Three years ago, my trip to Morocco had just come to an end. I spent three weeks there, three weeks that were about to shape my destiny. I had left on an impulse and landed there free from the weight of a daily life that was slowly starting to burn me from the inside, but also vulnerable to the promises of a far-away land that was supposed to save me from a reality that I didn’t want. I breathed, happy to know that there would always be a place like that to escape to.
I unfortunately also left a part of naivety there, when I chose to buy into the stories that an ill-intentioned being served me on a platter, seeing in my eyes the irresistible will to believe them. I believed him, and I found answers, the ones I wanted to hear. Traveller, journalist, distance student, I found that it was possible to live that way without completely giving up my other life. The erratic tales accumulated, ex-soldier who had fought for Israel then Palestine (was that an ironic omen?), been kidnapped and tortured, widow, friend of celebrities; the disturbing marks on his bodies mixed with a troubled mind and an excessive need for recognition made the borders between dreams and reality very blurry. It’s only with some hindsight, back in my Swiss comfort, that I understood that no one could possibly have so many accomplishments and tales in their record while spending most of the day lying on a couch and smoking local specialities. Confronted to the truth, his attitudes changed and I got to see the dark side of this mysterious character, the other side of the coin.
Funny story, from which I fortunately came out unharmed (at least, physically). Pain transforms people, sometimes in an irreversible way. I think it changed me, too, although not in such an extreme way I hope. This will not have been my only encounter with such a person; I guess I have a gift for attracting them to me. I formulated several hypotheses, in my mind, on the reasons for this mysterious attraction: is it my desire to believe in the impossible, does my mind live in too many fantasies? Does their dark side intrigue me because I don’t get it, or on the contrary do I recognize myself in it more than I would dare to admit? We say that opposites attract but we also say that birds of a feather flock together…
The answer probably lies within a mix of all of these reasons. In the meantime, I had found answers, answers that might have been only illusions at first, but that I managed to transform into realities. I wanted to prove that stories or not, I was the master of my destiny and the “why not” that I had inked into my arm the day before my departure, a few months later, is still there to witness it.
The start of an adventure of two years.
After already a few months of wandering, including an epic crossing of Russia on board of the famous transsiberian train, there I was, a year later, about to arrive in Palestine, full of projects and excitment, ready to devour the rest of my adventures. There had been ups, downs, wonderful encounters, life lessons, disillusions, pages and pages of text that were written, windows that were repaired, toilets that were cleaned, hostels, yourtes, planes, buses, trains, boats, horses, music, delicious food as well as bad meals, broken hearts, friendships, unexpected joys, tears, laughters, endless landscapes and an obscene amount of pictures. My life had become what I had imagined a year earlier, a few exceptions aside. Fatigue was starting to show signs of its presence, but I didn’t care, I wanted more, ever more. More meaning too, hence the unconventional choice that saw me going to work in refugee camps of the West Bank.
Another year after that, a year before the writing of these lines, I was this time in Cambodia, emptied, beaten, lost, sad. The road had taken me to see the dark side of the world and myself. I was trying to convince myself that I was still the one who left for Russia, hopelessly trying to build my identity on my travels, as if there was only that, forgetting the rest, forgetting the people who loved me and that I desperately needed. Instead, I chose to voluntarily exclude myself, with for only company someone who was ironically telling me the same kinds of stories than the person who convinced me to leave the first time. Someone that I loved and who, I think, loved me too, but didn’t know how to take me out of my maze of sadness, shame and guilt. I clinged to promises that no one could have held, and stories that were disconnecting me more and more from a reality to difficult to face, for everybody involved. Except that, where I transformed the disillusions of the first into strength to move on, I found myself stuck, living a life that didn’t seem like mine, that I didn’t recognize, and that comforted me in the idea that I had failed in everything. That I deserved what was happening to me, since in the last months particularly, I had made selfish choices, impossible choices, with an extent I couldn’t understand and that may have actually protected me.
And even if I erased that chapter from my life, at least in appearance, since you can’t find many traces of it compared to all the rest, it existed too. Sure, the timing is weird and you’re probably a bit confused about the details because, even if you’ve already thought about the fact that I confide myself in a tremendously intimate way, I control what I want you to know of me. And I’m not particularly proud of that chapter. But it’s there, with all the rest. It incarnated the culmination of the life I had led until then that was catching up with me, a privileged life, but an intense, exhausting, harrowing one. A solitary life. A life to which I had given too much to go back, and from which I would never want to come back. I would rather carry its burden, the horrors and the joys coexisiting inside of me, than to go back to my golden prison.
I left a piece of me behind, when I came home last May.
And here I am, three years later, contemplating my life since that month of January that has changed everything. Contemplating, philosophising, dreaming, it seems to me sometimes that it’s all I know how to do. I haven’t become a journalist, I haven’t reached the independence I dreamed about, sitting on a rock on the beach of Essaouira. I have become a distance student, but I still don’t have my diploma in hand; a few circumstances have slowed down that project, although it’s going again. I haven’t found the true call of my life, the one that would give meaning, a mission to everything I would undertake, although I have a few ideas. At 24 years old, my first “real” paid job is a three-month internship (I say “real”, because my other unpaid experiences are as valid to my mind as all the rest, by the way). I am the cliché of the lost millenial. On my way, I have lost friends, lovers, opportunities, part of my health, and I also lost a great love that took away a lot of joys and illusions from me when I left, and replaced it by an emptiness, by the realization that everything can go away from one day to another. A love that will have given much more than it took away from me, a short but beautiful love that again, for nothing in the world I would replace, despite the pain, despite the mistakes.
I haven’t either become a famous and influential blogger. And you know what ? When I see what successful travel blogs are all about today, I’m damn glad I am not one of them. It seems to me like everybody who wants to make it in that business has to sell their souls to Instagram, Facebook and co. No thank you. That is not for me. I am not ready to sacrifice sharing my real-life experiences, the authenticity of my writings in order to spend my days looking for websites who will agree to make me write a sponsored article about how awesome such place is, even if I don’t believe it myself, or always be fishing for more likes, comments, shares. Of course, I would like to be more recognized for what I do and yes, I would love to be able to live off of it and I would be ready to spend even more time dedicated to that goal, but not if that means to hypocritically praise a nomadic, authentic, hippie-lifestyle while staging all my pictures, only posting monetized content and spending all my time on social media (check this out if you don’t know what I’m talking about). You know what, I’ll save what I think of many modern backpackers for another post. There’s a lot and it’s not the point of this one.
Anyway, my life hasn’t exactly taken the turn I hoped for. That interlude in South-East Asia brought to me the realisation that travel won’t forever be an exit to my problems; on the contrary, when I got there, not only have I brought my demons with me but I also set foot in a nest infested with new problems. Therefore, I put travelling on stand-by for a while.
Don’t worry. It’s temporary.
However, today, I feel good. You see, I may not have all the achievements I wished for, but these words are not a message of regret. They are a message of acceptance, of realization that life only rarely takes the turns we expected. Life has brought me many beautiful surprises after a year of struggle, and I feel blessed. I can’t wait to tell you more about all of it. I am exactly where I need to be, here, now. I have accomplished many things, alone, and that fills me with pride. I have seen, discovered, learned, read, written, created, I have met, kissed, touched, smelled, eaten, drunk, thrown up, laughed, cried, I have won and lost. This list is far from exhaustive, and it doesn’t need to be, because it can easily be summed up: I have lived. It’s so precious, to live. Even if we all kinda have to pretend it’s going to last forever, and that’s normal too.
How alive have I been.
The open wounds I carry with me remind me of it everyday.
They also remind me that I have loved. I’m slowly understanding that to love, when you’re in my shoes, might just mean something else than the traditional definition of love, the one that’s expected from us. Because Hollywood isn’t real life, and because of circumstances, my instability, but also in relation to my vision of the world. I can’t/don’t know how to love in the way that is expected from me, not if I’m honest, not if I want to love myself enough, too. I swear, however, I love to love, and I love a lot, I love hard. I love people like I love this world, like I love life, like I love to write and to dream, like I would love for everybody to be free and happy, for war to not exist anymore, for everyone to have enough to eat and for children to never have to hear any gunshots again. I love people too much to understand that I have to love myself first, to not forget myself, to keep going where I want to go, even if I don’t know where that is. I’ve understood that my love is potentially so infinite that it’s up to me to give it limits, even if that means I don’t know what I’m doing and I keep making mistakes, even if I regret it, or hurt others.
Even if I have to accept that, forgive myself, adapt and move on.
Exactly like I did when I left Morocco, Palestine or Cambodia.