December 16th, 2017 - year coming to a close
May 16th 2012 is the day I set out for my journey. Therefore I send out my newsletter on the 16th of every month (given my travels allow it). If you would like to receive these updates straight to your inbox, you can sign up here:
Another year is coming to a close, so this will be the last newsletter of 2017. I don’t feel the need to wrap up the whole year and if you go through the archive in my news section, you have the gist readily available.
The real news is (no fake news here) that this year I’ll get to spend Christmas with my family for the first time in 6 years!! Yes, these guys here:
glimpse: FAMILY PORTRAIT | Since I started my slow voyage around the world it's been difficult to assemble a family portrait. Home hasn’t seen me in more than 5 years and our moments together have become few. Fortunately they visit me and this overhanging mirror in Marseille was the perfect opportunity to snap a shot of my parents, my sister and myself framed by candor and spontaneity. They know it's my love for the world that made me set out, and that it will be my love for them that will bring me home in the end. | Sometimes it only takes one picture to tell a photo story. You can find more of these glimpses here, dispersed throughout the photos section and on social media.
We decided to meet up in the Netherlands and I am truly excited. Throughout these years on the road I’ve often been preaching about how family, friends and other social ties are in my opinion the universal key ingredient for happiness, if there is any. On the other hand, I chose to make an enormous sacrifice exactly there, where it matters, and didn’t leave my beloved ones much of a choice but to make the same sacrifice; moving on and on without going back for so many years has taken a toll on my family, relationships and friendships.
To break down the reasons of why I smeared said message I like to preach, takes much more space than a newsletter and short attention spans can afford. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I sent my family a 10 page letter, explaining many of my motives. Conciseness isn’t my strong suit, but let’s just say that I have a larger goal in mind with my journey and with MilesAstray, which couldn’t have been pursued without the premise of making this a long, slow voyage around the world. It is a unique project, whose message(s) will become clearer as MilesAstray comes to life more and more in form of a website and a book.
Sometimes in life we have to make painful sacrifices in the short run, to live according to a greater vision. Fair enough, 5 ½ years is not the short run anymore, but it’s merely enough to catch a tiny glimpse of a large world and its human condition; a glimpse I would like to share with whoever has a curiosity for the world we live in. Here are some of my latest glimpses for a little sampling:
glimpse: FROM A TO B | For those born into the lush maze that is the Okavango Delta, navigating the myriad waterways on a Mokoro comes as natural as walking. Propelled by pushing a pole into the muddy ground beneath the shallow waters, the slender canoe glides stealthily through the marshland, where Hippo encounters are to be avoided at all costs. While in many parts of the world the only remnants of such traditions are lackluster tourism interpretations, the Mokoro is a standard way of transporting goods and getting from A to B until today.
glimpse: DESTINATION(LESS) | To be a place, a place just needs to be. To be a destination, a place needs to be more. Furthermore, it seems to be commonly agreed upon that a place can only become a destination, when said more is commonly agreed upon. Moreover, the more agree, the more a place becomes more. Yet, sometimes less is more. Unless what matters to you matters less to you than what matters to most, what’s just a place for them, might be just the place for you; a place to many, but a destination to one beholder’s eye, previously hidden on a map he never laid eyes on. Looking at this brittle house in Quito, Ecuador, I see the same extraordinary character and beauty as looking at the glamorous Empire State Building. Destinationless wandering made me find what I didn’t look for.
glimpse: THE LAST TUSK | Hunting game is not a hunting game. When trophy hunger replaces hunger, it’s merely human arrogance intruding upon nature’s verdict over life and death for something as petty as decor. Mr. Trump – this is a no-brainer, so actually right up your alley! Do you really want to take a step towards the last tusk?
glimpse: POPCORN | I was never a big fan of popcorn. Of course I had the luxury of not being a popcorn fan, because it was no more than a movie-snack to me and there were alternatives like nachos with cheese dip. Probably I’d be a bigger popcorn fan, if it was all I could afford for lunch today, sitting with my kids on the floor of my 9 square meter house in Kitende, Uganda.
glimpse: STORIES | Every story has a different story and each single one is interlaced with at least one other, from the first to the last. Complex and tall do they pile, warm and cold, bright and dark to be unraveled step by step by those with the curiosity and courage to keep climbing up and down.
This chapter of my life is slowly coming to an end and for the next one I will make sure to reserve more time for the people closest to me. One of them actually just made some time for me and met me in Spain. Since he’s vain and humble in almost equal measure, he asked me for a mention in my newsletter, but under an alias. I said: “Sure Elzzirch”, so here you go! We certainly made the most of the 36h we had my friend and none of our indulgent shenanigans shall be disclosed here!
I don't have many moves to report on, since I spent the last 6 weeks in Granada. However, within this beloved city of mine I did move around quite a lot, exploring new corners almost every day. More than 9 years ago I spent one of these best summers of a lifetime here, and I had been dreaming of coming back ever since.
Another message that I always preach is that it isn't the place itself, but your experience there that ultimately writes the narrative of feelings and memories. Hence, one has to bear in mind that a second time around in a place (s)he holds dear might be a letdown. Yet, I always liked to think of it as more of an opportunity to simply create a different experience. And that it was. I am truly happy to be back, even though the circumstances could hardly be more different. Here are some impressions of a place, which I still feel head over heels for:
I love how this city is so extraordinarily beautiful without being too decadent, how corners of simplicity or even shabbiness merely complement extravagant artistry to give Granada's beauty a down-to-earth realness.
Sacromonte cave house and sunset lovers
I love how people come together to enjoy the little grand moments in life.
people admiring the Alhambra
feet dangling from one of the many lookout points
And I love the silence and solitude between little alleyways, parks and nightly lookout points.
Cuesta de Gomérez
Paseo de la Bomba
my latest momentary home
Tokyo / Lingering Alone
the difference between seeing a place and being in a place
...everybody is keen on seeing these picture-perfect places, but nobody seems interested in actually being there, in staying in these moments. Peek, cross off the list, move on to the next aisle... explore
Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?
people carry on ordinarily while the political stage is in flames
...yet, between these societal lines, where the quintessence of our life as human beings dwells, our situation remains largely the same, despite political turmoil... explore
where to next
Off to the Netherlands on December 22nd and then on to Kazakhstan on January 1st! Enjoy the holidays, preferably with your beloved ones! Catch you in 2018!