We all have our own history… Dharma bums, Everest explorers and just people on the Road, but after reading a huge number of books, after watching countless films I came to the conclusion that most of the dramatic changes happened to people between two worlds: the world of abandoned things and the world of acquired. As from the quotation in Richard Linklater’s „Waking Life“:
“…And this, this is like my little window to the world, and every minute’s a different show. Now I may not understand it. I may not even necessarily agree with it. But I’ll tell you what, I accept it and just sort of glide along. You want to keep things on an even keel, I guess is what I’m saying. You want to go with the flow. The sea refuses no river. The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure while always arriving. It saves on introductions and goodbyes. The ride does not require an explanation – just occupants.“
When we go on a Journey, and by „journey“ I mean not an all inclusive hotel but a backpack, thousands of desired destinations and „no signal“ sign on the screen of your smartphone, then we leave our “I” at home. The true “I” or one accumulated over the years is another question but the “I” that has a lot of obligations, questions, areas of responsibility, debts, bills and painful experiences of the past. Leaving this “I” behind, we plunge into the abyss of adventure, where we begin to ask ourselves again the fundamental questions of our existence: “Who am I? What can I become? Where am I going? What is the meaning of my life?“
And the most beautiful thing about these newly emerging questions is that we can invent a completely new personality, with a new story, life values, tastes, preferences, desires and disappointments. For the duration of this travel we can become anyone and leave our “I” remaining at home as if it is temporarily dead or put on hold and saved to the “hard disk” because we can always return back to this file, right? But we never know if and when we will have the next opportunity to create a new character, whose life we can try on for freeing ourselves from a cage built with our own hands… We can tell any story about ourselves, invent any past and in general, become anyone. So when you meet a new person on the Road, how to determine whether the real story is told or if it is just a “newly made person”? And how important is it at all?
The inspiration for these thoughts was triggered by the situation in a bar called “Baby Rasta” on Koh Tao island where, out of despair, Patrice and me ended up.
Before arriving to the island, a joyful Thai guy at the ferry forcefully thrust pieces of colored waste paper into our hands. We, crazy about the heat, the heavy weight of our backpacks and the number of people around, simply pushed these papers somewhere in our pockets and forgot about them. That same evening, while getting rid of excess load and digging into piles of documents I came across this piece of paper, which turned out to be a flyer for a party with one bold word on it – “JUNGLE”, which predetermined our decision to get there.
The next day after swimming the whole day among corals, exotic fishes, sharks and conquering the summit of Nang Yuan island in flip flops, we decided that it was time to socialize as it was our last evening on the islands so we moved towards the club following the directions of Google Maps… Like it usually happens in lousy stories, having reached the place indicated by the bright red dot on the map, we discovered that there was no such a club called “KARMA” and that we were not the only chumps who just blindly trusted the All-Seeing Google Eye and did not bother to look at the flyer itself with a very abstract map of the location. Thus three Germans and a Spaniard joined our „losers team“. Having unfolded the flyer, finally we determined an approximate direction to the club and set off for the next „flip flop hike“ up the highway along wonderful Thai roads, which are not suitable for pedestrians at all. The Spaniard, happily giving out a battle cry, announced that he was on a motorcycle and flapped into the dark night.
All we could do was just to sorrowfully look up the road into the jungle and to put flashing-lights on our hands in hope of staying alive whilst walking along the Thai highway in the dark without a single light source… Having gone about a kilometer and having immersed into the jungle, we noticed one Thai man who was closing his small shop and decided to ask him how much further we were supposed to march in flip flops through the wild forest surrounded by malaria mosquitoes and wild animals. The first answer “a couple of meters” warmed my soul but after scratching his head the Thai man came to the conclusion that he could do better and dug the English word “kilometer” out of his memory – so two meters turned into two kilometers, and somewhere in the depths of my soul I already knew we were no longer destined to get to the party that evening. Not that two kilometers is a long distance but at that point we had not really slept for two weeks of traveling through Thailand and Cambodia, had spent the whole day sinking into the underwater depths and early in the morning we had to go back on our “last voyage” towards home. Having depicted the effort for another couple of hundred meters, we decided to pop into a bar from where reggae melodies were pouring out and which entrance was decorated with a huge rasta-color balloon spinning in the gusts of wind. In general, it actually has already become a tradition for us to visit at least one reggae bar on our travels – they are always a fount of human stories and cultures.
The place itself reminded me of a steampunk bar in Prague, just not made out of metal but of wood, a multi-level bamboo building as a labyrinth of various levels with rugs, benches, hammocks, pouffes, pillows, multi-colored lighting. It also had a stage on the first floor that could be seen from different parts of this strange construction. Me and Patrice liked one of the mattresses on the second “floor” of this fancy building, covered with psychedelic carpets like at my grandmother’s house. Having tried a bunch of various “delicious” cocktails in Thailand with different names and the same taste of Hubba Bubba bubble gum, I chose the “safe” Mojito, basing my decision on the fact that you really have to try hard in order to spoil this drink.
While Patrice was wandering around and organizing exotic drinks for us, I had an opportunity to listen to live music, enjoy the light sea breeze and watch groups of young people sitting in tight circles and chatting, relaxing on carpets or just swinging in hammocks. I plunged into this maelstrom of different languages, stories of ups and downs, adventures, victories and disappointments. All of them came to this island in search of Freedom as in the movie “The Beach” with DiCaprio: they all searched for themselves, their purpose in life, searched for their Story and invented their new personalities.
While enjoying this maelstrom of stories, I started noticing that among the hubbub of voices a loud drunken bass began to stand out very clearly, telling his “story of freedom”. Turning my head, I saw a stocky blond well-built lad, red from sunburn, with a hairstyle like in “Vikings” serial. Next to him was sitting a thin, curly brunette and an American tourist in sandals with socks, swimming shorts and in forever-sunny California shirt.
As it turned out, the blond was from Denmark and left his home 4 years ago to travel the world in search of himself and his Freedom. He told that he loved his grandmother and grandfather very much but that he had just one life, which was given only to him alone and that the purpose of this journey was to find what he wanted to do in life and to understand who he was. That he did not know yet when or if he would return home, that he called his grandmother and grandfather only once a year because he found it „unnatural“ to keep the contact to the world he left and that he did not know where he would be tomorrow. The American still could not understand what exactly the guy was looking for or what he was trying to achieve, how his relatives perceived this epopee in „The Hobbit, There and Back Again“- style and how he could not miss home. The Dane slurred and babbled about his inner world, freedom of choice, his own “Self” and a wild spirit of adventure. Listening to his poetic story I tried to fish out what part of his story was true and what was just a romantic novel about a young “pirate” who travels the world, running away from himself, his duties and problems… How long would he be on this very Road before he had found answers to his questions or himself and in general, would his “journey in search of Freedom” ever end and what was this Freedom for him…?
Throughout his story I wanted to enter into a dialogue with this adventurer and “dig deeper” in his mind but then I thought that there were stories that should better stay in the category of “beautiful adventure novels”, that this was his story, his character and he as the author alone should decide which details of this story were destined to see the light and which to be buried in the dark. Everyone has their own path, their own truth, their own performance, and their own role in it.
Suddenly I returned to reality, looked around and realized that I was surrounded by tattered young contented adventurers of different ages, nationalities, religions searching for their own “Self” and I thought: “Do I have my own “travel character”? What is she like? How does she look like from outside? Does she change depending on the Journey I go onto or is it always the same character?”
My questions remained unanswered because this time me and Patrice did not come in contact with “civilians” as I usually call random fellow travelers whom we meet along the way, so I had no one to ask… Having finished my Mojito, we walked towards out bungalow watching the starry sky and soon went to bed in order to return the next day to our dull and unfree life, to our abandoned “I” waiting for our next story…
Have you ever noticed changes in your personality when you went on a Journey? If so, how fundamental were they? Were they sufficient enough to form an absolutely new personality worthy of existence on the pages of your mentally-written books?