October 16th, 2018 - transitioning
It's been awhile and I hope you've been well! I know I have.
In a way I'm surprised by just how well I've been! Like announced in the May edition of my newsletter, I went home for the first time in six years, and while that's obviously a joyous occasion, I was expecting a severe reverse culture shock. Everybody I met along the road had experienced it; like Niko who preferred to sleep in the garage when he returned from a 1.5 year cycling trip. I had been gone for such a long time and not being home had somehow become a substantial part of my life. I was worried I wouldn't fit in anymore, that everything would be too square for the world I was bringing with me, that I’d feel boxed in, that nobody would understand, that all these were not just clichés.
But it wasn't at all like that and so I enjoyed catching up with my family and friends without any restraint. I think the reason is this: practically everybody I had met was on some sort of break – a gap year, a sabbatical, a prolonged vacation. When they went back home, the end of their journey was truly the end of an era and now something entirely different was waiting for them. For many months they’d been living a life of travel, had gathered myriad experiences, encounters and memories in their backpacks, while roaming freely and worriless. Now it was back to work, back to study, back to reality.
My situation was different. Traveling (and working at the same time) had become my reality and it wasn’t coming to an end. My homecoming wasn’t so much of a return, but more of a stopping by. I knew I’d set out again a few months later and my life didn’t change much apart from the fact that novelty was replaced by nostalgia. Like in any other place where I had settled over the years I established a certain routine and my work didn't change either. I even got to travel a little bit while being “back” during trips to Switzerland and the Netherlands. On top of that I finally spent a lot of quality time with family and friends. Time and distance hadn’t torn these strong friendship bonds and I didn’t feel foreign in my home town.
My homecoming wasn’t the end of an era, but a transition from one chapter to the next within the same book. By now I am already back on the road, but I don’t intend to be gone for six years this time around. In the current chapter of my life I want to keep living abroad, but move even slower and return to some of the places I've come to love rather than perpetually moving on to new places and experiences. I have lived plenty over the last couple of years, now I want to create. So that’s what I do, working on MilesAstray, my novel and other projects. Here is some proof that this endless summer has not been all idle and hammocky for me:
I hope you enjoy some of the latest pieces from my countries section:
Port Rexton / Only Passing Through: Unsung Towns of Unknown Dreams
the delusive beauty of scratching a place's surface instead of digging deep
...the unknown leaves space for imagination and in the foreigner's head any town can tell any story.
Tirana / How Little Can You Learn About a Country in One Day?
passing through Albania in 24h
...this is pretty much where the flying visit reaches its maximum altitude of inflight insights, falling short of the point where travel peaks in my opinion: when it opens up a more intimate angle on a foreign culture and the people who live it through their habits, everyday rituals, and mannerisms.
Cartagena / Police Negotiations
haggling over fines for non-existent crimes & how to break the corruption cycle
...one needed to keep in mind that these were still cops, corrupt cops notwithstanding. They weren’t just some bargaining clowns, but the law...
Jakarta / Beautifully Ugly
inner beauty & authentic travel - less pretty cities well worth the visit
Why pretend that you are easy on the eyes of strangers who are just checking you out, soon off to generic liaisons on Bali? You aren’t Kuta, you don’t wear makeup. You look run down. Your old town has seen much better days. And you don’t smell so nice either. But you have character. And soul. And true Javanese street scenes.
A couple of recent collections from the photos section:
when the sun dims down, civilization lights up
...the last fire in the sky ebbs into paler shades of orange and yellow, before wandering west on the spectrum towards far tones like indigo. Meanwhile, on earth’s surface, civilization flips the switch and soon droplets of artificial light bathe in the interplay of hues...
allures of the dark side
...for the daring nocturnal creatures among us, there is a deserted, silent world waiting after hours; and like moths we flutter towards its discoveries, wherever a speck of light flecks the darkness.
The Observer Effect: Momentary Momentum
...the camera’s skill to freeze the momentary momentum in-between scenes is nothing short of miraculous and reminds me of a quirky phenomenon in the quantum realm: the observer effect.
Some of my latest glimpses:
glimpse: DENSE SOUL | Fenced in by elbows for much too long, his escape from civilization was a matter of survival. The city’s plots were convoluted and twisted and their fragile pleasures could never carry the entirety of his dense soul. Spinning inside that hurried centrifuge of light and deluded realities, his core got pushed outwards to the societal rim, the first and final frontier, where his heavy heart began, finally, to gravitate towards nature’s pull. The city had had it all, but nature had something more, something more profound, something truer. Neither cruel nor benevolent, the plots of the wild were simply what they were, honest and pure, written by life and his conscious partaking in it.
glimpse: IN IT TOGETHER | Statistically speaking 56.97 % of these people didn’t cast a vote during the 2017 referendum on Catalan independence, 92.01 % of the rest were in favor, 7.99 % against. Some of them are revolutionaries, others moderate bystanders. And yet, looking at this subway car, I see all of them in it together. In something even bigger than politics. In life. This scene is testament to an everyday life normality that cushioned Catalonians from political unrest while they carried on ordinarily with their individual existences between societal lines, where the quintessence of our human experience dwells. It depicts people’s agency to go on with their lives into whichever direction, regardless of the political course and discourse.
glimpse: EXPENSIVE POVERTY | What a sinister paradox: if you belong to the 35 % of Limeños, who live in the many shanty towns of Peru’s capital, you pay up to 10 times more for water than wealthier residents, according to Oxfam estimates. Abundant water, filling the pools of affluent Miraflores, is a scarce commodity in next door San Juan de Miraflores, where squatter settlements crawl up muddy hills. Without plumbing they depend on costly water truck deliveries, which don’t make it up the slopes. This means additional labor and costs for those living higher up. Despite an infamous perpetual winter drizzle, it almost never rains in Lima, which undermines rainwater harvesting efforts. And as though that wasn't bitterly ironic enough, the occasional rain comes down as torrential downpours, washing out these very hills and demolishing the brittle existences of those who dwell here.
where to next
I'm currently back in Granada, Spain. Next stop: the first Christmas at home in 7 years. Then off to my beloved Montreal in January.
July 25th, 2017 - idle facade, busy behind the scenes