I was assured an easy life, any education I wanted, every opportunity. I would never have to eat rationed food or obey curfews, or watch riots from my rooftop, or stay away from windows to prevent being shot’Part of ‘Interpreter of Maladies’
I’m born in the Netherlands, 1972, chose two artistic educations with which I was very unlikely to earn much money, if any at all. With changing the truth a bit I got a job as a food photographer in which after three years I knew enough: working to live your life is not my idea of living. This had to change, drastically.
Curiously, never having been the type to be afraid of the unknown, overly careful nor watching television I set off to India; where I had to obey curfews, being for 5 months in the civil war of Kashmir, caught between anti prying walls in an old-fashioned Muslim household.
Pakistan; where I lost many kilograms as a result of a poor diet and a steady dysentery, living 8 months in a valley high up North, and meeting with a self appointed one, who single-handed hunted a certain sir Laden, brought me a cast iron stove that kept me warm in winter.
Yemen; where I traveled for a few months between regular suicide attacks on touristic groups, had me sneak on a bus traveling to the forbidden east, resulting in an unwanted armed guard on the way back.
Afghanistan; where I was told not to sit in front of windows, as this would make me an easy target, worked on my nerves, so I got a visa at the Indian embassy, which was blown up a few days later.
Having backpacked for 5 years in series of 3 trips over about 10 years I came to conclusion that I needed a challenge. Getting secretly into Tibet was adventurous. A month after the tsunami I was in Sri Lanka, another sort of reality hit me. Walking nearly two months on the steep wintry trails towards Mount Everest base camp was hard yet enchanting. Riding nerve-breaking broken coaches with mom and dad along the mud brown Indus, sleeping in a room next to Taliban gentlemen, having a spiritual talk with a mujaheddin cum sorcerer, learned how to shoot, fight and be smart, meeting several famous (or notorious) guru’s in India, witnessing and experiencing spirit exorcised by aged fakirs, having secrets with my animist lady friend, having worked for months voluntarily at places I would otherwise never visit, tiresome rides through a dusty burning desert in a crammed windowless bus, and seeking refuge at far-flung places difficult to reach; that was all absolutely unforgettable. But I knew: I need to be differently challenged in between all of this.
Then the bicycle came to mind, as this would allow me to go around those towns where buses stop, where the locals might be influenced by greed, where everything is centered to accommodate. For me, traveling must be more than going from one town to another. I, never done any sport, decided I needed to cycle in order to get my daily dosage of incentives, to reach not a destination was where I would head to, and everything in between.
5 years later, endless desert rides, camping at high altitude, long stretches without settlements, pushing through, extending sources by simpler living, meet with the forces of nature, being in climates not sensible to cycle in, witnessing the strength of mind, the power of thoughts, the incredible fact of being able to sleep anywhere, a muscled body, building fires, creating fun, feeling part of nature solely by the sounds of it, the delight of solitary life where no limits nor regulations exist, noticing a fox accompanying your camp, unknown people who want to spoil you, the sea as your bath tub, the millions of stars as your ceiling, the map of the world your playground, taking photo’s of yourself as if being a child, is all pure joy. I have found out what is in between those towns. And where those towns first where my destinations, they now function only as places to resupply.
The absence of clutter when there is no outside fuss, when you are dependent on your sense of organization, on your trust in the world, knowing that fear is a made up story, on the openness of the landscape and people, on the sense of why you are living; when you can close your eyes, view the clarity in your brain, trust on the unknown and loosen the strong grip of media and cultural references, the world is quiet and safe.
Traveling has become a way of life. It takes practice, and worries and fear will interrupt, your balance greatly destroyed at times, but try to live a different life and see how that feels!
I am happy to hear I can inspire you, to start what you dream off, to let go of your fears, to jump around and play, to learn and be open, to have fun and to put yourself in the middle of it all, and then make a photo of it!
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