Here be Dragons

Many words follow.


Sometimes it is a thin layer of gold that separates inside from outside, sometimes it is fear. Truely leaving can be scary, especially if you are heading for the unknown. Two years ago I truly left. I did not know when I would be back. I did not know if I would be back. I was scared. I was heading for the unknown.

I guess, a true journey asks a question. And the world answers.


Here is what it told me.

Home. What is it? Where is it? Do I need it? It took me several month to sort, resort and to decide on what to keep and what to part with. In the end there remained a couple of boxes stored in an attic, a fridge stored in a shed and a backpack full of clothes and electronics. Home, as a place of my own, ceased to exist. Once I stepped outside I did not miss it.

Home wasn’t static any more. It was with me. It manifested itself in many ways, a chair in a library, a spot beneath a tree, or a rock on a beach to lean against and look at the sea. Whenever I came back to a place without a practical reason, home winked at me. This was especially true in pleasant company.

Friends. Who are they? How to find them? What to expect? When I left I had to promise a lot of people to stay in contact, I had to promise to start a blog. From most of them I haven’t heard ever since, nor did I contact them. With others I exchanged Still Alive messages, and look forward to seeing them again. They are few.

The flurry and confusion of a journey reduces everything to a minimum, strips everything to its bare essentials, as everyday living in an unfamiliar environment leaves little time and energy for anything else. In all this I constantly met people, teamed up with them for a trip, had a beer, or lived in the same place for a while. With some of them I created links in social networks, most of them without consequence.

Most of the time I travelled with a companion. I asked. I got my answer.

Then there is you. I wrote this blog for all those who know me and showed interest in what was to come. Most of them forgot about the blog. Three of those who follow my blog I know. But there are more, many more. I do not know how you found me, who you are or why you like what I write. Thank you, for your company.

What did the world tell me? Meet people, treat the nice ones as friends and let life sort them out. If you want to meet more people and sort faster, go on a journey. There will be surprises, but that is what life is all about.

Life. What do I really need? What are the essentials?  I travel with a backpack. I have to carry it. Everything has to fit in or must be left behind. Three simple facts that enforce a certain life style. Without the comfort of a large flat, without huge closets, a vaulty cellar or garage, every item counts. Downsizing. An impossible task. It took a long time. Once it was done, it looked like an easy and sensible thing to do. I do not need much to live. I guess no one really does.

Well, there are the items I need to be a functioning member of society on an every day basis, this includes underware and laptops. Plural, … yes. I know …

Then there are the additional items, the ones that I am legally required to keep, mostly involving paper, the ones that are really useful for a sedentary life style and those of sentimental value, which help me travelling in time. All of these can be stored in boxes.

Wherever I went I found all other things or infrastructure I needed, available in one or the other form. Civilization has taken care of that. I heard the word minimalism a lot, but I would rather not see the increasing ease of mobility as part of an ideology; for me it is the natural consequence of technology and limited resources: I can do more with less, or rather have to …

Perspective. What is it all about? With a journey I step outside, out of main stream society, into uncertainty. Money is one way of keeping contact, but it is a fleeting resource. It makes you worry, even if there is no immediate reason to do so. Then there is the worry about my own ability to make money. Well, I found no way around that one. In my experience it is actually a good idea to occasionally worry, but I am aware that worries can transform into fears that immobilize me and may turn into self fullfilling prophecies.

I guess, as long as I have some useful skills and keep in touch with main stream society I will be fine.

But most certainly, money is not what is all about. For me it is all about what to do with my life. There is a limit. I have seen lives end. This really puts things into perspective.

The last two years had a melody, the rythm of arrival and departure, with small pauses in between. I saw many places, most of which I will probably never return to. Even if I return, the place will be different. People who have been there with me, probably won’t. I will be different. Memorable moments do not repeat themselves. That is why they are memorable.

I guess, for me life is about exploration, looking for the limits of what I can understand, in the world, in humans and in general, and doing it in good company.

These days a probe finally reaches Pluto, that until now has been hardly more than a speck of light at the edge of the solar system. All of a sudden it turns into a whole world with its own geography, colours and details. Interestingly these days I am closing in on my own Pluto. These are interesting times, indeed.

Fear. It conquers all. If you let it. Fear of failure. Fear of consequences. Fear of isolation. Fear of rejection. I guess, we all know them. Is it fear that keeps us in line, stabilizes society as we know it? Do we confuse stability with safety? As a stranger in strange lands, I had to face fear, my own and the fear of others who were afraid of me. I am not writing about caution, about avoiding dark alleys at night, I am writing about the inability to free ourselves from prejudices and the opinions of our peers, about how we make decisions because we consider them safe, though we should know better.

I found it to be a significant difference to know about something, and to actually experience it. Knowing does not necessarily involve action, experience does, one way or the other. I guess, that is how a journey works, at least for me. Action changes things. It changed me. Buying groceries, using the bathroom or saying Hello. I found everyday living in a different culture very enlightening about how many ways there are, and how easy it is to get it wrong.

It’s the little things that confuse.

Travelling did not make my life easier. Quiet the opposite. In my opinion a true journey is complex, confusing and full of surprises. That may be the reason why it took away so many fears.

The uncharted unexplored territories at the edge of old maps sometimes were marked as Here be Dragons.

I went to the edge of my map. No dragons. Only a bigger map.

Once again, written at the edge:

Here be dragons.

Let’s go exploring.

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