It has been five months in plenty of different countries and cultures. Even thought there’s a slight reminiscence between the different South East Asian countries they are still very independent and unique. It’s easy for a European to bunch them together and say “I’m gonna do South East Asia” or “I’ve been to South East Asia”. Really, these countries are neighbours, though individuals as each and any European country. We obviously can tell the difference between a Brit, an Italian and a Swede. After a while here, the differences between a Filipino, Vietnamese or an Indonesian is just as big. A slight similarity in climate still breeds the most different types of people. And we are all just a result of our history. I can forgive Manila for being a complete mess after learning about the dictatorship, the battle of Manila and the impact the Americans had on the Philippines. It’s easy to loose it’s soul when so many oppressors slowly beats it out of you. In Malaysia it’s difficult to differ Malay people from Chinese, and their oil wealth from Petronas have had a massive influence on the country. So different from the two of them lies Indonesia in between. There every island is a different culture and an isolated tradition. Island countries like these are difficult to fully grasp since there’s so many dimensions to how they have had to develop according to being a secluded community in a grand country. People who live on islands further away from the capital tend to be politically and economically neglected when it comes to internal politics. They are often left to sort out their own issues of whatever type. Travelling around these countries is another experience than travelling landlocked countries. Here you have to plan with time wasting boats or sacrifice your ecological values to fly hither and dither. I never realised how much I actually hate flying until these last few months. But it’s cheap and convenient so we fly, fly, fly like there’s no tomorrow. And there probably won’t be any tomorrow since we fly, fly, fly.
It’s been way too hot to spend this much time below the equator, it makes me tired, ac-addicted and it’s hard to keep up interest in the real experience. Driving around these islands on a motorbike is a privilege and the freedom on two wheels is so worth the hype. Even a super touristic place like Bali have hidden natural wonders and it’s easy to loose days and weeks in the jungles, waterfalls, rice fields, mountains, beaches, temples, volcanoes and astonishing views of these countries. But as with any addiction, you need more each time to get your pulse rising. It’s not enough with just a beautiful or holy place. Now, I have to find it by myself, in a certain mood, with preferably no other tourists around. I need to see things no one ever saw, or realised they were seeing. Making up new ways of doing and looking at things. I need a state of mind completely pure and serene for the ultimate enjoyment of what is around me. I did some great hikes in Malaysia by myself, and I found one or two good people in Bali to share my secret locations with. What is so great about travellers is that it’s easy to find like minded people. At some point, life on the road seems like just another routine, lost of depth and experiences. We can all relate to getting a little blue down the road, feeling lost and empty even in the most fulfilling moments of life. Then it’s okay to lie on the bed and read all day. It’s okay to shut your curtain as best as you can and listen to podcasts all day. It’s okay to skip lunch and sleep away the day. But what travellers are also really, really good at, is to inspire each other. To tell stories of places and faces we need to see and meet. To teach us about a different lifestyle, different reasons for doing what we are doing. Push us into new direction and accepting us with our faults. So when travelling lost it’s appeal, and you’re still on the road – what do you do? You slow down and ask what you’re missing. I’m missing a cause, I’m missing meaning. Being meaningful.
How things come together is another story, but thanks to people crossing my path, old thoughts back in mind, realisations, activation – these next few weeks I’m in a village somewhere in the purest heart of Sulawesi, helping a high school student teach English to kids from 7 to 20 years old. Me and a French girl are making up lessons and trying to help out with joyful communication. When an 18-year old Indonesian boy puts all his free time into building a school, making materials and lessons for three different classes of students, he becomes the most important person in the world to these kids.
And I have seen it before. The people with the least makes the biggest differences by sacrificing their own hard work and every little hour they can spare. The people who have no obligations and would be deemed to lack resources turns out to be the most resourceful and engaging people of us all. As these people have invited me to their homes all over the world for the last decade, I still never stop to feel amazed by the strength of them. A mother of seven kids opens her house to me and my new found French friend with such a genuine warmth it’s breaking my heart. I have found a cause, and I have found an inspiration. Again, I have found happiness.