On a personal note…

Travelling, a journey where you have no past and no future. People can only judge you based on who you are in that moment of time. One step after another you continue, following the road of past, present and future. The only thing you carry along is a head filled with ideas, dreams and thoughts, a bag filled with way too much luggage and a motorbike being your white horse, or to be honest, nearly 11 white horses with its 125cc. One event following the other, throwing you off balance and helping you back up again. One life-changing event after another. It is quite funny to realize how few we know about the world we live in. We grow up with this fixed idea of how things are and should be, well, all I can tell you is, we are wrong! Nothing is as one thinks it should be. Every country has its own meaning of is and should. What should you eat for breakfast? How should you dress? What should you do? What shouldn’t you do? Small things we never think about, but that can hit you hard when travelling. It can be hard, it can be difficult to figure out and small things can be challenging, but it so beautifully highlights the relativity of life. Maybe it is the discussion of nature and nurture, maybe it is the discussion of culture, maybe it is the discussion of ethics or maybe it is all these complex topics coming together. For sure it is a realization, a way to question yourself and the choices we make in life. We all grow up in a certain society expecting certain things of us. Whether we like it or not, there is always a right or wrong according to society and people tend to judge based on what they think is correct, or at least what they have been taught to be the truth. Don’t take this the wrong way, I am no different! I suppose, whether we like it or not, we all judge in one way or another, but this realization of the relativity of such judgement helps to question yourself in what you are doing.

I have been on the road for nearly 6 months now and to be truthful, every day more questions awaken inside of me. When you think you start to understand life in one country to a certain degree you move on to the next and enter yet another society with different values, norms and habits. Every place we have been so far has its beautiful side, its annoying side and its wonders. Belgium has many beautiful old city centres, India has the most amazing food, Nepal the kindest people, Vietnam the most beautiful islands dotted along its shore and Laos the most fun dirt roads to discover by motorbike. On the downside, in Belgium people tend to be quite individualistic, India can make life rather difficult for women, Nepal has crazily expensive entry tickets for national parks, Vietnam mainly offers ”pho bo” (noodle soup with beef) to eat and in Laos we were threatened with a machete for getting back what was ours. What an accumulation of events! What a rich life! Of course, these are all personal experiences which in no way are representative for the whole of a country, but I am happy with every single one of them, good and bad. Certain events we call negative experiences and it easy to put all the blame on somebody else, but if we use such opportunity to reflect on our own behaviour and learn from it, it may just be that it isn’t all negative. A personal example is my overreaction to injustice, inflicted on both me and others. It is as if a raging fire starts burning inside of me, my eyes light up and all my muscles tighten as if ready for a fight, or rather, ready for any kind of fight. Sadly, such inner aggression splashing out of every piece of me more often than not simply makes things worse. I easily ruin half a day being angry with the world, I easily get into deeper trouble and without me wanting it, I seem angry with those closest to me. Summarized, it may be unjust, but the way I react to it doesn’t help a dime. I am still not able to fully control my anger in such situations, but I realize it, shut up and leave the talking to somebody else till I calm down a little. It is a first step ready to be followed by another one. Maybe the person trying to cheat me is in way greater need of every penny than I am, maybe the person is hopeless and doesn’t know another way to solve the situation or maybe it is just a greedy, aggressive idiot, but it doesn’t really matter. The only thing I know for sure is that I am the one giving that person power over me. Power he doesn’t deserve. Power to ruin my day and to take the smile off my face. Power that is mine and that I refuse to surrender. Maybe this simply confirms that life is what you make it. Good or bad. Simple or complex. Happy or sad. Some people get luckier than others, no way of denying that, but it aren’t always the people who have been hit the hardest who are most sad. Maybe I should simply end this whirlwind of thoughts with the following: Life is a curious sequence of events, take along what you can, grab every opportunity with both hands to discover, learn and question and don’t be afraid to dream up your own path through space and time.

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Welcome to Laos!

Full of energy, curiosity and a head filled with dreams we took of on this journey and here we are, yet again another country to add to our list! Slowly we are moving, discovering all that is new, surprising and different from what we are used to. At times it can be hard to not have the comforts of home. A quote beautifully summarizing the feeling for me is the following:

Travelling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comforts of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things. -air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky. -all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

Cesare Pavese

Luckily this brutality is more than compensated by never-ending smiles, unexpected meetings and irresistible beauty that keeps you going, urging you to continue and discover what is hidden beyond the next corner. One of the things that always keeps me going here in Laos are all the children waving along the way, trying to give a high five while you ride along and giggling the moment you put out your hand or wave back. The contrast with Vietnam could not be bigger in many different ways. It immediately became clear when crossing the Na Meo border. At the Vietnamese side we were asked for an export cost of 10 USD per bike, so 20 USD for the both of us, which, believe it or not, is a lot of money here. We simply said it was no problem if we could get a proof of payment, but obviously, this was not possible. After some time the story changed and the charge was because we didn’t have a drivers license, but he couldn’t have made a worse bet to prove he was trying to scam us. We got out our international drivers license according to the 8 November 1968 convention that is valid in Vietnam and that covers all types of motorbikes. His colleagues fully agreed with us on the validity of the license, but the guy who had to hand us our papers to leave Vietnam just got furious and ended up refusing to give us the papers without payment. By this time I was uncontrollably angry and had to shut up for some time or I would have caused some serious problems. Jonas, my boyfriend, fully took over the talking while I tried to calm down a little. Finally I went to ask the policeman outside for some help, or rather kept playing it kind of dumb and asked his help with a misunderstanding due to the language barrier. To make a long story short, thanks to the policeman we got our papers without paying a penny and got over to Laos where everything went as smooth as one could hope for. After a few hours of crossing borders we continued our journey, but this time we had to move slow. Roads were no longer what one would call roads in Vietnam. Gravel made way for dirt tracks, sand and stones. Helmets closed to keep the dirt out of our mouth, eyes on the road and tractoring uphill in first gear, slowly to not slither back down. Oh, we had a blast! Finally, our dual sport bikes could show what they were worth, and oh yes, they didn’t disappoint!

A setting sun overhead turning deep red and nature one can only dream of! Untouched wilderness with strangely shaped hills making place for small wooden cottages, rice fields and rivers. Suddenly we felt in another century. This place was again so different from all the places we had been before! We started wondering, how do children grow up here? What do people do for a living? What would life be like being born here? So many questions and slowly we hope to find some answers.

Laos, a country filled with undiscovered nature and curious people, a country carrying the remains of a recent war and a place one could hardly imagine to exist without having been there!

Dazed and confused: A slithering corner!

Welcome to my first real crash or fall with a motorbike, with the first being for the ones among you who like some more sensation and drama in life.

In my blog I try to be honest and share with you the adventures of life, but as it is life this also comprises clumsiness, tumbles and acrobatic stunts to get through. The last event certainly was a tumble, or a slide, or a good portion of bad luck, who knows, but for sure it involved a lot of rain, mist and a beautiful corner amidst the majestic mountains of North Vietnam. Only 50 kilometres away from our destination, Ba Be Lake, things went south. Those last kilometres took a while as my bike and I decided it was time for something new. Not that I had the feeling I had any deciding to do, but anyway, taking a downhill left-hand turn my back wheel felt it was a little behind and started to slide in the hope to catch up with the front. What happened after that will probably remain a mystery. For sure I did not fully agree with my bikes initiative, so most likely I tried to correct the slither with the unfortunate tumble as a consequence. Through the communication system some clear curses and swears could be heard during the few meters I slid over the tarmac. This was followed by the statement “I fell!” and a bit later continued by “I am okay…… I think….”. Quickly I got up and turned off the engine of my bike. By that time Jonas, my boyfriend, arrived to help me pick up the bike and role it to the side of the road. My right mirror was shattered with glass all over the place, but apart from that everything seemed fine. Emphasizing seemed, as soon it became clear this was not fully the case. When getting back on the bike to ride the last few kilometres, something strange was going on. Trying to drive in a straight line implied turning right according to the handlebars. A rather peculiar sensation, but not quite likeable. Conclusions: my front fork was not as straight as one would like it to be and the front disk brake was dragging. Back to the side of the road and wait for someone to pass by. Luckily, some bread had survived my crash so we could eat lunch while waiting. Meanwhile, it became clear that, although the bike had fallen on the right side, I had somehow made a turn and hit the ground on my left side with my hand and shoulder being the main victims, but no time to worry about it. We were invited to the home of some wonderful people who called a mechanic for us. An amazing experience in return of a fine dose of bad luck. Lovely people, a traditional wooden house and many animals around to keep us company. Not a single word of English, but even without words some kind of communication is possible. When the mechanic arrived he wasn’t able to help so we had to head back to the village we passed about 7 kilometres ago. With me still being a little dazed and confused, Jonas took over my bike and road all the way back. I can assure you, riding through the mountains with the wheel and handlebars not aligned as they should be, this was quite a challenge! I took his bike, but still feeling a little shaken, this was the worst drive I had so far. Reaching the village my bike was easily fixed using some, let’s say, alternative methods and of we went. Finally, we could continue and after a very slow ride with again many corners, but no more falls, we reached the lake!

During the night and the next morning, it became quite clear that continuing wasn’t an option as moving my arm was near impossible. This made me angry, annoyed and to be honest, quite grumpy. Stuck because my arm refused to do what I wanted it to. Sounds a little like the initiative my bike took the previous day, although chances are the fall was actually me trying to imitate the local tendency to topple over while riding.

Looking back at this experience it may not have been such a bad thing to be forced to take a break amidst the beauty of nature. Away from city life, peace, clean air and nothing to do except take a walk and some rest. A beautiful experience showing you may plan everything up to the smallest detail, but you can never control what happens along the way. Somehow this just confirms that it’s not about the destination, but rather about taking in what happens along the way. Maybe it is about letting go of the shoulds and replacing them with coulds. Maybe it is about daring to lose control and being the best you can be at that moment, even if that is not how you planned it to be or how you wanted it to be. A lesson learned the hard way, a lesson learned while trying to discover the outside world and ending up being hindered only by my own thoughts. The world will not always give you what you ask for, but maybe if you let it, it ends up surprising you.

Greetings from Vietnam!

A new country and many things to discover. Something that became clear quite quickly was the random tendency of people to topple over while riding their scooty throughout Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The situations causing these strange events vary widely. Sometimes the person just falls in the middle of the road due to texting and driving, sometimes the person decides to drive straight into a lamppost or sometimes they are the only ones on the road, but decide to go directly for the walkway with the common result of losing control and crashing. And then we only mention the people strangely falling over, not the people crashing into each other. The big question remains, why? Is it simply because they cannot drive their scooter? Or is it because it is Vietnamese/Chinese New Year and people had a little too much to drink? Let’s hope the latter because even though Indian traffic seemed crazy, in the months travelling on bike through that country we never saw such incidents. We will probably find out soon. In a couple of days we hit the road to discover the North of Vietnam on our nearly new bikes, a Yamaha XTZ and Honda XR. Two light bikes quite high from the ground. They make it a little challenging for my short little legs to reach the ground, so let’s hope I don’t take up that tendency to topple over!

Meanwhile, we have had the amazing experience to stay at the house of a friend of mine, providing us with the opportunity to discover a different culture from close-by. Novel foods, different ways of doing things and (Vietnamese) New Year celebrated in a totally new way. Have you ever tried an egg with a fully grown baby duck inside? Well, till recently, neither had I, but times have changed and here we go. Not that I was a big fan to be honest, but I tried. The taste is eggy, as you would expect, but seeing this little duck plays with your mind and changes everything. Coming from a primarily vegetarian country using a lot of spices such as India, followed by Nepal having small portions of meat and still many spices, Vietnam is certainly the opposite. Finding something without meat turns out to be quite challenging and spices are something they don’t really seem to use in the Vietnamese kitchen. Not that I or my boyfriend are vegetarian, but from an environmental perspective we try to at least limit the amount of meat we consume. Summarized, the food took some getting used to! Luckily they have Banh Chung, a tasty type of sticky rice cake with beans and meat inside that is boiled while packed inside of bamboo leaves and is consumed a lot during the New Years celebrations. Although I should warn you, the celebrations are quite different from what we are used to in European countries. Many rules and restrictions apply based birth signs, religion and family. Also travelling becomes much harder as even hotels and hostels tend to close during this time, so again we are very lucky to be able to stay at a friends place. I wish I could express how grateful I am, but sometimes words can’t cover everything.

Sleeping on a bed made of wooden planks and sharing our room with Bernard, our nightly visitor looking for food, we greet every morning with a smile filled with happiness and gratefulness for the kindness we receive. We come from a society where people are focussed on the individual, on themselves and on their own lives, but this doesn’t have to be. Something I have certainly learned is that letting people into your life can only make it better. Even if it turns out different from how you expected it to be, you will have learned something to take along with you. Sharing a laugh, giving a hug, exchanging ideas or having a simple moment together to have a chat can turn everyday life into a miracle. A smile doesn’t mean life is perfect, it simply shows there is something worth living for.

A tale of endless stairs: Annapurna Base Camp

Once upon a time, these two little human beings arrived in Pokhara to sit down, take a breath, relax and rest for a while. Seeing the magnificent mountains a restlessness awakened and the future took a totally different turn. Every moment of the day the mountains seemed to be calling, asking for a visit, but when asking around people said all hikes were closed due to snow and cold. When hardly any time was left, they suddenly heard a different story. The way to Annapurna Base Camp was open! Temperatures going way below freezing point, but an accessible path leading the way, all the way to a height of 4130meters. No doubts left, the next day the essentials were bought, the backpacks were made and late at night heads were laid to rest with a great adventure ahead. The next morning they took a ride to Kande and left there with only a crappy map, the urge to discover the unknown and the snowy mountains ahead to guide the way. As so often, the beginning was the hardest part, endless stairs leading the way upwards till the top of the first mountain was reached. Or looking back at it, the top of a hill at 2200meters. Up and down it went. From the top of the mountain down to the river flowing way below in the valley and back up again to the top of another mountain. More stairs than you can imagine. A walk challenging you mentally when making your way up, hiding more stairs around every corner. Just when you think no more stairs exist in the whole wide world they pop up in front of you. When you think you have nearly reached the height you need to be that day, you go all the way back down to where you come from to subsequently climb back up to an even higher point. Slowly slowly, shanti shanti, one breath a time and one foot before the other the two little human beings reached a higher point every day. Every day they got a little more scared, would they have trouble with the height? Would acute mountain sickness hold them back? They had heard the most terrible stories going from constant headaches, dizziness and sleepless nights to people who couldn’t get out of bed and had to be taken to lower heights by helicopter. Luckily, it all remained faraway stories. Combatting a daily height difference of at least 2000meters they reached Annapurna Base Camp after three and a half days of walking. Slowly feeling the lack of oxygen breathing became more tiring and climbing more challenging as they were confronted with their own physical boundaries. This was fully compensated and quickly forgotten by the unbelievable sceneries. A different world hidden between the highest mountain peaks of the world. Heaven and earth coming together. Glaciers and frozen waterfalls. Sharp landscapes and falling stones. Natures terrain. Nature being in control instead of people trying to bend the land to their own will. Powerless little human beings against the power of the earth, but there is a crack in nature and the earth carries many scars. One day it were glaciers, now it are merely enormous cracks filled with sand and dust. A view that nearly brings you to tears. The scar will disappear over time and the glacier will remain a simple memory fading away, but never shall it return in all its glory. Even so close to heaven people have left there mark, but still so many among us refuse to believe in rising temperatures. If you have your doubts about how we human beings are slowly destroying our own world, fight your way up to these mountain peaks, dive into our oceans and take a deep breath amidst of our endless traffic. Slowly you may start to see the scars, the plastic islands, the disappearing forests and the pain it inflicts on so many who directly depend on nature for life.

After many emotions and thoughts awakened by such scenery the way back down began. Back to the world we live in, back to daily life, back to reality. Two days of endless stairs, up and down, leaving the snowy mountain peaks behind and taking a well deserved break at the hot springs in Jhinu. Early in the morning, mist hanging above and cold all around. The only sounds being the ice cold river flowing by and birds eagerly awaiting the first rays of sunlight. A last stop in nature before entering city life. Leaving the hot springs behind, entering civilised world couldn’t have been more hard. After a walk of a few more hours, the bus was reached to bring the two little humans back to Pokhara. A hell of a bus ride! Off-roading on a motorbike may be hard, but off-roading on a bus gives a totally different dimension to life. Never could they have imagined that sitting on a bus could feel so similar to crashing. Bruises, plausible brain damage and smiles out of misery were a fact. Making its way through sand, rivers and mud the bus took at least an hour to reach something that could be called a road according to Western standards, although even this may be open for debate. A total of three hours bus ride, two kilometers of city walk and two kilometers of taxi ride the hotel in Pokhara was reached. Life could slowly go back to what once was called normal with yet another cherished memory to carry along and a silent promise to the mountains to return.

Two worlds together and yet apart

Before entering Nepal I was pretty sure that it would be quite similar to India, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the moment you cross the border an endless stretch of peace awaits you. Less traffic, less sounding horn and epic sceneries. Sadly this beauty is unmistakeably combined with cold during the month of January, although this also may be beneficial as this keeps many tourists away. Prices lower, places are less crowded, people are happier to see you and all you need is an extra jumper. Luckily prices are effectively lower in non-touristy places as you would expect them to be, while this was certainly not the case in India. The lower the amount of tourists, the more they see you as a walking ATM. Crossing the border from India to Nepal also amazingly shows how women rights don’t have to be related to any religion. Many regions we crossed in India were Hindu, as is the main part of Nepal, but the amount of women you see working, you see walking on the streets as the evening falls and the ease of communication (even without a common language) significantly increases. Of course this are only first impressions, but they give a totally different feel to a country, especially as a woman. Without a doubt I would travel alone in Nepal, while my gut feeling tells me this may not be as good an idea in the non-touristy parts of India. For sure it would be possible, but possible never implies easy. I should add here that this may be explained by the fact that India most likely comprises a huge amount of places that aren’t used to foreigners yet, while this does not seem the case in Nepal.

India, my first love in Asia. Nepal, nature you can only dream of, the garden you cannot live without. Blue waters reflecting the beauty above, mountains taking your breath away (literally when making your way up) and sunsets plunging the surroundings in a magical light. India and Nepal may share a huge stretch of border, but apart from that they are totally different countries. Something like two sisters growing up together, totally different people figuring out their place in the world while trying to get along. Together and yet apart.

Another country that stole a piece of my heart, but isn’t it wonderful to be able to give your heart to the world? So much fighting, so much dispute and yet such an amazing world we live in. A blue planet we get to discover while we are alive. Instead of fighting wars, doing a job that makes us unhappy or discriminating against people we may not know, let’s think and try to figure out what we have to offer to this world that makes it an even more beautiful place every day. Why be unhappy if your happiness and enthusiasm can inspire others? You may not have figured out what makes you happy, nor have I, but every step along the way is one where you can take this thought into consideration.

Differences add a hint of mystery

Often you hear that travelling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer and I truly believe there is a big truth to this saying. It hurts to spend money every day without earning a penny, but it opens your eyes to a different world, it opens your heart to so many people you meet, it broadens your way of thinking and it widens your perspective on how things are and could be. The world is not an easy place, things are never as straightforward as you would like them to be and often aren’t what they seem to be. Whether we like it or not, the way we each see the world is a reflection of who we are, our cultural background and our upbringing. It is so easy to say somebody is doing something stupid, but maybe they have a reason for doing things in such a way, a reason that we fail to see. And this leads to one of the harder things you learn when travelling, question yourself, your views, your thoughts and your judgments. Outside of your comfort zone things may feel strange and uncomfortable, but before you know it, it starts to feel familiar and becomes a place you feel safe again.

For me, it was exactly the same when I started off travelling through India on a motorcycle about 2 months ago. Every evening I felt tired, I felt I was not able to ride in such crazy traffic and I thought it simply wasn’t something I could do. Now, having ridden more kilometres in India than in Belgium or anywhere else in the world I cannot imagine having done it any other way. Every day I am not riding my bike I am at least thinking of it. Often I just go and sit on my bike for a while knowing I am ready to continue our journey to Nepal, the rest of Asia and if all goes well, to South America. Not that it isn’t tiring anymore, for sure it is, but that is simply because you start to ride longer days, bigger distances and more challenging roads.

We are staying in Pushkar, Rajastan till the papers for the last bike arrive and as such celebrated Christmas here, although there weren’t many people with the same idea. Christmas may be an official government holiday in India, but that is about as far as it goes. Maybe some other tourists had the same idea, but as it are mainly Israeli tourists here this also doesn’t add much to the Christmas spirit. Anyhow, we enjoyed it a lot, bought the most amazing gifts for a budget of 10€ and ate a true Christmas dinner in a restaurant for again the stunning price of 10€ for two people. I must admit it, is really strange to be celebrating on your own, but again it shows the relativity of the world. Living in Europe, it seems that Christmas is everywhere, while in India it is just a day gone by. Wonderful isn’t it? The diversity, the differences and at the same time the similarities. The media may try to focus your attention on all the differences in a rather negative way, but through this I want to ask you, let’s stay within the Christmas spirit and try to see the beauty of this planet. I plead you, try to appreciate the diversity this world has to offer instead of judging and see differences as an opportunity to question, to learn and to understand. Isn’t it exactly this diversity that makes our world to an extraordinary place with a hint of mystery? So let’s be different, let’s be mysterious, let’s be us!

Food for thought!

It is hard to capture the huge variety of feelings India awakens inside. Suddenly you understand how close love and hate can be related, how pure happiness can suddenly switch to pure frustration and how endless gratefulness can turn into disappointment. It is hard to find words to describe these many experiences, so bare with me. We left off in Goa heading North going through Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh to reach Rajasthan, a state of desserts, burning sunshine and unbelievable cold. On the way a few simple words, meant well and trying to help me, confronted me with another world: “Don’t talk to other men!” Easy to say, but hard to live by if they all talk to you. Some simple words opening up a whole different world, a world of which we easily forget its existence, a world in which women and men live a totally different life and a world where women certainly don’t ride motorcycles. Women ride scooties or sit on the back, obviously. A world that doesn’t fully make sense to me. On the one hand men should not talk to a lady to be respectful, but on the other hand they follow her around trying to take pictures. The contrasts of India. On the one hand India stands for spirituality and peace, on the other hand it promotes crazy driving and distrust. While trying to eliminate inequality by banning the cast system it promotes what I would call racism. Simply looking at the colour of the skin the prices increase. Imagine such situations happening in Belgium or another European country. You are not from Belgium, well, then you should pay 20€ instead of 2€ for the museum, no problem. Why? Oh well, that is just how I think it should be, that’s all. I am sure it would not take long before such practices would end up in the news. In India, the tourist price is something normal. We visited some beautiful, ancient cave temples and yet again the tourist price was more than ten times the local price (15inr local price compared to 200inr for foreigners). When I commented on it and got a little annoyed about it (read: rather something like very annoyed) the guy behind the counter suddenly lost the ability to speak English. Problem solved! If I would know my money is spent well I would not complain as much, but at the same time the buildings are being ruined due to a lack of care, people carving into the walls and rubbish lying around nearly everywhere. The unfairness goes further than this. In many hotels you are rejected simply for being a foreigner, prices more than double and even when buying food you need to know exactly what the price is for each item or they try to charge you an extra tourist tax. Strangely, this especially seems to happen in places where they aren’t used to seeing tourists. For example in Banswara, a town quite close to Udaipur, we had to go to 10 hotels to find a place to stay. Eight hotels simple told us: “No foreigners”, “Not allowed” or “Not possible”. The other 2 places just highly increased their price, so you simply end up with the choice to pay too much or have no place to sleep. For me this is truly shameful behaviour for such an amazing country and casts a dark shade over all the magnificence this country has to offer with for a major part the government to blame.

In contrast, we are often treated to the most beautiful smiles, offered a helping hand out of nowhere and receive free chai in exchange for a bunch of selfies. Just a few days ago we stopped at a small place along the way to have a chai. We only wanted one, but the owner insisted we took a second one and didn’t let us pay a penny. Probably he is poorer than many we have met during this journey and yet he shows so much kindness having only little and sharing all he has. We all have much to learn from such people! I strongly believe that being kind will come back to you in one way or another, maybe not today or tomorrow, but some day life will smile back.

India, different worlds coming together trying to be one. A beautiful, kind, caring world hiding away so much corruption, frustration, pain and dishonesty. A country with so many layers of hope, despair and pain. So many young faces dreaming of a big future while suffocating in the smog covering the cities, so many wonderful women hardly ever leaving the house and so many men bearing the responsibility of taking care of whole families while never being certain of an income the next day.

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Throwback in time

Travelling through India. It is more than simply travelling through a country, rather it is like travelling through space and time. Landscapes change from beautiful beaches over sandy meadows into rough mountains. A loving kind of landscape into a dangerous and treacherous terrain. So much beauty, and yet so much frustration. If you ask me what my biggest frustration is about India, that is an amazingly easy question to answer: the crazy price difference they charge for visiting places and monuments for tourists compared to Indian citizens or lookalikes. They often easily charge 10 times the price or more for foreigner and they are not ashamed about it. Often it is neatly written down on the board indicating the different prices. Luckily, if you would ask me what I like about this mysterious country in the East, my answer is much longer. It is a country that never stops surprising. When you think you have seen everything, it shows you yet another side of itself. India seems to be more of a little world than a country. A place with many faces combining the old and the new. In the morning you can be stuck in the big city traffic for hours, but when leaving the city you may encounter several farmers pulling a plough by hand through the red coloured earth. Life is everywhere, moving around in a flying colourful manner.

After leaving Kovalam behind we headed up into the mountains at Coonoor, Kotagiri and Ooty to then slowly descent back to the coast at Gokarna while passing through the shimmering National Parks of Mudumalai and Badipur, the lively city of Mysore and the rural areas around Shimoga and Sagar. Roads went from impeccable to non-existent, riding at 70km/hour to moving at hardly 10km/hour while combatting the reddish sand and the rocks. Off-road skills, I am surely still working on them! Reaching Gokarna yet another throwback in time was awaiting us. We found a cute little hut to stay in directly on Kudle beach, and with a hut I really mean a hut. A little hut made from bamboo sticks and the leaves from coconut trees. No floor, only sand to softly place your feet in every morning. No bathroom, just a small bed with several layers of blankets taking over the function of a mattress and a mosquito net hanging above. The sound of the waves breaking on the beach to keep you company. Basic, simple and yet mesmerizing. Dreaming of how beaches must have been when they were discovered by merchants and pirates suddenly feels natural. A life so different, so far away of how we all know it in so many countries and yet so special. It makes me wonder why we make life so complicated when it can be brought back to this simpler, slower version. I could keep on talking about this attractive place, but all I can really say is, if you want to go back to basics and can cope with the lack of, well nearly everything, this is the place to go! For sure it is a place I plan to return to before it loses its beautiful simplicity to the tourist industry. After Gokarna we headed to Goa, surely as amazing as Gokarna, but the huge tourist business has found its way here for already many years. Probably Gokarna still is what Goa must have been many years ago.

Following our stay in Goa we continue our journey further North, towards Rajasthan and Nepal, towards colder climates, desserts and the ancient mountains of the Himalayas. Living on our motorcycles, falling in love with people and the ever changing landscape, moving with time, being frustrated and finding utter peace. Living life, discovering the unknown, observing natural beauty, feeling human kindness and experiencing what the world has to offer.

A piece of me

We finally left Kovalam. I am not sure if it was my heart or my stomach aching when we drove away, but anyway it resulted in some secret tears running down my face nicely hidden away below my helmet. I hate crying in public so a helmet perfectly protects me against that in addition to the plausible head injuries if I would fall. People don’t always realize it, but if I care about them, I really care about them deeply and letting go is hard. It feels like losing another little piece of myself. Slowly I lose myself to the world, to the beautiful people I meet along the way and for who I care and feel deeply. It must imply that something must be true about the saying: ’Home is where you are’. Home is everywhere where you can be with people you care about. Following this philosophy the world can easily become your home.

The last few nights I have been feeling restless. It takes hours to fall asleep simply because my body refuses to calm down, but figuring out why doesn’t seem the easy part. Stressed for our big adventure ahead? In doubt of what I expect from the days ahead? Wondering what I expect from my future, what I want from life apart from travelling? Stressed to leave without having the official papers of one of the motorcycles? That sounds quite plausible. I don’t like it at all, but what can you do? We stayed in Kovalam for more than a month while we were able to buy our motorcycles after only one week. All the rest of the time we have been waiting for the paperwork and discovering the South of India, but when you are able to recognize nearly all the photos on the postcards you can be quite sure that you have been at one place for too long. Not that I don’t want to come back, more of the contrary, secretly I am already planning when I could come and stay here for a bit longer. Relax, practice my surfing, discover the beautiful surroundings and enjoy the good company. So many homes to return to, so many people I will always carry with me in my heart and if you are reading this you are probably one of them. I think that is the hard part of travelling, letting go. Every day I think of so many people that mean something for me without always knowing if I even ever meant something to them, but does that really matter? Maybe life is more about what you can give instead of what you gain. If we are honest that is the only thing we can really control, what we give to others, how we treat them and not how they treat you. The people who really care won’t suddenly disappear, the others are maybe not worth the fight to keep them in your life.

The past month made me realize another difficult part of travelling, more specifically about travelling together with somebody you care about such as your boyfriend. Easily you end up seeing each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, something that is hardly ever the case when living at home. Even though you then may be living together, during the day you are often out for work, studying or seeing friends. In addition, when travelling, you are confronted with the best, but also the worst parts of each other without being able to escape. You have to continue, get through it, talk and find a solution that works for both. Luckily this is facilitated by events that rapidly bring you back together. A perfect example is simply going to a gas station to fill up the motorcycles. I suppose you are currently wondering how this can be eventful in any way, well, here it goes. After filling up the bikes we payed with a note of 2000 inr (Indian Rupee) and had to get back 740 inr. Instead of giving our money back a lady working there suddenly refused the money because there was a miniscule little bit of writing on it. Nobody had seen it till the money reached her hands. We didn’t have any other note nor card within reach to pay such an amount of money. Result? We were stuck there for at least half an hour while she told her story to every possible person passing by. As nearly everybody said she should just accept the money, she finally gave us back the money we deserved, or at least that is what we thought. When we counted it carefully she still had to give us 50 inr more. Reason? Oh, that was the damage we had to pay for the little writing on the note. After even more discussion and finally threatening we would call the police if she would continue like that, we got our money. Only in India! But exactly after such events there is nothing better than to be able to talk and laugh about such craziness with someone you care about.

Life, travelling through time without being able to turn back. Don’t regret the path you chose and adapt along every step. Love intensly, smile full of joy, care unconditionally, take a deep breath and open your eyes to the world we all live in.