The traveller’s paradox

I’ve always loved travelling. All of it. The logistics, the sensations, the discoveries.

I love packing. It’s a process I take an unreasonable pride in. Very few things compare to a well-packed bag, I think.

I love the actual departure. Planes taking off are a childish joy, trains leaving stations a romantic bliss.

I love the peace that comes with doing nothing while being on the move. A moment to read, watch, listen, eat. And drink bad coffee.

I love the internal reboot that come with new customs and new languages. Every belief of mine challenged by a new place, every habit questioned, every flavour appreciated.

But there’s been a shift lately. It’s happened a few times now. That last trip to Asia for example – to the Olympic Games. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – of course I was raring to go, I couldn’t believe my luck. The Games!

But the moment I closed the door and left, I felt a bang in my chest. My heart, dreaming of exploring but begging to stay cuddled on the sofa. A desire to discover while still waking up in that little flat of ours.

It’s a strange paradox, the traveller’s one. You’ve been restless; you’ve been ready to go. But when the time comes, the nostalgia of home is like a perfume you put a bit too much on, overwhelming and ever present.

It’s a strange paradox, a dilemma that’s painful at times. But it’s also what gives you a reason to come home.

Advertisements
The traveller’s paradox

Toughen up

I want to be good; I want to be kind. I want to work, chat, dream and be myself.

But how do you make it through life like that? How do you make it through your professional life like that? In most worlds, the sharks call the shots.

I get it, but I don’t find it easy. I don’t find it easy to be taken seriously and not lose my personality, my sensibility. My loyalty. The stronger I act, the better I hide my weaknesses. It works. But I don’t like it, really. I drift.

I stop myself from writing “sorry” in emails; I stop myself from joking, from sharing. I stop myself from goofing around, from admitting flaws.

Maybe that’s what growing up is about. I’m not sure. Shouldn’t it be about knowing what you believe in, taking advice, picking your influences, and moving forward in a direction you chose?

Shouldn’t sincerity be the overall rule, rather than playing roles to progress, advance… climb?

Sometimes we let a role define us when it should be the opposite. I know I have, to some extend. I’ve let myself take things seriously; I’ve forgotten why I chose that life in the first place.

A journalist I like, Géraldine Dormoy, recently wrote about modern jobs, big companies, and the doubts that often come with them.

“Consultant or baker […], whatever our professional life is, what matters is to be yourself in it,” she said.

Maybe that’s the key. I can’t change the order of things, the politics or the strategies. But I can decide of who I am around it, of how I evolve with it. I can toughen up, knowing it’s only a thicker skin.

Toughen up

The football stadium

“Where are you from, what’s your name, where are you going?”

The bus taking us to the airport is empty – it’s just him and I. That guy, who insists on talking while all I want is to SLEEP FOREVER.

Can’t say hi, can’t chat, can’t focus. Can’t rack my brain for yet another conversation. This new life this new country this new everything. The trips the stories the events the meetings the calls the emails. It’s been intense. I’m very tired.

“Wait, I’m going to sit next to you so we can chat.”

He insists. He talks, talks. Tells me his name, speaks of his family. Asks me where I come from, where I’ve lived, what I’ve done. Keeps on talking.

When the bus driver takes a break near the Allianz Arena in Munich, he wants to go see it “up close” and asks me to take a picture of him in front of the building.

“I’m a big football fan,” he says. He smiles a lot.

He – a 60+ man with a long career, two sons to take care of, a retirement plan to think of.

A senior, someone who’s lived twice longer than me on Earth, yet looks at that stadium like a kid seeing snow for the first time.

A man 30 years older than me, yet 30 times more enthusiastic, more animated. 30 times more alive.

Shortly after the bus dropped us at the airport. We said goodbye, he smiled some more, and that’s when I realised I was done with being tired. I hate this grumpiness anyway, and it’s not actually fun to act like you’re overwhelmed. From now on I want to look at all things the way Angel, 60 years old, looked at that football stadium on a Thursday afternoon.

The football stadium

Meteor

I’m standing in the empty field facing the main stage of the festival. Radiohead are 10 meters away, rehearsing their evening gig. The sea breeze blows, my hair flies around my head, Thom Yorke keeps singing, screaming, whispering, his words going straight to my heart. No filter, and no phone, no camera allowed – just the authorisation to stand there and listen to the sound check of one of the BEST BANDS ON EARTH on a windy, dusty Saturday morning.

Suddenly they stop and leave the stage, a clean cut that leaves me breathless, wondering if it really happened. 10 hours later, I’d be one of the tens of thousands dancing and crying to their music, losing all perception of what is work and what isn’t, losing all sense of the exhaustion of the past weeks, highs and lows mixed in an emotional blur.

That night I went to bed wondering how many experiences, how many feelings I can grasp that I can truly enjoy.

London said, “I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.”

He also said, “The function of man is to live, not to exist.”

But how much can you truly live, I wonder.

Maybe it’s the accumulation of the years, the fact that each day brings its new lot of memories, but I just find it overwhelming sometimes. Maybe it’s because I love experiencing something, but I love reflecting on it even more. The moment you sit on a train after a trip and look out the window, your mind still lingering in the places you just saw… or that time of the day at dusk, when everyone comes together and you drink to the adventures of the day. The dawn after a big party. The end of a run, of a skiing day, of a long hike. Saying goodbye after a great weekend, taking a nap after a big meal, cycling back home after a good evening. Looking back and thinking, yes I did this, we did this, and it was wonderful.

Or maybe it was utter shit, but that’s not the point.

For the past months, I’ve been like a squirrel, saving all these emotions, all these sensations. I’ve put them aside, thinking I would reflect on them once I would be back home, back to a more normal rhythm.

And I have. The minute things slowed down a bit, I looked back and smiled at the frenzy of the past months, the travels, the stories, the networking, the brainstorms, the parties, and I breathed.

But at the same time, I think I’ve realised something. If I want this to carry on, and if I want to be happy carrying on with it, I want to embrace the madness as it happens. Make the meteor metaphor mine.

Meteor

My five Ws

Your days are long but your time flies by. Your rhythm is intense, your focus, constant. And your brain is restless.

Welcome to your late 20s, darling. In a new job, a new country and a new self – the “am I a grown up yet?” self.

I don’t really know who that is. I want to party and not be hangover. I want to joke and be taken seriously. A dumpster bike that won’t break down. Endless runs that won’t hurt. A nice flat, with a low rent. A big car, without the parking part. A free schedule, a year-long hike, a transatlantic – and a life plan.

Limbo. I’m no student anymore, no junior, yet incredibly so. Ten projects, ten lives, tackling a world that only becomes bigger.

What, where, when, why, who with?

As the questions keep coming, I think I may have found some answers. Only a couple of bulletproof convictions. I don’t know the details, my exact ambitions, my exact locations, my exact companions, but I know what matters most to me.

And whatever comes next, I only hope it brings more questions, more answers – and a better bike.

“As the years went on, I realised that what I really want to be, all told, is a human. Just a productive, honest, courteously treated human” – Caitlin Moran

My five Ws