ve got the best team ever.

It’s funny cause actually last night we had some serious issues with the car and we all thought that was it for a while, having that terrible thought crossing our minds that the road trip was over… But nothing can stop us, we’ve repaired the car and today we’re back on track!

That issue was about the oil tank that has exploded as we were driving… This incident actually got us closer to each other. “It’s in adversity that one recognise one’s true friends.”
I remember Gab saying “If it turns out that it is the last night we’re camping out, I’ll actually miss it”… Means a lot, especially when you know he was the one who at first had the most difficulties to adapt to the harsh wilderness camping life.
“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Mark Twain.
Whether we like admit it or not, in the end we’ve all learnt quite a lot of things from each other.

On my side, one of my major learning of the year has consisted in learn how to detach myself from material possessions, to only keep what’s essential.
I think I noticed it when I found out I got rid of too many things before to fly out of Cairns. I was allowed to carry roughly 30 kilos, and once at the airport, for the veeeeery first time of my life I was below the limit, and by far! I didn’t even have 23 kilos of accumulated souvenirs…

I think that this year I’ve learnt how to value everything that is not actually a thing instead. Memories & friendships are lighter things to be carried around the world.
“Collect moments, not things.”

Photos. Photos are the exception. And I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to explain you why I’m always taking so many pictures. To all those who continually tease me about that; I do take loads of pictures because this is something that is exactly half way between a “moment” & a “thing”.
A photo is something that will help you remember a moment but that is not an actual thing annoying to be carried around. We’re fortunate to live in the era of all-digital, and thanks to that, we can easily save our files anywhere (hard disks, Internet, flash drives…) and find them back anywhere & anytime.

This is why I’m not ashamed and I tell it out loud: take photos guys, take shit load of photos, because in definitive a picture is an efficient way to remember a very specific moment. And please do not tell me that you don’t need a picture to help you remember when dealing with something that is several years old. Please don’t believe your memory is infallible…
“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”

I truly think that it is better not to know when you are doing something for the last time.
Same for farewells. You know sometimes you ignore that you’re meeting someone for the last time because you both have agreed that the very last time you’d say goodbye to each other would be at that moment in particular, at a particular place you commonly decided, like a farewell party for instance, and it turns out for some reason that in the end you do not see the person? Depriving you then of the last “official farewell”?
Well I actually prefer when it turns out to be that way… Sounds weird I know, but even after all those years spent abroad accumulating go away parties, I’m still not good at this.…
One never really get use to lose sight of a friend, especially if encountered abroad, where every friendship is much more intense than back home…
No one can take a memory away from you, just the time can eventually damage it a little bit.

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.”

XVII/ Life is what happens to you while you’re looking at your smartphone

“People wait all week for friday, all year for summer, all life for happiness.”

New Zealand, 60 million sheep for 3 million inhabitants only, a 12 jour jet-lag & 19.000km away from Europe, couldn’t be any further away from home… New Zealand, literally the end of the world.
New Zealand, also the chapter I’m afraid to write. The fear not to come up with something good enough to glorify this land as it should be done. How could words be good enough to illustrate the magic of this country anyway?
I’ll still try to face up this lost cause, perhaps because I feel like I owe NZ something in return.

Africa, Alaska, Hawaii, the Mont Blanc, South America, the Road 66, Amazon…
This is what New Zealand has made us think of alternately as we were going along the road. A new delightful surprise hidden behind each curve.
Constantly torn between wanting to slow down – and grab a photo of absolutely everything on our way – and the frantic uncontrollable urge to push the pedal to the metal & explore as fast as possible the new wonder of nature that was expecting us a few hundred meters away.
Now I know why they shot “The Lord Of The Rings” in this country.

As I said, absolutely everything is a must see over there but if I had to give you the name of one only spot that you are FORBIDDEN to skip if some day you’re fortunate to visit New Zealand; Lake Pukaki.
As a foretaste, this is where the cover picture of this chapter has been taken. Here are the few notes I’ve taken watching that unreal sunset;
I dropped a tear, the nature was too gorgeous. Too much beauty, too many “Woooooooow…..” during this road trip… And when the sky went darker at night time, among all of the shooting stars I’ve seen, my first wish has been that the human being does not come to destroy this place, my favourite place on earth. New Zealand, a dream aloud.

You know you’re traveling in the most amazing country ever when your camera is not even good enough to capture what you actually see.
I remember that at some point I just gave up with photos, I just put my camera back in my satchel and tried the hardest I could to “take pictures with my eyes” instead.
Since what I could see on my camera’s screen was so shit compared to the majesty of that great outdoor I was facing, I’ve preferred trying to burn those moments forever into my memory and leave my camera aside.

With hindsight, and with a metaphoric look, I’d say it is because you gotta go there and see all that with your own eyes. You have to experience this country by yourself, you’ve got to move your ass, cross the globe and go live your own adventure in New Zealand. Basically you’ve got to deserve it.
According to me, this is why it is nearly impossible to bring back good quality pictures from out there.

If I just used the expression “live your own adventure” it’s because it is a proper adventure.
NZ is way wilder than Oz (I’m talking about the south island here). It seem ain’t no civilization down there. “Towns” are tiny and what they call a village is just a gathering of five houses at most. And this is precisely what makes the charm of this country.
Thanks to that, the nature is so well preserved & predominant, each single landscape is simply breathtaking…
I think I’ve travelled enough to be able to say that this country has definitely something magic that I never ever found in any other place I’ve been to so far. A one step above land that will not leave you indifferent, you have my words.

Due to the wildness of the country, we’ve also been living like “savages” during this trip.
The only showers we took were in 5 degree Celsius rivers or lakes. Trust me, this is by far the best way to start a day, another day in paradise. And don’t even expect either power for your phone or the Internet in paradise.

We’ve also spent endless nights staring at the stars. Pretty easy to guess that it takes another dimension when you do that in one of the least polluted country in the world…
The sky, simply the sky, is probably one of the things I’ll miss the most when I’ll be gone from Down Under.
It really feels like the sky isn’t the same in the southern hemisphere. Another thing I ignored before this year: constellations aren’t the same than in the northern hemisphere!! It’s a bit disorienting at first but then, with the passing of time you’ll find that it makes its charm. Same as what I was saying about New Zealand, you’ve got to get your ass over there to deserve to see this by yourself, words will never be enough to describe such marvel.

Generally speaking, back in Europe I’ve never seen starry skies like the ones I’ve been fortunate to admire in Down Under. This is roughly about three or four times more stars that we’re talking about up there in their sky…

But when I say that the sky in general is one of the things that struck me the most throughout my Aussie year, I also mean the sky at day time.
I’ve got thousands of pictures of clouds, simply clouds, that are taking different awesome shapes and that change colours over a day. Believe me, when you’re facing it, you really feel like you’re nothing compared to those natural forces.

It is unfortunately gonna be time to close this chapter for now… But no worries, I’ll very likely fill my coming chapters with some anecdotes from NZ..!
The trip that simply blew my mind away, the trip that made Oz almost tasteless when I went back after on…
Believe me, you can rely on the greatness of New Zealand to really make you feel that you’re literally at the end of the world.

I’ve seen the most gorgeous skies ever, I’ve trod where the sun actually rises from, I’ve been at the end of the world. And for this all, I’ll never say it enough, thank you New Zealand and as you would have understood, I can only advise you with all my heart to go check it out by yourself.

“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.” Into The Wild.

XVI/ The art of travel

And there we go again, I’m drowning into my thoughts while driving late at night… For the record, while I’m taking this note on my phone, it is raining as fuck (wet season in Queensland) and the wipers are slowly dying… This means my co-pilot has to open up his window and “activate” them manually… I let you imagine the burlesque of the situation…

This car, our car… A ‘96 Toyota Camry that’s just begging to break down from the years of wear… The only good thing in driving a car instead of a van (like every backpacker does) is that people think we’re locals when they see us, the surfboards on the roof might have something to do with it.
Well thanks to that, people are so nice to you when driving!! They very often give you the way even when it’s not up to you to pass first!
If I mention it, it’s because when I’ve been driving a rental van back in New Zealand, it was another story… You know, it is kindly the same thing as driving a driving school car… When everyone cuts the road in front of you or just honks at you for no reason, just because of a sticker on the side of your car… Yes, I do hate road hogs.

To get back to our story (I’ll talk about New Zealand later), a couple of days after I wrote this, the wipers completely died and we’ve been forced to drive hundreds of kilometres under the rain “guessing the road when driving”… Rock ‘n’ Roll baby!!!

In total, between New Zealand and the East Coast we have driven over 9000 kilometres… The thing is this country is so huge that one quickly loses the notion of distances. When you’re doing a break every two hours when driving back home, here it is more about every 4 hours, and then you keep on driving another couple of hours… The distances are insane, and it’s nothing really surprising when you know that you could fit all of Europe more than once into the Australian territory..!
Now Europe seem so tiny to me… I almost think like Americans do, like I could get from Berlin to Paris walking..!
“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.”

Australia, a country where the finest drinks come in inflatable pillows. Well, I think most people have found out why 4 litres of Goon come in a plastic pouch, simply the greatest invention of mankind..!
Oz, a land where Redback spiders and Tiger snakes are a great excuse when you’re simply too lazy to collect firewood…

Oh, by the way, I finally got what they meant by “Don’t feed the wildlife” on their signs. Took me a year to figure it out.
It’s not that they wanna keep you away from those dangerous animals cause if you start feeding them then they’ll get used to that and also used to get closer to human beings in general (what would seriously increase the amount of “accidents”);
They only mean: don’t even think of feeding the wildlife with the ridiculous leftovers you eventually have in your pan, no, to the wildlife, YOU are the food..! => “Don’t feed the wildlife” => “Don’t become an easy meal”
Now you know.

Sometimes I wonder how it would have been like to do some farm work in Oz and live in the countryside instead of having spent the clearest of my time stuck in those massive megalopolis that are Melbourne & Sydney.
I hate to admit that I have regrets in general (probably because I don’t have much), but I really wish I spent more time up in Byron Bay instead of unfortunately having had to settle down in tasteless Sydney. I just said Byron, but it could have also been any other similar town, anything smaller but that has a soul.
“Ain’t no love in the heart of town.”

If I allow myself to make a side comment about some geographical stuff here, it’s just for the few of you who might go for a Working Holiday Visa year in Australia someday. Here is the most precious tip I’m giving you: AVOID staying too long in massive towns as I did. The real life is somewhere else, it is actually elsewhere. It’s not that I only found out too late about it, it’s just that for some reason I got broke when I first arrived at Sydney… I’ve had no choice, I’ve had to settle down over there for a while in order to make money so I could sail away then.
Don’t make the same mistake, look for work in the countryside, so much easier to save up money and probably some much better crowd to be met too.

But here we are now, I’m broke again. Sometimes I surprise myself having weird thoughts like I hear that voice inside my head telling me “Thanks to the bachelor of business you have you could work for some good company, make heaps of money by swindling people etc.”…
But I don’t, and I don’t wanna. Do shit jobs keeps you in touch with the real world. I rather live another couple of years being borderline with my banker than “prostitute myself” doing some business with dreamless sharks.

But life on the road is not always easy believe me. It is true that there were lots of silver linings in the setbacks we met, but still, we’ve had to get used to live like real adventurers. To cut our own hair using the car’s mirrors, to take showers each once in a while, to carry our whole life around in a small backpack.
Now that I’m back I can tell; to sleep in a double bed in a room all to myself and without earplugs has become my new definition of luxury after a year sleeping in dormitories, tents and cars.

But then again; “I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I’d far rather see for myself what’s going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking.”

Because this is it, the tougher it gets, the more you’ll remember it.
I’m not what happened to me. I am what I chose to become. Don’t be a maybe.
I might be a “prisoner inside my dreams”, true, but as my mother always said: “I never knew how to do things by halves.”

“Home is now behind you, the world is ahead.”

XV/ Drugs are a rational response to insanity

“Compte les chances qu’il te reste
Un peu de son parfum sur ta veste
Tu avais dû confondre les lumières
D’une étoile et d’un réverbère”
Francis Cabrel, Encore et encore.

I wish you all could speak French for a minute so you could seize the beauty of these lyrics.
It’s unfortunately not always possible to translate a song, the purity of the word combinations that the writer made up in a language in particular, this one thing that makes you dream, makes you wanna live forever and eventually restore the faith you have in humanity.

From now on I’m pursuing my writings in Paris where I’m staying at some good old friend’s, one of the awesome dude I was sharing a house with back in Ireland 3 years ago. Some day we drank our first Guinness together, now we’re bros.
I’ll take a break here with my two months trip just for a chapter and tell you about my week in Paris.

So last night I finally ended up solving my 10 hour jet lag by drinking 10 pints with my good old mates…
One must cure evil with evil right??
On my first day back in Europe I’ve already spent roughly €100 between food & booze… And I know this is gonna sound pretty cliché but really, fuck it, this is just money… And if it is not meant to make you happy then I don’t what is it for.

Old times reminiscing and Irishmus vibe..!
“Today is the good old times of tomorrow.”

You know you’ve been living in Australia for too long when you find life cheap in Paris.
For the record, it was not even €4 for a large meal at Mc Donalds @ Hong Kong (+ FREE MAYONAISE!!)… Not even the half of what I used to pay for the same shit in Australia!!
Back to the real world baby, fuck yeaaah!!

This morning I woke up with my shoes on, it made my day. It doesn’t happen very often, that’s why. 3 or 4 times a year, and it simply mean that I had a hell of a night, a ‘one step above party’..!!
3 hours later I went like: “Dude, let’s throw a party this afternoon.”
So we did…

Fast, free and unlimited Internet, sick nights out, real food, cheap life, Molly, beer pong…
No doubts, I’m back @ Europe..!
And yesterday I finally slept in a king size bed in a room all to myself for the first time in a year….. I shed a tear.

Win a beer pong tournament with the great Vinz’ Team (FANNY Vs Rav, my pal with whom I’ve shared my first victories back in the Irish competitions <o/ ) , play an endless Baseball™ game over the whole week (…), make cheese orgies with the best cheese on earth drinking fine Chartreuse, my writings going pretty well (3 chapters in 5 days!! <o/), play some Halo and go sightseeing eventually…
Back to the roots, intensive healing cure [ON/off]

I feel like I just broke free from jail and I’m now free again to enjoy any single small pleasure of life. A prison that was keeping me 9000 kilometres away from our good old European craziness.
I miss my boys though. One is doing some farm work in Queensland and the other one is currently rocking Bali… I remember one day some friend of mine who was on his second visa in Oz told me “It’s only crazy to think of Australia when you’re back home, but not when you’re there even though you’re literally at the end of the world.” Now I’m pretty sure you’re right Ben.

By the way, I just found out the tattoo I’m getting, my 3rd one, to celebrate the end of a third year abroad that has been crowned with such a perfect ending.
A year fulfilled of learning. I'm getting a tatoo that says nothing but the major learning of my year: "Happiness is a choice"
"May the wind be always at your back" & "Esperanza", this is how I 'call' the 2 tatoos I already have; my tatoos are what I learn.

This year I understood that happiness is not a passing mood that we all feel from time to time without really being able to control it. No, it's so much more than that and you are actually able to control it over time and wisdom.
Same as "It's not the destination, it's the adventure along the way", it means that most people are wrong in their approach to the pursuit of happiness, in the way the think it should be.
I say happiness is a choice, it is only up to you to set up your priorities in life.
Up to you to find out what you love, and let it kill you. Because this is it, "do you really wanna live forever..?"
Wow, I'm going pretty far, sorry my brain is struggling with the jetlag and the week spent drinking and shit…

I say happiness is a way of life, it's a mode that you just gotta turn on to get a smile on your face, you just gotta convince yourself that every little thing in life is great, even insignificant stuff. Then once your mood is gonna be up, you'll be able to pass it on. Don't you ever noticed that when a friend of yours is happy for some reason, or just on a good day, then it somehow makes you happy too??
Well this is what I mean, you can make the world change just by being cheerful on an daily basis.
And never forget that your lucky to be alive.

"Happiness is a choice"
These four words put together are a weapon, a force, a strength that keeps you alive and makes you wanna open your eyes in the morning, wake up, open the window, take a deep breath & smell the millennium.
This is the reason why I wanna have it written somewhere on my body.

Now that I’m back, each bite of (real) bread taste better, I get drunk as fuck without having to spend my monthly savings, I say shitload of smiling “Bonjour!!” at all bitter Parisians I meet in the street, I can afford to go to the cinema again, and I never crash before the sunrise.

“Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish—a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow—to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested… Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.”

XIV/ Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

“And our minds were meant to sail
take a rest from our thoughts
take a break from this world
and we’ll feel miles away
from the places that we used to be

As we lay in the sand
and we stare at the sky
watch the moon dancing why
as the stars latch our eyes
oh my, there’s no place on earth
i’d rather be”

My god, it is absolutely amazing how this song (Miles away from Years around the sun) and its lyrics are perfectly matching with what one can experience through an Aussie road trip ..!
PS : the video-clip sure helps a lot !! =)

Well it’s been one month now that we’re on the road, living under the stars, taking showers in rivers or lakes, live to the rhythm of the sun, content ourselves with the minimum, improvising our trip day-to-day… Life with a capital ‘L’.
“It is time to rekindle the stars.” Guillaume Apollinaire.

I nevertheless remember our first week on the road, when we got ourselves right in the middle of a hurricane near Port Macquarie. It lasted for 3 days and 3 nights, raining non-stop. We’ve seen so many apocalyptic scenes… Highways closed because flooded, houses under water (…), some wild horses crossing the roads…
(See photo above)

I’ll never forget that morning when we have been awakened by a text message from the government ordering the immediate evacuation of the area where we were, and where we have slept in the car…
The water level was going up at an alarming rate and Max told me: “DRIVE!!! DRIVE FOR OUR LIVES!!!” Because what you have to know is that there was already 20 centimetres of water above the road and still wouldn’t stop raining… Facing a dilemma, pulling over and look for a shelter or driving as far away as we could from the epicentre of the tornado…
Wow!! I’m literally get goosebumps just to think back of it all… I would be lying to say that I do not freak out every time I think of those three days stuck in that menacing hell.

“Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile her back.”

Damn, sometimes it really feels like this country wasn’t mean to be conquered by the mankind. I now understand why the Dutch didn’t want to keep this land when they first found it and then sold it back to the English..!
It is unavoidable, from time to time Mother Nature reclaims its rights.

But it still wasn’t enough to stop us. You know, those unsuspected forces one finds out about when one is up against the wall..
Nobody lets oneself die, you always find solutions when you have no choice. It’s a bit like the energy given by your last chance, the very last resort.
“Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.”
Men are endowed of a survival instinct that I find so damn interesting, and at the same time, as Tyler Durden once said:
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Still during that first “disaster week”, after the first day spent under the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen, when we had to pull over on a car park because the highway was flooded and closed anyways.
Well we spent the evening in our car, the rain was too strong to allow us to reach any shelter… You know, the kind of rain that hurt your skin…
And at some point, I’ve seen a massive dark shape falling over RIGHT NEXT TO OUR CAR!! Only a minute after I realized that this “massive dark shape” was a tree that has been uprooted by the wind and collapsed on the parking spot right next to ours…
Everything could have ended that one night, I mean EVERYTHING…
Destiny has decided that we were gonna park on that particular spot and not on next one, one metre away from a drama.

“One dies when one is forgotten, not in a stupid car crash or jumping from a cliff.”

I still generally had so much more concerns on a daily basis when I was living in towns like Sydney or Melbourne than when I was on the road with nothing but a tent in the trunk.
Waking up in the morning, use the public showers on the beach, disassemble the tent as quick as posible, and drive, “Just fuckin’ drive!!” away from there before some ranger would show up and ask for the fees… Life is an adventure.
To travel in this fucked up car isn’t perfect but guess what, it doesn’t have to be so.

Day 49, 11pm, so the car broke down in the middle of nowhere and tonight our objective is not to be eaten by crocodiles (or any other weird wildlife) during our sleep. Good night moon..!

The car is falling apart, somehow it feels like Cairns, our final destination, is a wall and we’re happily running into that wall.
Encounters teach me more than any school. Going where I’ve never been is still my favourite thing on earth and over time, the photography, writing, the music and of course traveling have become my four passions.
I gotta find my way by mixing these elements… Reporter?? Who’s gonna give me a job??

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”

XIII/ “What time is it?” “I don’t care”

As my Australian year is over, I’m busy emptying my phone (copy and save all the notes I have taken on it throughout the year) and guess what, I just found back a pretty funny anecdote.

Back in Bondi when I was working in that restaurant, the head chef has been replaced by some new guy two months after I started working there. The thing is I’m super bad at remembering names, and when he introduced himself, I straight away forgot his name (…). The following week I heard a part of a conversation between him and another colleague, and from what I could pick up, my colleague was saying something like “Oliver?? It’s the same name as my dog!!!” and the new head chef answering “Oh yeah? Well, must be one of those things you know”. So I told to myself “Yes, at least I finally know his name, he’s called Oliver!”, that is a pretty common name.
One week went by, me constantly calling him Oliver as I was sure it was his name (even being pretty proud of me remembering a name for once…).
Only someday I found out that his name was actually Sunny and Oliver was…his dog’s name….. Yes, you got it well, during an entire week I’ve been calling my boss by his dog’s name… “One of those things”….
Big up and all my apologies Sunny, it’s been great to work with you!

Makes me think of a good one: “I was called lazy today… I almost responded.”

Well well well, f*ck Bondi, now we’re on the road baby, and for 52 days straight..! Over one and a half month already… Damn, it really feels like yesterday was the day I first left Sydney with Max the Germinator…
By the way, you meet so maaaaaaaaaaaaany Germans in Australia that sometimes I really wonder “Who the hell is home keeping the country then??” “Is there any German left back there??”
I kid you not, there are so many Germans here that sometimes you wonder if you’re really traveling in Australia. I remember that one time, I was staying at some backpackers on the East Coast and some chick came up to me and started the conversation…IN GERMAN!! Dafuq?! So many Germans around that she even assumed that I was “one of them” too… Yes, this is extreme.

For some reason, from time to time when I’m drunk, I pretend to be Spanish with the random people I meet late at night (…), you know this kind of encounters that you make in a “Fuck it, I’ll never see them again” mode.
And it’s not only that it allows you to avoid an extremely sterile discussion that always goes like “I can speak French!! Oui oui! Moulin Rouge baguette déjà vu!! (…)” but also that it changes many things about the way they behave towards you.
For having tried several times, I can tell you that people in general do not treat you the same way depending on whether they think you are French or Spanish… The behaviours have been so much more heartfelt and warmer when they thought me Spanish…
Maybe simply because ain’t no Spaniard in Australia. Indeed for some strange reason our fellow Spaniards cannot get the working holiday visa in Oz. I’ve been told later that this is simply because there is no agreement between the two countries.… Who knows why… I say it’s bullshit and I’m convinced that a year backpacking through Australia would be funnier having some Spaniards beside of Germans, French & Swedes…

And whilst I’m talking, another Kangaroos family just crossed the road in front of my headlights!!
Driving barefoot along Aussie roads listening to “The sound of silence”, freedom at its best.
Even though at the moment, we’re actually playing “Let her go” from Passenger over and over again in our ‘spaceship’, it’s past 11pm, pretty dark outside and we are (desperately) looking for a free campsite.

Damn, I’ll fosho miss that feeling, three men and nothing but the open road…
If I had to describe this feeling, I’ll compare it to a night of passion. Lovingly kiss an incredibly beautiful woman late at night, under the rain, slowly the time stops – “What time is it?” – “I don’t care”
And you keep on kissing her like if there was no tomorrow. Everything else becomes insignificant, you get soaking wet but you just couldn’t care less. At this exact moment, contemplate the beads of rain slowly flowing over her face becomes your sole purpose.

“Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go”

I once heard “When you’re happy you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad you understand the lyrics”, that guy was definitely right.

“What cannot be solved by turning a page can be solved by changing book.”

XII/ Not all those who wander are lost

Wind in the hair, kilometres after kilometres, we’re hitting the road Jack!!
“We”, allow me to introduce you my “we”, my team, the best team ever.

First of all, if you wanna get to know us, read what follows listening to this track, our anthem.

It all actually started early September, as I was working as night manager at Home at the Mansion, a great backpackers hostel down in Melbourne city.
That one night, a guest came up to me at the reception at 3 in the morning, looking really pale and pretty much fucked up, carrying his linen under his arm…
“Hiya, well hum… How to say that… I just had an small issue with my sheets…”
“What do you mean a small issue??”
“Well I’m sorry but I accidentally threw up in my bed… Can I have some fresh linen..? Please..??”

This is how I met my first travel mate, Max the German: The Germinator.
Epic encounter that puts you directly in the mood..!
Seemed like this guy had a hell of a night, and I first hated him because I had to clean up his shit, but it turned out to be one of my best encounter of the year, Max the Builder.

We stayed in touch and, long story short, he came over to visit me down in Bondi over Xmas (where I moved in the meantime). Then we basically decided that he would come back late February in order to pick me up and start a massive road trip together. And that’s what we did.

After having traveled already for 3 weeks with my Germinator through the East Coast and awesome New Zealand, we got back to Bondi, at my old house where I’ve been living roughly four months in order to pick up some stuff I left in a closet over there.
As I knocked the door of my old flat, an American dude called Gab opened me the door…
This is by the way the dude who moved in my flat when I left. He quickly explained me that he just got evicted by my landlord for having “partied too hard”…
He didn’t know what to do with his life, where to go, so I threw an innocent… “You know that my pal and I are off to another month traveling through the East Coast and we have a free seat available on our car..?”

And guess what, this is how The Germinator and I “adopted” number 3, Gab, who would from here on be called “The Kid”..!

At this exact moment, all we knew was that we had exactly 1 month to reach Cairns, no rules, no limits. I guess you can easily picture the level of excitement that was floating in the air at that precise moment..!

“I never have a plan, nothing can ever go wrong this way” told me Carlo once, an Aussie fella I met back in Melbs. Well this is pretty much the way we run this whole trip.

The destiny made an American, a German & a French travelled together. Believe me, this is by far one of the best team I’ve ever been fortunate to travel with so far in my life. We were all different, but those differences have made our strength. Beside, we proved to the world that our generation can overcome all those old demons that the Second World War gave birth to. The three musketeers, “we’ll either find a way or make one”.
Throughout our whole trip we’ve only met another similar international trio that was composed of an American, a Swedish & a German. The rest of the traveling crews we met were mostly people coming from the same country, I’m not sure it would have been that intense and interesting if I had travelled with two other Frenchies.

“Together, we were the cool kids on the block – stealing girls’ hearts faster & meaner than Jesse James and smoking weed like a chimney on Christmas Eve.” The Kid.

XI/ The house of rising sun

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life. I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I’d far rather see for myself what’s going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking. I had to let it happen, I had to change. Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel looking out of the window, staying out of the sun. So I chose freedom, running around, trying everything new. Not all those who wander are lost.”

Alright so let me set up the context of these writings. Last time I wrote I mentioned I was about to leave Bondi for a two month trip through New Zealand and the Australian East Coast. Well there we go, today is day 49 to be precise, and after having properly rocked New Zealand and a good part of the East Coast, we’re now at Gayndah, Queensland. The trip is not over yet, even if I must confess that I do tend to avoid as much as possible to mention that in two weeks only my Aussie year is over.

The reason why we’re here now is because two Swedes who I use to live with back in Bondi have in the meantime moved up here, doing some farm work. And since it was kind of on our way, we basically just did a small detour to see them again, “you always meet twice in life” huh?

These two guys live in a very old and typical Victorian house that I just baptised ‘The house of rising sun’. See photo on top.
Basically they are 8 backpackers plus a dog sharing that house, all working at some fields nearby the village, picking mandarins. Interesting fact: it turned out that Gayndah is the oldest town in Queensland..! Some history for once in Australia, finally!! In fact, if those guys wouldn’t live here, we would never have stopped here, Gayndah, just another bunch of old houses in the middle of nowhere, 1.000 inhabitants & roughly 700 backpackers, 1 convenience store, 1 fuel station eventually and no Internet. The nearest supermarket is 140 kilometres out of town and a snake is on average 3,5 meters in the vicinity. Welcome in the deep & wild Australia bitches!!

They all sleep on the floor in that house, or eventually on a mattress that they had to buy for the luckiest of them. Makes it cosy, somehow.
For the record, at the moment the toilet is clogged, so you basically have to drive “in town” to use some public toilets in case of need… Back to the roots!! Might be a reason why it feels like the time has stopped down here.

To get back to the story, the thing is I had to face a dilemma all along this incredible trip; starting to write as we were traveling and being able to put the exact wording on the right emotions and at the right moment,
Or keep on traveling, living this experience on the road at full speed, never stopping one second, and then take time to write about it once it would be over.
As you can read, I’m actually once again not following any of those two paths…

I first thought I would write at the end of the trip, but as time went by, things have changed and I feel like I gotta start writing now, fearing to forget those exact feelings and not being able to offer ‘the right version’ of my trip in case I’d start writing once back home. One of the major things that also kept me from writing so far is my laptop, once again, that is not really helping; my battery is completely dead. Basically means that I cannot use my laptop if I don’t have access to a socket. Being constantly on the road, I guess you can imagine how limited my occasions to write have been since I left Bondi.
From time to time we’re actually staying at some backpackers from where I could eventually write from, but then again, second dilemma: spending the few hours I have to feed my writings or spend those hours making new encounters, surfing, or just simply live the trip itself.
Believe me it’s not an easy thing to pick between writing often or fully enjoy the trip that is the actual essence of my writings.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

As you can see, I’ve chosen to leave my laptop aside for the most of the trip, allowing me to fully live that experience and having no regrets later on.
What I do is I take notes on my phone, constantly, of every thought I have along the way. This is the reason why most of what you’re gonna read in the following chapters might be a bit confusing with the tenses, juggling between past and present.
The one thing I’ve noticed after all that time spent traveling is that the moment I’m the most productive is when I’m driving… You know that feeling, when you have the wheel between your hands you always feel so indestructible somehow, that supreme feeling of freedom, being footloose & unstoppable. I find it so inspiring. Same thing as train rides, damn, who the hell has never found himself in the deepest and most intense reflexions ever whilst being surrounded by anonymous strangers in a wagon, watching the landscape scrolling through the window?? No matter if the journey is taking you to some new place you don’t know yet or if it is actually nothing but a banal ride you’re doing on a daily basis, it’s all about the feeling it gives you.

Well, it’s not really safe to take notes as I drive, I know, but I still do it anyways, too afraid to forget the words that my brain has chosen to describe what I’m going through on this or that one moment in particular.
It’s a sort of “now or never”, just the way I’ve generally been running my life for a while now. I’ve never been one of those who can really wait for something when one knows one could have it now if insisting, no matter what it involves. Life is short, and I sometimes feel like I shorten mine by living that intensely. No time for regrets when time itself is the enemy.

“I had to let it happen, I had to change. I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I’d far rather see for myself what’s going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking. So I chose freedom, running around, trying everything new.
Not all those who wander are lost.”