On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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Creative approach. photographic work and videos.

29 November 2017

Why do I travel?

Questions about my relationship to travel and why I find it so hard to enjoy it.
Great Ocean Road, Australia © Claire Blumenfeld
NOTE

“I think when you are truly stuck, when you have stood still in the same spot for too long, you throw a grenade in exactly the spot you were standing in, and jump, and pray. It is the momentum of last resort.”

― Robyn Davidson, Tracks : One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback

Five days on the road and the least we can say is that I do not really enjoy it. Yet I think I was ready to do the road trip that most backpackers do: drive away for a week, a month to discover the country. This is the ultimate trip, according to the vast majority of young adults traveling. Just ride and go exploring a good part of the country. Life on the road, free, without ties, to the rhythm of the sun. But I am not sure if I really like this way of traveling. Too many kilometers to do, too many tourist stops. Two hours drive. Stop for about thirty minutes to go see a beach / lake / national park that must not be missed. The lake is supposed to be of an impressive pink color. The beach of white sand never seen. And the national park would offer breathtaking views. Except that when I am there, the lake is dry, it is cloudy on the beach and the national park is filled with young tourists who destroy the ecosystem and the tranquility. 200 km more and stop again to go for a ride of two hours in another place not to be missed. The ride takes me longer than expected and here I am chasing after time to find a free camp before it is dark. I have not had the time to work on my blog, nor to do meditation nor Tai Chi and the photos of the day are banal due to a lack of creativity.

Since I resigned from Arkaroola (the Outback Resort where I worked in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia) almost two months ago, I do not feel well. Yes, I had problems with the manager there and that is why I resigned but at least I had the feeling of having a goal, to follow a path. Since I left, I feel dissociated, without goals and depressed. Ohlala, not really what you want to hear from someone on the other side of the world. Should it not be fantastic experiences, bustling with friends and parties on the beach? Well, no. There is nothing you can do against, problems follow us, we drag them wherever we go. And then, I am not traveling. Or at least not traveling as most people think of it, with an end date and return to work to save for retirement. No, it has been two years since I started to travel and beyond a two-three weeks plan I have no idea what the future holds. My life for now is a nomadic life. No exact address. No security. I follow jobs and opportunities from country to country. But I like it. And theses past few months I started to try to concentrate on my plans, my blog, to change my diet, to live more ecological and in a simpler way and to feel better (meditation, tai chi and thoughts). I try to focus on the goals that are important and that define me.

But paradoxically despite searching for tranquility I still want to explore every nook and cranny of Australia. And this is especially what happens during this road trip. Part of me is focused on accomplishing my goals, my routine, working on my projects during the day. And the other is focused on going to see all the supposedly unmissable places. Not to mention the driving time in the middle. And inevitably, it does not work. The places I visit have nothing special and leave me unmoved and I do not have time to follow my goals properly. Every morning, mid-day and evening revolve around only one thing: running after time. And I feel empty and without motivation So this is it. I must make it clear. It. does. not. work. I need to listen to my subconscious that is telling me that the experience and the satisfaction do not come from the number of places we visit. That one can spend one year in Australia (or in any country) in the same place and come out grow and changed. And that we can spend a year visiting the whole country, doing superficial tourism and come back disappointed. The number of places visited does not matter. Only the experience that results is important. But my mind conditioned by today’s society is always looking for more. And I have a hard time trying to change it.

But does this road trip is not working because I do not adapt enough to my environment? Of course on the road (whether by car, bike or on foot), it is more difficult to follow a well-defined routine. At “home” everything is simpler, at your fingertips. On a road trip in my little Toyota Hilux, everything takes more time. I have to pack and unpack things every morning and night, the ground is not necessarily very comfortable for my morning workout, I can not cook the way I want it, the other campers around are noisy and disrespectful .. But am I complicating things too much? Should I not take all this in a more relaxed way? Should I live more simply? Take it easy, man! Waking up when I feel it, driving around and stopping when I feel like it, spending hours relaxing on a beach, sipping coffee (or something else, because I do not like coffee) at a terrace of a bistro and watching people go by. But this kind of life so simple and so carefree (in a positive sense), I can not do it. Not right now. It has been years that I live under stress and my daily lists of things to do. My days revolve around a time race and about twenty things to do. But I can not do it anymore. I am sick of living like this. I want to change. So as I said above, since a few weeks now I have been trying to follow a daily routine centered on meditation, Tai Chi, physical exercises and concentration on the present moment. And I try to simplify my days. I try to change and feel better. But even that is difficult. It is crazy how to change bad habits is a battle of every moment. I feel like I do not do enough. While doing too much. Stress and race after time are still there. But I try to relativize. And to adapt myself a bit more to my environment.

One may wonders what I do in Australia. This is also what I am wondering a bit theses recent weeks. Why after two years of travel, when things are not going great, I do not go back to France? Everything would be simpler, more comfortable. But would it be? Really ? Whether I am in Australia or France, it will be the same. My ill-being will be the same. And then return would be synonymous of failure, of choice by default. Staying and fight is the right solution I think. I have to face my problems. And also because I want to continue on the path that I am starting to follow. Because I feel like I am starting to touch something important. In the idea of traveling, of nomadic lifestyle, in my search for learning of different cultures, in my relationship to the present. I have trouble expressing what I feel and what I am trying to say. But I have the impression to see the small glow at the end of the tunnel. To see (still vague for now) the path, the driving power that I seek for so many years. This feeling of living for something.

I want to turn my trip into something more than just a tourist trip. Or a trip between friends. First because today, I find it pointless. And also because I find it more difficult to support contact with the thousands of young backpackers present in all touristy areas of the country. The way of life, chill, makeup, relax on the beach, endless chatting, night clubbing, marshmallow around the fire and smoke at the entrance of the hostel, it has never been for me. And it is even less so now. Shit. Am I getting older? Am I turning myself into a cavewoman? I do not know. Maybe on the contrary I am finally starting to understand what makes sense, what is important for me… What I know is that at the moment I prefer to be alone or in contact with the locals. The vast majority of tourists, they are too far from me. The goals are not the same. On the Great Ocean Road where I am right now and like everywhere else in the world, the tourists parade in uninterrupted files to go see the “attractions”. Cheese. Click. Picture. And we go again. No one has read the explanatory details, no one has really looked at the landscape. Young people ignore the signs of not going beyond the limits. They go walking on the cliffs in search of the ultimate selfie. Dangerous and disrespectful. Like the majority of tourists today. I am sick of it. This big circus of mass tourism, it makes me want to throw up. Or cry.

Often, I feel apart. The vast majority of people struggle to accept that I do not live the same way as they do. We know very well that the difference is scary. To deviate from the norm has always been difficult to be accepted. Yet I am not an eccentric and I do not live in a completely crazy way. No, my differences are small, simple things. They mainly concerns alcohol consumption, diet and the search for loneliness. I do not drink alcohol  and I do not intend to start. You do what you want with your drinking, I do not judge you but I do not drink. It is bad for health and especially it is for me, meaningless. I do not see the point of drinking. So as people are always shocked when I say that I do not drink, I feel compelled to justify by saying that I do not like the taste of wine and that I do not like fizzy drinks. I have to face a lot of comments (“You’re French and you do not drink wine!”, “Are you sure you do not want a drink?”, “A little drink, Claire? Others are drinking! “) or disdainful movements from the hand like:” do not bother, she does not drink “. It is the same with diet. Especially here in Australia with locals. I try to eat less and also less meat and fat products. No, I am not becoming vegetarian or vegan. I am just trying to go back to a healthier diet, more suited to my body. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, carbohydrates especially and sometimes a little bit of fish or meat. “You’re not a vegetarian, you’re vegan then!”, “Wait, but you told me you did not eat meat, why do you eat chicken?”, Etc. Why do I have to constantly justify my food choices? You eat as you want and I make my own choices! I am not a vegetarian, nor vegan, I am a person who tries to eat healthy. The third example concerns the search for solitude. The definition of an activity for me do not involve: sunbathing on the beach, jet-skiing on a lake or hiking with music on the ears. What I am looking for is the great quiet natural areas far from civilization with few people around. I prefer a long hike in nature listening to the birds. I prefer camping in the countryside rather than staying in a youth hostel. I prefer to spend hours marveling at the behavior of birds. I have always been a loner and I think I am slowly starting to accept loneliness as a friend rather than a weight on my shoulders. And I think being alone is important. I am not an individualist, I am just someone who tries to live by herself.

A few days ago I finished reading Robyn Davidson’s book: Track. Her story of traveling alone with camels through the Outback has reasoned in me. Without really knowing what drove her to do that, she left for nine months across Central Australia. She wanted to be alone. She wanted to prove to herself that anyone can do extraordinary things. Her travel is not a tourist trip. It is an apprenticeship, an inner journey. A quote from her book particularly illustrates what I’m feeling right now: 

“There are some moments in life that are like pivots around which your existence turns—small intuitive flashes, when you know you have done something correct for a change, when you think you are on the right track”. 

Well, I think I’m starting to see the way. The more I think about it and the more I think everything happens for a reason. No, I am not turning into a fanatic of any religion or believing in destiny, I reassure you. I just think that the universe, life, nature, chance put events, trials, encounters, lessons on our way. And if we know how to follow them and accept to make choices, then the result is often positive. But positive does not mean confortable. And very often the result is not visible right away. It is often several months, even years after that I realize that the event, the decision or the meeting I made has had a positive impact on my live. I am someone who doubts a lot. But looking back, analyzing the events or decisions that impacted my life well I would say that in the end most of them allowed me to move forward positively. It is often difficult to think positive in a situation of difficulty and depression, but with trusting that everything happens for a reason and knowing how to make the right choices, then in the end there is no reason to worry too much. I must let things follow their course. It is highly possible that me quitting Arkaroola and all the turmoil that has resulted after has happened for a reason. Probably to push me to finally change and evolve in my vision of travel and nomadic life.

“you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be.”

― Robyn Davidson, Tracks : One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback

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