Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The incredible lightness of being

Everytime I call home and talk to mum and dad, I sense that they are really disappointed in me; "why couldn't our son be 'normal' like others?" must be swimming in their heads. I also know for a fact that they are ashamed to tell their friends their son is a wanderer, a bum. My having travelled to over 40 countries, lived in some of them, had experienced that most people only dreamt or read about, etc mean nothing to them. In the beginning, I longed for them to appreciate and recognise what I am doing, I wanted them to be proud of me. But I know that that would never be the case and I had also grown to accept the fact that I will always be the black sheep of the family. And now I carry this title proudly without a tinge of regret nor disappointment. I have come to let go of living up to people's expectations.

A lot of people have said to me that what I am doing is admirable, a lot of them wished they could do it too. In the beginning I used to say to them "Do it! If I can, you can too." But then I realised that we are all different, we find our happiness in very different ways. For some, the freedom on the road could be more of a burden, we were never taught how to deal with such a freedom so most of us are lost when we encounter it. And I guess that's why we sometimes live vicariously through the adventures of others.

In November, I was interviewed almost at the same time by 2 different persons. First was a journalist for a spanish newspaper, El Mundo, whom I met 3 times in our journeys through South America.
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/11/29/sudamerica/1259503623.html (in spanish)

Second was by a very good friend who has started his own website for independent-minded travellers.

Both articles are now published and I have had my *insert apropriate number of minute* of fame. And I think and hope that both are being recieved positively, maybe through these others can live vicariously through me. But hopefully they inspire them to think and reexam their life. To stop saying "I wish I could do that," instead really take the first step in a following their dreams, like I did 6 years ago.

When I was leaving home, I had a long conversation with one of my then good friend. He told me that he dreamt of leaving a legacy behind when he dies, however "nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable." I only dream of having as much experience I can get out of this life as possible and leave as lightly as I have arrived. From dust I came and to dust I shall return.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Going from nowhere to nowhere

16 months ago when I bought a one way ticket from Madrid, Spain to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, I didn't expect to be in this continent for a long time, actually I didn't really expect anything, just wanted to leave and go with the flow and see where the road would lead me. But to be honest, in the first few months, I was thinking that it would just be another one of those trips that I did, 2 to 3 months on the road and then go back to Spain.

But one step at a time, one country after another, and now 1 year-4 months and 6 countries later, I find myself still wandering in this continent. And the end is not in sight. Quite to the contrary, I am thinking of staying here for a while.

I never thought that I could travel almost non stop for this long a period. I had always thought that my limit was 4 months top. But this 16 months have prove to me that limits are there to be overcome. Although being on the road for this long has its physical, emotional and mental tolls, it is through understanding and overcoming my limits and being in an uncomfortable state that I can begin to learn about myself; the not so nice side of myself, my imperfections. And then learn to embrace me for me, in all my goodness and imperfections. And when I can truly do that, then I am truly free.

While trekking through the pristine landscape of Torres del Paine in Chile, I explored my physical limit in terms of endurance to cold and tough conditions. And while hitch-hiking up the Carretera Austral, Chile, it was a test of solitude. I have never felt so alone, there were a few times where I was left in a crossroad where there was no sign of any human being, nor their settlement. I felt I was the only person in the world. Also at that time I was going through a very difficult period emotionally. I was feeling extremely lonely. I thought that I was ok being alone and not having friends by my side at all times, I thought that I was stronger in my emotional state, but again I was brought down to see that I should never take anything for granted. I still have a lot to learn about solitude.

This year has been a year of many self discovery. I learnt again the neccesity of deconstructing my identity. No matter how much I have grown to like or habitate in one, I cannot deny the fact that change is the only constant in life. And to evolve with change is the only way I can keep my sanity and this fleeting sense of contentment and happiness that we all long for.

Now that I have chosen to settle in Colombia for a while. I have to start from zero again. Looking for work, house and friends. The novelty of being in a new place and starting a new is wearing off. It is a vicious cycle that I want to jump out of, but the question is into what? What's on offer in the society I want no part in. So then what? What's the alternative? What are the options? To go back to a society that I don't believe in and a life that's identical to everyone else? I rather enjoy this current melancholy limbo.

Sunday, 5 April 2009


I Heard my name called
by the east wind
where the sun rises
behind the celestial mountain
by the west wind
where the moon shines
beyond the mysterious water

Like a cloud
blown this way and that
taking shapeless form
undecided, torn
like a ship
lost in the vast ocean of choice

The Road
I have walked many roads
flat and long
winding and straight
up and down
I have walked in many shoes
shining and common
used and worn
new and untested
The paths greet me
with embraces
with punches
with kisses
I am still walking
Then I ask myself
Where am I going

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Family tie

"You are really selfish!"

This would never hurt so much if it isn't said by one's mother. During our last tele-conversation, hearing that word felt like a bland crocked knife drove through my flesh and lodged itself in my heart and the tone of her voice, gave that knife a mighty twist.

What prompted such an outburst from an otherwise loving and dotting mum was my unwillingness to settle down, to have a "normal" life, a career, get married and give her grand children... And my wanting to lead this nomadic life, this "aimless" wandering and doing "nothing" to my life. Growing up, I was bombarded everywhere around me with the idea of a life like that of everyone else: education-career-marriage-children-retirement, I was brought up to compete with everyone else, with my siblings, my cousins, the neighbour's child, my father's secretary's sister's child. Phrases like "your sister just bought a new car" or "your cousin just bought a house" or "you know the so-and-so son just got promoted" are not uncommon, they are meant to encourage me to achieve higher goal, but those kind of comment just push me further away from wanting to have anything to do with that kind of idealogy.

I love my family, I used to be a mummy's boy, that's enough said. I grew up in a huge and united family, always surrounded by uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents, from both sides. But something changed. People always asked me how do I feel being away from my family for such a long time. My answer has always been as long as I know that they are fine and healthy, that's enough for me. How do I get to this stage of detachment from my family?


The death of my grandmother, whom I loved and was an anchor to the family, I had the ilusion that she would always be there. But life has a lesson for me, a painful but necessary lesson - To let go. These last few years I have been trying to learn to "let go"; to let go of expectation, to let go of all things: ties, emotions that bind us. Because nothing is permanent, not even family, nor their love, nor the ties.

I would like to say that I am above the emotion that "family" evokes in me, that I am not bound by my love, nor by duty, not even guilt, to do thing one way or another just because of this concept of family that we were brought up to believe to be the fundamental truth. I would like to say that I am beyond that truth. There's no such thing as absolute truth, everything is relative.

I love my parents and my family, but I don't have to show it in a societal-dictated way. The manifestation of my affection doesn't have to be limited or constructed under a rigid rules and regulation, or bound by physical and geographical distances.

Knowing my parents, and most people for that matter, they would beg to differ. So maybe my mum is right, that I am really one selfish bastard who lives his life free of ties, like a prisoner set free... like a lunatic let loose... but one free and happy lunatic, nonetheless.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


After 5 years of wandering life, every part of me - my emotions, my senses and my intellect are telling me that its time to settle down. The loneliness is getting to me and my life need some changes.

When I left home, I constructed my identity as a traveller, backpacker and even a nomad. I embraced this new identity like a warm blanket on a wintry night. And after wearing it for 5 years, it has become one of those worn-out shirt that you get so comfortable with that you don't want to throw it out. I have become so used to being a traveller, a nomad that like most thing I began to take it for granted - this life on the road and the memorable experiences. I began to be complacent about my adventures and the enjoyment that I get out of it; reasoning that it is "my right" to have an amazing experience, it is "my right" that people should treat me with the utmost hospitality and generosity. I have lost the ability to appreciate the little and simple things in life.

My philosophy of life is "life is not measured by the amount of breath you take, but by the moments that take your breath away"... In these years of travelling, I have had so many moments that take my breath away, and now at times, I feel short of breath. Meaning to say that, with so many incredible experiences, incredible could become mandane and ordinary. And with each experience, I want more; the bar of expectation keeps rising higher to fulfill my need.

The signs started last year. Nothing seems to satisfy me as much as they did before. I think part of the reason I am now travelling through South America is to put to test whether I am really numb to this, of if the intensity of joy I get out of travelling has diminished.

Sadly it has.

This trip started in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil and after over 3 months, I reached the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. I have seen some really wonderful places and some unforgettable adventures. But what is vivid in my mind is not what I have seen but whom I have met. The people whom I had made some deep connection and with whom I shared experience, stayed in my memory. And I know I am craving for that, human connection. Not just a passing encounter, but something deeper and lasting. It has been a long while since I maintained a friendship for more than a year.

Loneliness is creeping up on me unnoticed. On this trip, I fell in love twice in 2 weeks at 2 different places. I am not a good guard of my own emotion, I let them loose and express them and live them to the full. That also means that I am open to hurt, rejection and broken heart. And that's what happened both times, and that left a devastating effect on me. It made me realised what is missing in my life - affection and companionship.

So here I am, in another crossed road in life where my identity is up for another makeover if I am willing to let the old one go. Unlike the last time where I was so ready to give up my old self, this time round, it is an identity that fits like a glove.. the only problem is that I don't need the glove anymore...