LXXVI/ Where the trail ends

« 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. »


It’s funny to realize how over time it gets easier and easier to distinguish the people that are useful to your life and those who aren’t any longer of any use. I’m aware of how brutal it is to say such a thing although this is merely a truthful statement. But just as harsh as that may sound, it doesn’t make the action taking process any easier for so much.

I remember back on the road how – in order to keep moving – I used to ask myself ; “are you happy or just comfortable?”, and the answer always was : “comfortable, not quite, but happy yes I do.” Today the answer would be “both”. And I love it. I love how ironical this is.

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. We are what we don’t throw away.

How do you know you’re finally putting down roots somewhere? Your bunch of keys is getting heavier and heavier each day, and you secretly kinda fancy the sound they make in your pocket. Makes you feel like you matter somehow.

Pretty funny what’s going on to me these days. Months go by and I realize I’m kinda throwing myself headfirst into sedentism. Like crazy. It’s just too good to catch up with long term buddies. True friendships and priceless bromances that have survived over time.
Yet every once in a while I get to meet new people too. And let me tell you one thing, the most beautiful encounters are those that weren’t meant to happen.

All those beautiful peeps I for once have a chance to build something on the long run with – as I’m back for good now – and most of those people will most likely hang around for a while. Damn, when I think of it, I see myself evolving every day a little, my vision of the world is gradually shifting again. And it’s good to realize Life will never cease to surprise me. That sedentary life I used to irrationally fear is now doing me more good than I would have ever imagined it could.

And fellow nomads, you’d be amazed at how the easiness of a routine within your comfort zone can be a slippery slope to people like us.
People that never knew what comfort truly meant, people that always had issues with the sense of belonging, people that never really had a chance to build anything on the long run one way or another.

Day after day, rock climbing is gradually teaching me humility, patience and perseverance. And that’s a good thing. Good values and pretty awesome folks to be met at the end of a rope. So desperately in love with anything that is remotely close to the mountains. Trekking, rock climbing and soon skiing. I feel like I’m kinda overcompensating my usual “lack of elsewhere” with outdoor activities. Generally speaking I’m good when in the mountains as they always manage to put me back in my place, to remind me how small I really am and how humble I should be.

So yeah, I guess one can say my little rehab is going pretty well. There’s just something about that sense of belonging to a community, of being genuinely welcome and your presence being truly appreciated. To feel like you matter to my surrounding.
If you want to get somewhere in life, think, dress and act like you’re already there. Be important, be the difference.

Day after day, I’m gradually building up self-confidence. Desperately looking for my personal launching ramp as I’m convinced my life is about to take off any minute now.

After Brexit and that election, anything is now possible. A world is falling apart in front of our eyes. A vertigo. But still that desire to believe in it somehow.

I went off traveling, looking for answers, for that epiphany… It didn’t come… until I returned.
Today I realize that I used to carry hate in my heart. The reason to that is because over the course of the different steps on my trip, I simply wasn’t taking enough time to let love in, as I’ve pretty much always been on-the-go.

I was just too accustomed to say farewell. Always unconsciously making sure I’d never get too attached to anyone around me so I would never have to leave a place with so much of a heavy heart… Today I realize this self-defense mechanism of mine is the very reason of all my commitment issues.
It took me a while to figure out that all that is not given is lost. I am serene because from now on I no longer dream of elsewhere but of the very life I lead instead. Here and now.

Inner war breaks out over frustration. Inner peace begins with acceptance. Took me quite some time to realize that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Needed time to process and accept the fact that maybe – and just maybe – I explored all the possibilities of the world of travel and it was time for me to move on.

You know there’s no turning back when you wake up one morning and suddenly realize your current sedentary life is much better than some of your nomad sessions. Well done Grenoble, sounds like you got me back for good this time.

« There’s no better feeling than setting a courageous goal for yourself and defying the odds to achieve it; jumping headfirst into the unknown with an open heart and an open mind. »

Now I get it, nomad is good because you get it all right away. You’re just your own God who’s will is king. Sedentary is different, it’s beautiful because everything takes time. But on the bright side, there’s all the time needed in the world for you to daydream about your next move, a whole panel of ever-evolving possibilities lying ahead of you.

Here we are boys, I am definitely out of a game and entered a whole new one where everything is yet to be discovered – little by little – every code, every rule and every challenge.

It’s insane how the things that originally do not appeal to us all that much have the potential to fascinate us all the more if we end up getting hooked, probably because we had no expectations whatsoever from the start.

It’s only recently that I realized that when you travel, you are merely walking through others’ constructions but when you settle down, you actually start to build your own things. I am not mad at myself for it took me so long to get there because I know I could have never been that relaxed and clear-headed if it wasn’t for all that traveling that’s been leading my every move for the past six years.

To my greatest enchantment I’m beginning to see and accept that there is life in the desert. As innocent as it may sound, this may very well be the discovery of the decade to me.

I had to learn to fully open my heart in order to let new vibrations in, learn to lower my guard and assume all the risks that such behavior entails. In this very moment I realize I’ve been living in seclusion for quite some time, never really opening-up just so I could never be hurt that much. And it’s been working okay so far in the sense that it has kept the heartaches away but only today I realize that it’s also been keeping love away as well. By “love”, I’m referring to the broad meaning of the term; friends, colleagues, everyday happiness and so on. Damn, how could I not grasp this sooner?!

« She scares the hell out of me and calms my soul at the same time. Maybe that’s what love is – a total contradiction that somehow balances. »

And we’re so firmly convinced that it only happens to others… For the first time in a long while, I have something to lose and I am happy about it. To tell you the truth, it is as freaky as it is pleasant.

One’s gotta go with the flow and play along. Free yourself from your usual beliefs and let yourself get caught up in the game. Let go and forget all notion of control. We will never only control what we believe we are in control of. Believe me, the juice is worth the squeeze.
Only with great risk that a great reward. And today, because tomorrow is not promised.

« Life is being in bed with you, everything else is just waiting. »

I had to let it happen, I had to dive into uncertainty. I had to give myself the means to overcome that decisive life transition. I feel like I’ve been blind for years. Like my wanderlust addiction was keeping me from seeing the sick potential that my hometown had. There’s a fire burning in my heart and it’s doing me good.

« Sometimes, there is no next time, no time-outs, no second chances. Sometimes it’s now or never. »

It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.

There’s no denying it, something big is changing in my life these days. I had to get a grip on myself in order to get over it. I had to make peace with the system in order to overcome that rather brutal change. I quit fighting. If you can’t take down the system, then change it from within. Know the rules well so you can break them effectively. And you know what, I knew all the rules but the rules did not know me.

“You are honest. You know how to lie. I like that.”

Despite the fact that the temptations to fall back are (were?) all over , these days I’m on top of my game and I have such a lust for life, a determination to win that I’m convinced is gonna take me right where I wanna go. Work hard in silence, let the success be your noise. And quit believing everything you goddamn hear. Shit, believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, then who will?
You know my dear, when there is a will…

Damn, at long last I’m feeling alive at home and I’m so desperately in love with my life. It may have taken me a while, cost me efforts and required the strongest perseverance, but I eventually made it. It’s like things are just too comfy and daily-rewarding in my freshly-built bubble that considering leaving it now is just not an option.

It’s only when I stopped fighting that “initial global slowness” that I began to find it charming. All I had to do was to set up a life I don’t need to escape from.
And as paradoxical as it may sound, that new lifestyle made me hyperactive. Rarely got so many things done simultaneously on different fronts. Given where I started from, it gives me a certain sense of pride. You know, we’re all a little stronger in the broken places. It’s all about feeling alive, remember ?

Thus I start to value things that take time to get. It’s like my good old “I want everything, right here and then” seems a little childish to me now. Work, love, relationships… how wonderful is it to take time to see these things gradually grow day after day? Damn, I’d never thought I’d say such a thing one day. Only that in itself is enough to make my point I believe.

In the end, rock climbing has taught me to fight. To fight for what I truly believe in, fight for what I genuinely want in life, fight as to protect my investment. And I’ll never be thankful enough for that. And you know what, every step was necessary, even the temptations to fall back, the doubts and whatnot. It all contributed to get me where I am now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The turns of life aren’t always where we expect them to be. So I chose life, running around like crazy, trying everything new. I chose to see the glass half full instead of half empty, and it’s actually been a long time I made that decision.

« I know these will all be stories some day, and our pictures will become old photographs. We all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite. »

I’m no longer healing, I’m healed.

Je voulais régler un vieux contentieux avec le temps. J’avais trouvé dans la marche à pied matière à le ralentir. L’alchimie du voyage épaississait les secondes. Celles passées sur la route filaient moins vite que les autres. La frénésie s’empara de moi, il me fallait des horizons nouveaux.
Je me passionnais pour les aéroports où tout invite à la sortie et au départ. Mes voyages commençaient comme des fuites et se finissaient en course-poursuite contre les heures.

Il suffisait de demander à l’immobilité ce que le voyage ne m’apportait plus : la paix. »

« I had a score to settle with time. I had found in hiking a way to slow it down. The alchemy of the journey thickened the seconds. Those spent on the road were running slower than the others. The frenzy took hold of me, I needed new horizons.
I used to find airports exciting, as places where everything invites to the exit and departure. My journeys used to begin as an escape and ended up in pursuit against the hours.

All I had to do was to ask of immobility what travel no longer brought me : peace. »

 

Bonus :

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LXXV/ Smoke and mirrors

“Existence could be beautiful, or it could be ugly, but that’s on you. Dream. You got to find out the future you’re fighting for. Sometimes you got to close your eyes and really envision that shit, bro. If you like it, then it’s beautiful. If you don’t? Then you might as well fade the fuck out right now.”

My first night home alone freaked me out, would be lying to tell you otherwise. Then you try and remember why you ended up here. “Because you wanted to take a break, to chill someplace where you got long-term buddies, somewhere familiar with heaps of mountains around.” What’s with your perpetual need for adventure then?? Well in my particular case, settling down in my own country for an open period of time is a much bigger challenge than to explore any given wild place in the world. Way more mysterious and spooky in a way. Nope, we’re not all wired the same way.

Also there’s the fact that I lately realized that after all that endless traveling, I got to a momentary stage where I just didn’t wanna be a tourist at all any longer. I didn’t wanna be treated nor would it only be seen as a stranger anymore. To the extent that even living in a French region that wasn’t mine was still not good enough. I wanted to be fully respected as a local. As the boy that just did his homecoming from a long overseas journey.
And damn, you should see how fascinated people are by travel tales. Shit it’s good to be back. Anyway, when I think of the destinations I have on mind, I feel like I’m just not ready yet. Need to charge my batteries first. Plus it can wait, the world may be going very wrong these days, those countries up on my list are still gonna be there tomorrow.

So this is where we start; not really in that travel mindset anymore but not totally home yet either. But what the hell makes it so hard to unpack my stuff? First step, and probably the most challenging one; convince yourself when you tell others you’re here to stay.

When you think of it, it looks easy on the paper. Taking it one day at a time, the very thing I used to do back on my traveling days. Though for some reason I can’t seem to help thinking long term when I’m here. Like I don’t wanna commit to a job for too long in case I happen not to like it. Like if I go for an open-ended contract then I fear to get stuck in there forever… “Open-ended contract”, still the most frightening words to my ears in 2016. So for now I’ll just swing from a day job to another until I manage to find a more interesting position that would have to do with my field. Life on a temporary contract. Life IS a temporary contract.

And this is how I wound up stocking the shelves of a hardware store for my first month back home, using all my spare time looking for a more gratifying position elsewhere. Much questioning and many ups and downs followed on that first month of sedentary life.

First thing that is blindingly obvious to me is that the system is humiliating. Forces you to take a shitty unqualified job to pay the bills because “you got no experience.” To think that I initially thought my major issue was gonna be for me to choose what I wanted to do… Like I’m gonna have a choice… And I’ll have you remember that you should be thankful for the day job, like we’re doing you a favor. What an absolute hypocrisy.
So you’re telling me I’m the one who needs to show gratitude?? Well guess again boy, I’ll burn my passport down before I kiss that ass.

As a reminder, I’ve got to mention that I “grew up” and got all my first professional experiences overseas, most of the time places where the Saxon system ruled. Meaning that if you wanna work, you may totally find a job in a day. Better than that, you can even find a job in your area if you’re willing to start from the bottom. And with persistence and determination, you may totally climb the ladder so fast that within six months you could sometimes be the boss.

No we’re back to France, where the employment situation seems to be from another era. Everything is slow-processed, fussy about the procedure, old-school and closed-minded. Today I see a whole generation’s potential going down the drain on a daily basis. For what? Because the system couldn’t be any more inappropriate. Those who will study hard for years will end up being over-qualified and those who couldn’t take school will not stand a chance. And if for some reason today you wanna work in a different field than what you studied, I wish best of luck. Any stupid moron who’d have followed the right curriculum will stand in front of you in the line – never mind the fact that the guy potentially hates it and sucks at it very bad when you got the means to do the job just fine considering your life experience.

Let’s say it, today no recruiter is willing to take a “risk” betting on the candidate that has a different career path. Nobody’s willing to change a thing. The system is protecting itself, because oldies hold the reins. I say fuck off, all that is just so retarded. Ten years from now when the Generation Y will have taken over we won’t believe we had it that way for so long. Our kids will blame us and perhaps even laugh at us. Time to wake up and toss that inefficient system away.

It drives people crazy, severely depressed and winds up making them lose all hope and self-confidence. I mean c’mon who in hell still believes in it? Not even recruiters… Though they won’t do shit about it because “that’s just the way it is.” I’m aware that this whole phenomenon may be more of an outrage for me given what I personally experienced abroad but still, how can the whole population give up so easily and work at McDonald’s with a master’s degree? How can you even accept that at all? It’s insane how nothing makes sense around me anymore.

You know something’s really wrong when it gets to a point where you pick a job depending on its schedule instead of its content. But on the other hand, when I look around and see my friends who are totally career-oriented to the extent I wonder if they know what private life means, I’m not envious of their lifestyles and goals at all. It’s actually freaking me out. I could never identify to any of their choices or dreams, and that’s just fine by me! Be crazy patient and slowly climb the social and professional ladder?? Makes me wanna throw up. For real like. When I look at them I realize how work is such an alienating thing and it comforts me in my will to always choose life over work. Time over money. Freedom over alienation.

But as I promised Grenoble to truly give it a fair chance this time, as I owe myself a try at being sedentary, I persist. And gosh I’m being real harsh to myself sometimes. Wow, I realize that taking it “one day at a time” brought me to one and a half month at bay today. Go me. But soon enough I remember that slow and relentless process of job hunting that has become my daily after-work routine… While at the moment, work is being a handy man for a big corporation. Humiliating.
That bitterness. Wasting my time trying to fit in. Fit in where? For what?? I’m worth better than that and I know it.

“You might not think it’s a way to live, but why not? Repeating the same tasks each day without ever having to think about them, isn’t that what everybody does? Keep things on repeat to go along with their TV shows and antidepressant. Isn’t that where it’s comfortable? In the sameness?”

But shit, what if you’re right and they’re wrong? The essence of life is to run from a dream to another, which when you get to one, it unveils the next one and so on – not just passively endure life putting up with a shitty stage after another like a helpless upside down turtle.

Truth is, in life most of us run from one deadline to the next. So afraid to slow down to a point where they could catch sight of that obvious masquerade. Someone dare telling me it’s not all smoke and mirrors. Always work more to sustain an upgraded lifestyle you don’t need to please people you hate. Now what if you stepped outside for a minute?

Truth is the more money your lifestyle requires, the more of a slave you are to the system. I hope one day you realize that all the gold in the world will never pay you back all the years that passed you by.

Getting tired of this big time fuck up of a day job Vincent?? Yes. That feeling of “being under-used, overqualified and no one gives a flying fuck” is a pretty heavy ass burden to wake up next to every morning. I mean how do you not wanna turn straight off crazy with such a boring lifestyle? I’m starting to feel depressed on account of how slow everything is, especially with the job hunting process… All I wanted was to get to use my brain doing a job in an area that would interest me a bit, at least for a couple months. Because yes, I wouldn’t commit for too long either just yet. That fear of eventually fitting in… Plus I’m still not 100% clear in my mind either, something that has to do with my best pal called Wanderlust I suppose.

Shit I’m starting to dream of Canada again, I’m slowly drifting… I feel weak, like I haven’t learned my lesson and I want more. Shut up Wanderlust, I’m so seriously. But ..? There’s not but. Because some roads you shouldn’t go down. Because maps used to say, “There be dragons here.” Now they don’t. But that don’t mean the dragons aren’t there. Old habits die hard.

Now I get it, this is the reason why “normal people” always keep it so busy, they never stop a second and never have a chill night on their own because they refuse to take time to think things through. Shit, I must have missed an episode here, since when is that what’s “normal”?? It’s a denial act, pure and simple.

How can you end up so numb? As such a perfect slave to society. Traveling sure has made an open-minded person out of me but an open-minded man that is ridiculously unfit for working in today’s society. And you turn on the news you get depressed over all those “new” world dramas. So you go out at night and end up in a pub where you’ll spend all the money you worked hard to make, in order to fix your depression, that was initially caused by work and monotony….. Vicious circle, isn’t it? Your life becomes a loop.

But drinking your sorrows away doesn’t work that well as it actually makes you feel depressed on a deeper level. How can you aspire to such kind of a life? Why would you follow the flock if you had any other option? I mean don’t you see?
All those doubts, always ready to surface any time the bar hits you a little too hard.

Once upon a time, work was something you did in order to finance the rest of your life. It was a truly dull moment that you had to endure for eight hours a day, five days a week for forty years to pay off your drinks, your drugs, your Christmas gifts, your food and a funeral worthy of the name. Work was work, leisure was leisure, life was: life.

Today most of us have issues drawing the line between private life and work. “If I were to only work thirty five hours a week, I wouldn’t know just what to do with all that spare time!” See, to me this is the heart of the problem. Since when is that something “normal” to dedicate all of your waking hours to your job??

But eventually you fatally punch the clock like the rest of us… And you’re telling me that’s the reason why gyms have never been so crowded, why bars manage to pour countless overpriced pints every night…. To kill boredom. To kill those “lame hours” between work and bed time.
What do normal people do when they get so sad? Matter of fact, what’s more difficult is not to have a final goal in mind. I realize that I always had a next trip in sight, something to dream of, something concrete to hold onto until the job was over. At some stage I’m gonna have to face the fact that I will never be totally fulfilled with a sedentary life.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

So enough complaining for now. The picture isn’t that dark after all, there’s also a bunch of ups in the balance about being back. You know you’re on the right path when looking back does no longer seem tempting. Well I’m not quite there yet but every day I give myself new reasons to stay here.

First of all, you gotta learn to distinguish a bad day from being in dire straits. You know in the movies how they always fast forward the “long and hardcore training months”, top it up with a motivating song and it all looks so swift and easy even you could do it? Well bad news, this is the real life here and you gotta endure every last bit of it, chew on every bite of the shit sandwich. Though everyone goes through a shitty day every now and again, doesn’t mean life sucks for so much. Because that’s just so easy to fall into depression but it takes so much more courage to remain positive and actually give it a chance despite the moments of doubt.

Today’s the first day in a long time that I’m home and without any worry. I’m slowly getting a sense of home. Of what it means and can provide. I know I’m doing well because I’m starting to timidly be looking forward to see what my brand new sedentary life is gonna look like six months from now, with a smile.

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

So it’s up to me to get out there and meet my friends and make new connections as well. To carry on with that painful job hunting and continue to climb a mountain any chance I’m given. Gotta get out of bed and fight for what I want on a daily basis. They say “good things come to those who wait”, but I’d rather say “good things come to those who have nothing to lose, and were not particularly waiting on anything.” Gotta accept to live slow. Embrace slowness. But always make sure to live to the fullest.

“I don’t get the rules here either, but I need to keep socializing myself. It’s good for me. Besides, these people seem normal.”

I went off travelling, looking for answers, for that epiphany… It didn’t come… Until I returned. Interesting how things work, and how travelling becomes work! All those years desperately searching for that promised land that never really existed… Was it even worth it at all in the end? Yes, every minute was and I’ll always remain a nomad at heart. Part with those who are in control of their destiny and not those who yield to fatality.

Today I realize that when I travel I’m unconsciously searching for the thrill of my first experience abroad. Truth is, no matter where I go, it’s getting more and more difficult to get anywhere near the excitement of those first years overseas. I realize it is the very same thing with love, partying and whatnot. We remember how sweet and exceptional our first times were and since our present life may not be as bright at the moment, we’re merely trying to recreate a known and successful situation from the past. How many times have you gone out drinking at that particular pub, not that you love it so much but only in the prospect of potentially relive that one crazy ass night you once had there years ago? How many times did you “accidentally fall in love” with a chick that was nothing but your ex-girlfriend look-alike?

Maybe I’m only feeling odd these days because I got nothing much left on my bucket list, like over the last job interview I got, I didn’t know just what to think of when asked for my wildest dream. Already made it come true. Gives you a sense of how good you did there eh. There’s something romantic in the act of saying “I’ve achieved my wildest goals”. I’ve been everywhere I wanted to go to and now I’m back. Being able to say that I’ve walked on the five continents and I’ve seen what there was to see. And I learned, oh boy did I learn. I may be back a different man but deep inside I’ll always be a nomadic wanderer so desperately in love with the open road and the unknown. I opened my mind to new horizons and I’ve seen the light. And the Northern Lights. I’m fulfilled; I can die a happy man now. So whatever happens next, it can only be a bonus. I won’t die a bitter old man. There’ll always be those sparkles in my eyes thanks to you all I met along the way. Big up for my nomads around the globe.

And you know Vincent, maybe there’s no heaven. Same as maybe there’s no perfect job to be found, maybe there’s no heaven at all. Maybe they tricked us into buying that crap too. You know – even despite the fact that I never quite believed in any sort of religion whatsoever – I’ve always thought one could always dream of heaven as a mysterious, warm and shiny place where to hide out sometimes when in need of self-comforting. Away from that noisy and confusing world desperately too full of people.

Hey by the way, have you seen the news lately? Each day 151,600 people die when we’re at 360,000 births/day. Do I really need to go further? I believe those numbers speak for themselves. And please don’t tell me you can’t see the problem here, don’t be like them, so alienated by their dreary routine they can’t look at the bigger picture anymore. You see there’s a massive spiky wall ahead of us all, a massive angry shitstorm. Question is, are we gonna do something about it?

Damn, life on the road was easier. Clearly while you’re on the loose, you don’t get a chance to think of all that as you cautiously made sure your lifestyle wouldn’t allow you to see the dark side of the matrix. At bay it’s different, you’re forced to dig in headfirst on your first day as a reminder. Do not stay away from the norm or else… The longer you remain one step ahead of reality, the more brutally it punches you right in the face when you return.

Remember those days when – a week after having literally experienced THE worst-case scenario on a far far-away forgotten corner of the world – you suddenly got a sense of not needing any answer any more. That was it, having overcome that traumatic misfortune, you got a sense that you should be grateful for merely being alive and well. All those troubles in your head could wait, they were there yesterday, they’re here now and they sure will be tomorrow when you wake up. So for the time being, you might as well enjoy the present moment and gaze upon the snow-caped Mont Taranaki. Breathtaking. When you don’t need any answers, there will be days like this.

You know, over this first month of total sedentary lifestyle in my hometown after six years away, I’ve had plenty of time to think this through while I was busy putting all sorts of screws and nails in aisle. Believe me, I did. So what’s in it? Tell me, what’s in it? I wanna know. What’s in a “regular career-oriented dreary routine” for me? I may not be so much of a needy person in general but still, this I wanna know. Does the extra comfort makes up for the lack of overall fun?

Truth is, you can’t sever of a part of yourself. I will never be content with a sedentary life for a part of me will always be haunted by the thoughts of all those scattered pieces of heaven I yet haven’t unexplored.

“When you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”

Until then I’ll do day jobs, where you’re totally interchangeable (how depressing), but where you’re respected, and the work environment and conditions are okay. And if that gets on my nerves too much I’ll quit and do nothing but enjoy the surrounding mountains until I find a decent opportunity. Because life too is momentary, and work shouldn’t be at the center of it anyhow.

“Si no sabes hacia donde se dirige tu barco, ningún viento te será favorable.”
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”

LXXIV/ One day at a time

Good morning Vincent. Check out the sun that’s slowly rising up above all those imposing mountains. Feel that little breeze stroking your hair and let the light in. Wake up and smell the millennium. Damn Grenoble, you’re gorgeous. I finally feel like I’m ready to start a new relationship with you. Of course, considering everything I’ve been through, I will never be the same again. To think of that party beast I once was when our paths split six years ago. Today I can hardly recall that guy. So many beautiful scars have marked my body and heart over time but for some reason I want to believe it’s still me I’m facing in the mirror. I need to believe it. I need to believe there is a connection somewhere. Or else I’ll just sink back into what I do best; jumping headfirst in the first airplane I see into the unknown and vanish in thin air for another couple of years. And quite frankly that I can’t afford any longer.

I been tempted so badly to cross that border when I was the Pyrenees last month but deep inside I knew I had to resist the temptation, I had to be stronger than usual. I had to confront my demons and say no to the easy way-out as I only lately found out that by traveling too much, one gets lost. It now strikes me that somewhere along the road, somewhere along the years away from home, I simply got lost. This may be the toughest realization I’ve had to face in my life. It ain’t easy to admit to being lost and it’s even harder to trying to figure out the very moment when that occurred. How long had I been lost for? How could one lose their way while doing what one’s heart dictates? Where did I get so lost? How did I not figure that out sooner?

Was it when I forgot what it was like to live in one place for more than 6 months? Wasn’t it three years ago after my first travel burnout? Maybe it was, and it’s most likely because back then I had not realized yet that traveling was a potentially harmful addiction. And going back abroad again was after all just like shooting myself in the foot. You don’t fight lung cancer by lighting up a cigarette. How could I know then that another flight ticket was not gonna answer any question but only finish off what was left of my brain instead?

In order to figure out when did I cross that line, we’ll need to rewind a little. I won’t go back into all those years of nomadic ecstasy and intensified life as I fear to drown into painfully beautiful memories that would only reopen wounds from the past instead of trying to get some perspective on it all. Because some roads you shouldn’t go down. This time I won’t flee again. So I’ll only take you back three months ago, when I got home from my latest two-year long round-the-world trip with finally some drive to settle down for some time with no next-trip in sight.

Earlier through the summer I was very enthusiastic about that farm job I got myself over in Brittany. I genuinely thought “good, that will most likely help me to put down roots and chase that need for elsewhere away”. Turned out the job was great but I couldn’t get along with my employer at all and it’s only been a matter of a week before I blew it up and quit. One week Vincent… Sadly “Peace love farm” didn’t last very long.

Only a nomad does not simply quit a job without taking a trip then. To us it’s just like the after-sex cigarette. And off I went. Simply jumped on my car and what was initially gonna be a reunion with some good old mates quickly turned into a two-month road trip around France. Over more than 5.000 kilometers, my tour de France took me to so many different regions and gosh I think I forgot what a diversified country we have. Been to snow-caped mountains, gorgeous lakes, welcoming cities, tiny villages, refreshing rivers, and many other beautiful horizons. But most importantly, I had the opportunity to catch up with many great friends of mine, all being some sort of nomads themselves. What I probably loved most was the fact that nothing was planned eh, it all occurred at the spur of the moment, allowing me to be totally free of my every move.

Not that I’m trying to come up with an excuse to travel always a little more but on the road you meet many nomads that commonly tell you that they’ve explored the whole world but often haven’t even wandered around their own backyard. The difference is that I do. And lucky me, my country’s got a lot to offer.

The aim of this trip was to go through my nomad list and discuss nomad issues with a bunch of experts. See how they deal with their nomad heart at home. Try and find solutions to fit in society and find myself a closet where to put my backpack away.
Today I’m a severely damaged nomad that refuses to believe that there isn’t something else to life than just work and sedentary life. All in all we’re just like soldiers coming home having lived a far too emotional experience far away from home and just can’t manage to find their place back in a society that doesn’t understand them. A society that doesn’t match with what they became. How can you wanna make this your reality when you’ve flirted with pure heaven once in remote lands?

Because yes, everything seems so much brighter and interesting while on the road. Why can’t life continue to be as meaningful when we go home? This is probably when I started to consider my nomadism as an addiction. The more I think of it, the more similarities I can spot with drug addiction. I mean just take a look at it; anytime we feel low, we snort another border. Any irritating situation, any conflict on our way, we just avoid them by falling back to what we believe will provide us with a momentary way-out.

We refuse to face the fact that we’re addicted and yet we can’t possibly consider a life without our drug of choice. We just never get enough. We barely got our nostril full of a new culture and language, in our minds we’re already onto the continent we’ll shoot up next. We spend all of our money on it, every last dime we make is gonna be spent on drugs. In fact, we even work with this only goal in mind. Why else would one work in the first place?? And of course, as addicts, we are exposed to breathtaking comedowns – which would be a flight back home. Without drugs, life quickly gets slow and boring. The truth is, the more you travel, the more you will be madly obsessed with traveling and the more your whole life will revolve around it.

“Not all those who wander are lost”, remember? Not all of them, so be it. Some, perhaps… Damn, what’s happened to me? Which turn did I miss? Where did I get so lost? All those questions in my head… I needed answers and I figured that the road that had been my best friend for so long owed me some of them.

“Everyone wants an Argentina, a place where the slate is wiped clean. But the truth is Argentina, is just Argentina. No matter where we go we take ourselves and our damage, with us. So is home the place we run to, or is it the place we run from? Only to hide out in places where we’re accepted, unconditionally, places that feel more like home to us. Because we can finally be who we are.”

I find myself in a spot where I’m desirous of everything and its opposite. I envy the wealthy and I envy the poor, I envy the guy who got a cushy job and I envy the one that’s chasing after his dream job not making any money. I envy the backpackers and I envy the ones who got it steady. And if you were to ask me again tomorrow same time, my answer would be totally different. Never have I ever been so unstable in my mind, in my desires. No worries, I just can’t follow any longer so I don’t expect you to. Lately I often get a sense of internal confusion, like my desires parade in my head too fast for my brain to process them all. This is exactly what I mean when I say I’m lost.

I found out that doing a personal retreat is what you need in order to clear out your mind and getting drunk with old bros is what you need to find answers. Or hints. So it made sense to alternate periods of this trip between colorful mates and solo adventures.

So at some stage I quite randomly I picked the Pyrenees as new playground. Let’s hope I’ll find new forms of healing over there. And here I am, currently living solo in my car for seven days and seven nights, taking a hike a day, lost in the mountains somewhere between France and Spain. I may not shower daily and when I do, it’s often in lakes or rivers – but to tell you the truth, I never felt this clean on the inside. To take a morning dip in a mountain lake, what on earth makes you feel more alive? So here I stand, with my dick and my knife, alone with myself. I can hear a voice in my head telling me that there’s nothing a new playground can’t cure. Above the clouds, above troubles.

Home isn’t that bad after all. It’s actually pretty wicked if you ask me. Though this kinda realization may only come from within. Countless times I’d been told that before. Just needed to push it a little further to find out for myself. Of course I could have buy a tent and camp like normal people do. Would have cost me something like a hundred bucks including some campsite fees sometimes. Only, the way I see it, I’d much rather spend that extra cash in fuel and explore a little further.

If you were to look at my itinerary on a map, you’d call me crazy. Indeed, in order to get to my next dot, many times I turned around and drove back on the same road I came from, adding a couple extra miles and hours of driving. But it didn’t matter to me. It was never only gonna take me miles closer to my new objective. To do whatever you want, whenever you want. Isn’t that what we should always do in order to be true to oneself?

When the mountain stole your heart, everything comes from it and everything takes you back there. There’s just something about nature and open-spaces. Something that makes us humans look ugly. ‘Loneliness is dangerous. It’s addicting. Once you see how peaceful it is, you don’t wanna deal with people.’ Speaking of which, last person I talked to was a marmot. I begin to wonder whether I ever been so close to myself. High level of self-awareness these days.

It’s good to make time to find myself alone. It’s good to make time to find myself. I’m gradually healing. This trip is a decompression chamber, a smooth way to land after all those far-away trips. I’m catching up with France. I’m reproducing all I did overseas all those years of wandering around. I feel like I kinda cheated on you France with a bunch of other countries. Time to make peace.

And in order to sleep in a regular car for a week in the mountains on rough terrain after taking day treks every day, well let me tell you one thing son, you better love what you’re doing it for. Me. I’m doing it for me and my need for answer. One of the fundamental recurrent question is what am I gonna do with my life? Because deep inside I feel like I’m back to square one ever since I left that farm.

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”

On the road you don’t quite get to call the shots. You merely yield to the wildest temptation. Though this blissful solitude is starting to pay off and I begin to gather pieces of answers together. I realized that my freedom is what I value the most. I figured I had to get an outdoor job. I have to do something that would make me feel proud of myself.

“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Mold your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.”

But also I found out a bunch of stuff about me. Like the fact that I enjoy having many lives and maybe, just maybe, I don’t wanna change. I figured if I had to make a fundamental career choice now, I’d be broke and be forced to. I figured I’ll just go with the flow, try stuff and just blow everything if it’s not a match.

Let’s face it, I am different. I am suffering from the escape syndrome. Travel eventually becomes all you know. After a couple months in one spot, I get anxious and restless and I need to make a move again. Any difficulty I encounter, I pack my things up and take off. The escape syndrome, that’s all I know, it’s my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. And so we run right back to what we know best like a drunk that stumbles in the street searching for his house knowing he’s got one. Trouble is, no matter what I do, I keep living for the day. I cannot see further than the end of my trip. And it’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain.

Just as much as I am somehow proud to be able to live for the day – and I know people that would love to be able to do so as well – I can also see how this is not gonna help me to settle down anytime soon. To think that I used to get utterly mad at those who were interpreting my traveling as a way to run away. Not saying that they were a hundred percent right but today I’m forced to admit that I see this under a different light.

It’s incredibly hard to find your place amongst the sedentary when you’ve always lived on the road. In many situations, I’m left wondering what would normal people do if they were me. Like I’m not one of them. Like i’m doing research on the differences between our two respective species.
The rest of the people, always the rest of the people, when all I need is not to see them. I was mad at myself for this ability to suffer from people’s flaws, people I had no sympathy for. How in hell could people that could not make me happy could manage to make me unhappy? It’s a mystery. “You’ve got to favor yourself”, said my grand-mother. Easy to say.

“If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you’re fooling yourself. That’s like expecting the wolf not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.”

Damn I just realized this mess in my head could be a valid reason to go see a shrink. You’re gonna have to be good with your self-therapy Vinz. Because every time I look back on what I accomplished on the road, each time I die a little inside. My heart drops and I have tears in my eyes.

The past may be some kind of a safe place to hide because by definition it’s behind you now, and nothing will ever distort it. On the contrary, over time you’ll just carry on eliminating the bad and magnifying the good. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Only it may affect your present if you dwell on it for too long as nothing beats an altered memory. So beat on young fella, because the bridge is burning. And don’t look back until you’re sure the future may only be brighter than your past accomplishments. Learn not to look back and fall back into what you know best because I’m no longer sure it’s leading anywhere on the long run. Besides, comparison is the end of all joy.

But let’s look into the bright side, you got yourself thousands of traveling tales to dream of tonight. You’re my hero. Sometimes you’ve got to be your own hero, remember? Help’s gotta come from within if you truly wanna overcome this and not flee again. So now look at who you’ve become in the eye and be proud of it all, and understand there’s gotta be very shitty moments to go through if you wanna keep on reaching those heights in life.

After laughter comes tears they say. Can’t continue to endlessly postpone those issues forever. I have to believe that there is another way out, and believe me it takes a tremendous dose of courage to face it and give up the escape option. I gotta give myself the means to face this challenge of a new kind. Let’s not try and turn the page this time, so how about grabbing a new book? Yeah, I sure like the sound of that. Time to man up, cow-boy.

Today the little holiday is over and I’m back to my hometown. Just hit the second phase of readjustment, the lasting bit. I’m aware if I wanna make it I’m gonna have to soldier on and put up a major fight. A fight against myself and my demons. A decisive fight with high stakes; my mental health.
As I’ve been told, the secret is to take it one day at a time. Little by little. Don’t try and make long-term plans and think on a grand scale but think of what you’ll be doing today in concrete terms in order to get somewhere. If you overthink it, you’ll freak out and get the hell out of here before having given it a proper try. Go out, see your friends, make new ones and learn to master your fear when the music stops.

And every time I’ll be on edge, about to lose it, I will take a big breath and calmly repeat myself: “one day at a time young man, one day at a time”. Don’t overthink it. Just let go. Don’t harm yourself. Listen to your heart. Be a friend to yourself. I decided I should make myself a king instead of beating myself up, because after all, I love the person I’ve become and I believe in me. And if I had to do it all over again I’d do it without hesitation.

LXXIII/ Not all classrooms have four walls

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Hello France. Long time no see eh? Damn, I realize it’s been a long while I haven’t written either. You know sometimes life gets so intense that your only choice is to soak it all up and hope for quieter times to get a chance to write it all down. Wait for quieter times to digest it all. Sometimes there’s just so much going on in your life that you best just stand aside, be a spectator and learn. No time to take notes, as there’s always more coming in.

Because, hell, it’s been a heck of a long journey. Here I’m not even sure whether I’m referring to those past intense four months in Asia or to the uninterrupted two-year-long journey around the globe that I’m just coming home from. Or was I referring to those past seven years during which I hardly spent a couple months tops living in France?

See, even I get confused. But as I like to say, when you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere. So let’s take a moment here to take off my hiking shoes, sit back and straighten things out. I have been home for a couple weeks now and this is hardly the first opportunity for me to have a moment to myself where I can write a little and hence, try and put everything I have been through into perspective.

When I think of it, it’s funny to realize how full of energy you are while traveling as everything is a challenge in itself, to go shopping, to find accommodation for the night, to survive another twelve hour bus ride, to communicate with locals, to undertake a ten day trek, to merely cross the road downtown Hanoi, to cope with an almost permanent upset stomach while doing all of the above…

And now that I’m back home, I find myself to be kinda lacking energy just to carry on with the easiest daily routine one can ever have. Given those past four months where I had to fight my way through a one step above challenging Asia, I suppose it’s merely because my nerves ultimately got the better of me. It’s like I’ve been under so much permanent pressure and stress, always having to keep my guards up, constantly having to keep an eye on my backpack not to be robbed, haggle for hours for any given spending – from a motel room to a handful of peanuts, every other day having to think of what’s gonna be the next step, how to get there, look up flight tickets, hotels, go through hundred reviews, struggle with their shitty Wi-Fi, spend half of your days trying not to be scammed (too much) and so on… Please believe me when I say that long-term traveling is more than a full-time job in itself.

And so now that I’m back in “safe territories”, I am just falling in love with how simple life is around here. Anything you need, anything you want, you know where to find it and for what price. Back in Asia, I once heard: “Nope mam’ you can’t haggle here, this is a fixed price” and the lady went like “A fixed price?? What does it mean?!” It says a lot about how things work down there. However even if you make mistakes or get scammed, it’ll never really affect your overall budget that much. Like you pay 40 cents for a pack of cigarettes, same amount for a beer… In some places, rum was even cheaper than bottled water.

But damn, what can I say, it’s just so good to be back to such an easy lifestyle we have up here in Europe. Of course in two weeks I probably spent more money than I did in about two months’ time back in Asia but gosh, you can’t put a price on how laidback this all makes me feel. And shit, let’s say it… THE FOOD. Gosh I’m never going away from our delicious cheese again for so long.

Again, it’s funny to realize that what I love about being back is the very reason that had me run away all those years… The need for adventure and unknown combined together with the boredom and fear associated to routine and monotony.
Ain’t nothing your body likes better than routine. On the contrary ain’t nothing more damaging to the adventurer’s mind than routine. And yet here I stand, torn between the mind and the body’s needs.

Of course what we call the “reverse culture shock” hit me pretty hard over the first weeks I was back. Though now I’m used to being back again and to my greatest enchantment I have no desire to leave again anytime soon. I feel like I’m healed. Cured from my perpetual need for elsewhere.

Over time, traveling through those third world kinda countries, I’ve come to wonder what the fuck was I doing there, whether my mere presence there wasn’t kinda insulting to the local population. What’s the sense of all that? To do some “sightseeing” where the locals often can barely afford to feed themselves properly. To enjoy “being rich for once” sipping on cocktails in places where most people have their belt going around their waist twice so they’re skinny… Given everything you witness on a daily basis, at some stage you come to seriously wonder why the fuck do we flush toilets with drinking water at home but let’s not go there now.

So I decided maybe it was time for me to withdraw from the world of travels, or at least temporarily. I needed to head back some place where I’m just a random local that can easily blend in and no longer be a “wealthy white kid” amongst the “yellow or black”. I decided to take a break from all that. I decided my tortured mind deserved some peace and quiet at long last.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

No more crazy honking in the streets, no more people delousing each other on the sidewalks, no more scams at every corner, no more chaotic cities giving you a taste of the end of the world. No more headaches trying to figure out their bus or train system, their incomprehensible schedules, their fucked-up ticket selling points and so on. No more “same same but different”, no more sign language, no more struggles. No more days where your personal space gets repeatedly violated, no more “good price for you sir”, no more mosquitos biting your calves in their dodgy buses while you’re praying for your life to a god you never believed in.

You know you’ve been backpacking for (too?) long when nearly nothing that is in your backpack is part of your initial pack. Time’s up nomads, I’m headed home.

Because no matter how romantic it may seem at first glance, traveling long term is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.

These days I have a pretty strong need for comfort – all that comfort I’d given up so long ago. Once I caught up on my cravings for cheese, my next need was for new stuff, just like I needed some renewal in my life globally speaking. To get new clothes, treat myself in many ways – things I had not done in years. By doing all that I got a sense of starting a new life, which is nice. Once I posted “I travel a lot, I hate having my life disrupted by routine” and some friend cleverly answered something I didn’t quite understand at the time; “hasn’t traveling become kinda your routine?”
I can see now how she was totally right.

Having been gone for two years straight this time, I can totally see that there’s a major difference with all those times I took off for a year. My vision on the world has totally shifted. Now the wind is blowing on my back and I only see the reasons why I can. I found out that everything, every place may look like what you want it to. Hence even home can be a wicked place if you decide that’s what it should be like. You know, not all classrooms have four walls.

“I was obsessively bound to movement, drugged with space. I was chasing after time, believing it was hiding just over the horizon. The vigorous use of time may offset its fast pace, and that’s how I dealt with its swift passage. A free man possesses time. A man who dominates space is merely powerful. In cities, the minutes, hours and years escape us. In the country, time grows calm. It lies at your feet like a good old dog and suddenly, you’ve even forgotten it is there. I am free because my days are.”

There’s an old saying about traveling, that when you travel, you not only get a new perspective on the world, but you also get a new perspective on home.