Journey to France: Commentary

I have days of journal entries to catch up on but before I may allow myself to resume with the entries, I hope to take the opportunity to provide clarity to some questions about our travels & why we have chosen to travel this way.

Catching a flight from Australia direct to our destination would actually be much cheaper than how we are traveling now. These days flights are If we had flown we would only need to pay the flight which would include meals for the hours we are travelling. We would also not have to pay for visas to all the other countries we are flying over as we would not be entering them.

Why are we making ourselves susceptible to changing environments & uncertainties? Why limit yourself to 15kgs in a backpack that you have to carry around with you when you have to move from place to place? Why wait by the side of a road and be dependent on someone going your way to give you a lift?

Because it is exciting! It is a challenge with rewarding outcomes that cannot be expressed in words. The gentle thrills and satisfaction of the adventure cannot be created in any other way other than to live it. The experience is unique, one of a kind. These days we are so blindly subjected to believe that our capitalistic society is the most idealistic way to live that we dont even realise the trap we are in. Anyone can take a plane to fly to anywhere. It does not require wits to do so and it definitely does not require a special skill set. But how many will have the courage to approach a stranger, form a friendship and then travel with them temporary. How many would have the ability to trust a stranger?

Through hitchhking we have met people with brilliant ideas about the world and society, we have and will continue to learn different ways of living which broadens our understanding of the world and most importantly of people. We realise and see the beauty in life and people. That the world is not as dark and dangerous as the media makes it out to be. The media is selective but they are missing one thing we have, first hand experience.

Through travelling from country to country we get to see places, connect with people, have experiences. It was something I have dreamt of doing since meeting my first bunch of travellers who were working in Australia in the same company as i was. Hearing their stories; the sights they’ve seen, the waters they swam in, the winds they woke up to and the sounds they fall asleep to, made me yearn to have the same experience. But as all euphorias, it is always a better experience if they find their way to you.

Last year I took a somewhat spontaneous trip on my own to Germany. This was via flying as I was fully employed and could take just about 2 weeks off work.  I decided to fly to meet my friend Lisa in Mannheim. That was about it for my plans. When I was there, aside from spending time with her and her family I took a day to wander off alone. I took a train to Gernsheim and from the train station it was a walk to the Rhine river. I spent the day there perched in a tree, watching the boats passing by, they unaware of my watching them. I didn’t wander back to Lisa’s till about 9-10pm and that night finding my way back to her house in the dark, and relying on the few Germans i came across to help me. I was lucky 1 out of 3 of them could somewhat speak English.

It was either that same night or the one after, I sought bus tickets to Amsterdam. I found one for just €25 or something relatively cheap. In two nights i was on that bus heading there. I only had a bed for tonights in a hostel there. On the first day I wandered around the picturesque city and only realised by sunset that I had been wandering for 6 hours & that Dutch names were much more challenging to pronounce or rememebr than German. In the end i procured a map and wandered all the way back to the hostel. My ankles were in pain but I was exhilarated from the slight adrenaline of the event. After my second night I asked the hostel receptionist if they had any last minute drop out for a bed. They said no, but recommeneded their sister hostel, 40kms out of Amsterdam, at a beach called Noordwijk. I wasnt left with much choice so I said yes and took a train to the hostel.

It was a life changing decision for me, as simple as it was. When I arrived, and I did not know what to expect. I had never even heard of Noordwijk before, let alone how it looked like. But my night there had changed how I decided to travel for the rest of my life. That night, I didnt even sleep in the bed i had booked. I found company in a group of backpackers at the hostel. One local mature Dutch man, 2 19 year old Irish boys, 1 Asian australian guy, an Australian girl in her 20s, some Chileans, and an American man (those were the only ones I could recall but there were about 18 of us). We brought our instruments and conversation out to the beach. We laughed, we philosophised and we dreamt. We ended up falling asleep on the sand underneath the stars, with the sound of the waves hushing our excited thoughts of new adventures to be had the next day.

My next experience was in Fiji. I booked one night in a hostel by the ocean, the next morning was a whirlwind of adventure. I found myself on a boat heading to Mana Island. I had no idea what to expect, it was partially my decision to go there. I had intended to head to a different island but the cost of the boat was much more than I expected so I chose the cheapest island to head to which was still $80 Fijian Dollars. On the boat I started conversation with an Irish girl because she had a colpurful bag and an erratic personality. We instantly clicked and wandered around the island together and we still keep in touch.

One of the days back on the mainland, I went to a port & hitchhiked a timber barge to an island back in a day. This was the island that was initially too expensive for me to go to. That was when I realised there are always other ways of getting to your destination, other than the conventional way. And the experience was so much better than taking the conventional boat. I had nearly the whole boat to stretch out and fall asleep on, waking up to see a turtle swimming close to the surface of the turquoise waters next to us.

I made friends with one of the island’s staff members and he took me back to his village where his large family took me in as one of their own. They shared what little they had with me, and they really had little. They were a huge family, the parents, his pregnant sister, her husband, their nieces, basically about 13 or so of them were living in an area where the government had cut off all water and electricity to the zone after Cyclone Evan (2012) had destroyed their house and all basic facilities around them. The 4 nieces slept in a tent and the other 8 + myself slept in a 5x5m corrugated iron shelter. Yet they shared their food with me, they insisted I spend my last remaning days in their humble home, they looked after me like one of their own. It was my first time living with a complete stranger and his family in a  ondition that was out of the ordinary travelling way and hamefully I had not realised until i was staying with their family, that away from the gorgeous turquoise waters and glamorous hotels, majority of the local inhabitants were really poverty stricken.

And yet they were happy! They were kind! They were accepting of others! They were generous with others! They were everything I had imagined beautiful people to be!

It was not as comfortable living with them in such conditions but the truth is, it is livable and it is a whole new experience of travelling to learn how other people live, and what they can live without. Most of all it sparked my passion for humanity. I gave all my clothes to the girls. And went back to Australia with just the clothes I had on me.

I said to myself I wanted my next travel to push it’s limit. I wanted to live of on as little as possible for as long as possible, and i wanted to live in various conditions. I wanted to experience everything I could and push my boundaries. So here I am, that’s why I decided to travel like this.

To have a travel partner for life, as was found in my fiance, was just some kind of luck I can’t explain other than the universe has a wonderful way of bringing things together and helping you realise it when you are ready for it.

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Journey to France: Day 42 (11th March 2016)

Our host in Lampung, Adi, and his family reminded us on a daily basis to take trains and buses and to not hitchhike. They mentioned of their previous couchsurfers (male ones) and how they hadn’t taken their advice into consideration and got robbed by the very people they hitchhiked with. We spent 5 days with them deciding what to do. When they told us we couldn’t sleep in the same room let alone the same bed we initially planned to spend a day or two maximum at his house. We had never spent a night apart since the day we met. Even during our arguments we had never let one go to bed without the other.

But Adi and his family were more than  accomodating and we ended up spending 5 days with them. The days were hot and dusty but Adi was always up to take us to spots around Lampung that he was excited to share. To be honest there weren’t any amazing sights to see but you don’t always find an attachment to a place because of the place. (More details to come in next post).

Adi’s mother was constantly feeding us South Sumateran food; mostly mi goreng, tempe with a bit of chilli due to Clem’s intolerance for the vegetable, and nasi uduk for breakfast. Otherwise it was constant various snacks made from tubular vegetables such as yam and tapioca. And of course coffee!

His parents were delighted to have their first traveller who could converse with them. They knew nearly null English and although my Malay was probably scraping beginners, they still took opportunities to indulge in conversation with me and brought me to their friends to “kongsi cerita” (share stories). Their home itself was unique, i had never seen one like this  before, though im unsure if their home is standard in Southern Sumatera. There was no stove top, they used coal to heat their water in their ‘kitchen’ which seemed to have been built around an authentic well.

In the well, his mother rares fish to consume the mosquito larvaes. The water then gets siphoned by a pump into the bathroom. The bathroom is a standard Indonesian toilet or better known as Turkish toilets in the western world. All in all, the house wasn’t anything lavished but it had its own flavour.

At night, the rituals were to burn mosquito coils in every room and rub insect repellent lotion on your ankles. I said goodnight to my love and went to my room to sleep. I awoke again at about 1am as i was feeling too hot to sleep and the mosquitoes were much hungrier and vicious tonight. I was waking up to a new bite everytime I had managed to stop scratching the previous. I went out to get a glass of water.

Adi and his family were awake too and in the living room. They had been feeling feverish and Adi’s dad was performing twp traditional methods of healing the body from such feelings. He was performing a cupping massage on Adi’s back where he lights a coal on Adi’s skin and quickly covers it with a cup so the flame quickly loses oxygen and dies out, creating heat and suction inside the cup. When he pulls off the cup they believe it to “tarik angin” (pull the excess wind) our of the body. It leaves a red ring on the skin that disappears in an hour or so. Prior to that he also performed a coin scratching method where you scratch orderly lines on parts of your body. The marks left are red, like a scratch except they usually scratch the same area over and over again until the skin gets sore.

I drank my glass of water and went back to bed. At about 4am i woke up again. I was feeling very nauseas, I stumbled my way in the darkness to the bathroom. Not even a second passed before my gut reflexes activated and heaved my dinner out. The familiar burning feeling when you have just had stomach acid passed through your oesophagus and throat was spicily unpleasant but from experience i knew I would start feeling better now… I just need to go back to sleep.

I had to walk past Clem’s room before arriving at mine, but didn’t feel like sleeping alone and was being a sook. I pushed the door into Clem’s room. He had a small fan in his room so it wasnt as hot. He was also fast asleep on the little bed. I was like a caterpillar. I crawled into the bed, next to him, nuzzed and curled up in his warmth.

My stirring around woke him up. He asked me what was wrong as he kissed me and I told him I was feeling sick. He brought me water, a bucket and more kisses and hugs until i eventually fell asleep again.

Two weeks after we had met, Clem had said to me he wanted to have children with me. He had never in his life wanted to have children before. I told him at that time I still didn’t want to have any. 5 months later my views have changed.

Below are photos of parts of Adi’s house. 1st is the small 1m x 1m courtyard where they also cook and boil their water. 2nd is the kitchen area and well. Photography by my Clément Duliege.

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