Life is beautiful: why was I worrying?

Right from the beginning, I didn’t want to keep a blog. When people asked me why, I would confess it was because I had no design skills and was an aesthetic perfectionist so wouldn’t start a blog until I could figure out how to code parallax scrolling.

But perhaps the real reason is not too dissimilar from why I don’t have Facebook.

I don’t really feel like blasting out to the whole world what I’m doing in my adventures.

Travelling – especially travelling alone – is a particularly private, personal experience. Something about blogging about it just takes away some of the magic, the intimacy of sharing it with someone huddled under an indoor teepee with fairy lights and blankets and hot mugs of tea and recounting tale after tale. Something about blogging feels like it’s ‘standardising’ or ‘commodifying’ the experience – we sacrifice so much intimacy for the sake of efficiency.

Same goes for people who ask me why I’m not on Facebook – ‘But you can connect with people easier that way. You can reach so many more people.’

I don’t really like the efficiency argument (finite game). I’m more interested in spontaneously telling people whatever I want to tell them. When I travel, I don’t really speak so much about my past travel either; I’ve found myself more interested in the lives of the people I encounter rather than ‘entertaining them’ with my stories – I have found myself more easily present to them, their pain and joy and sadness and anger and loneliness. This is a sharp contrast to NZ where I often felt like I was talking to ‘fill the silence,’ so that people ‘wouldn’t feel uncomfortable,’ or simply ‘to entertain them’ (so they think I’m funny, interesting, weird, curious, whatever). Now, it doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore – maybe because of the very fact that I’m travelling I become curious and interesting so I feel like I have nothing to prove anymore. And because I’ll never see them again. So their world matters so much more to me, somehow.

That’s not to say that I don’t want to tell people what I’m up to or keep them updated. I send home and to my sister Whatsapp pictures whenever I get a chance and some wi fi. I check in with fellow facilitators, change-makers and permaculture folk at home now and then. But with each, I share what I might ordinarily share with them – the things that are most relevant and related to them, the kinds of things we would usually sit and talk about over a cup of tea, the kinds of things they’ll find intriguing or that help keep our connection alive and strong. I do this mostly through Whatsapp messages and the odd email.

There’s something really darkly fascinating about taking off and not having contact with anyone ever again. Could I do it? Probably. Would I? Well…I hope to return to New Zealand one day, so my friendships there do matter to me. What’s interesting is that few of my friends have actually made the effort to keep in touch with me. I am always the one reaching out. It feels exhausting, sometimes, and the usual response to this, “Well, if you were on Facebook, of course I’d keep in touch,” but that’s not the kind of keep-in-touch I mean, that’s not the kind of keep-in-touch I’m talking about. This has largely been the story of my life, though – having no cellphone at high school, I was always the one emailing friends and not getting replies back; sending letters and feeling like shouting into the dark. It doesn’t matter so much to me anymore anyway since I know there’s absolutely nothing in the world that beats face-to-face connection but it does amuse me somewhat in a rather sad way.

I’ve been delighted and surprised when I’ve come to South America, too, though – and even France, for that matter – because the friends and connections and couchsurfing hosts I’ve met here have made more of an effort to keep in touch with me than anyone in my whole life (besides, perhaps, my parents and a friend or two) – and often I’ve only known them for a few days! Like Tomas’ family – I was there for just five days but he and his mother still send me messages. Like Gian Marco, who I’ve met a grand total of three times in Lima. Like Juan Pablo, whose adobe shack I stayed at for just three days in the Atacama desert – we still email each other about philosophical revelations and updates. Like Sara, a sixty-something year old lady from Valley of Elqui whose place I was at for two days. Like Gabriela, Pablo, Mariana, Luz, Christian, Piki, Ariana, Lia, Lucia…they still ask me how I am, what I’m doing, send me messages of love and hope and inspiration and gratitude.

Although I’d love to disappear completely, I admit it does warm my heart to have people say how are you, what are you up to, I just wanted to say thank you for what you brought into my life.

It’s nice to get that feedback from the universe.

With the beginning of this blog, I’ve also been overjoyed and excited to read letters – you can’t even call these emails – really long and actual letters from friends all over the world. I miss letter-writing; when we lived in England and India, I would send good old-fashioned handwritten letters to friends everywhere, thinking this is the way everyone did it. It’s somewhat sad that sometimes weeks can go without me having penned a single word these days and that I’m losing my hand-writing ability as a result.

So – why do I blog? It’s not intimate, it’s not personal, it’s not unique – everybody who travels seems to be blogging these days, and my story is no more interesting nor fascinating nor adventurous than anyone else’s, especially anyone else who has visited South America, is young and likes nature. In fact, this was one of the very initial reasons for not blogging – who am I, anyway? What power does my story have? What’s new or interesting about it? Well, I wasn’t travelling to ‘outdo other people’s interesting stories’ anyway; I was just travelling because I like travelling, learning, connecting and contributing.

So – why am I sharing my journey and insights now, then?

The reason is pretty mundane: I like the aesthetics of the platform. It’s not parallax scrolling, but it’s sort of beautiful. That’s it. I like seeing what I write come to life here…even if few other people see it. It’s the same reason when people ask me, “How many followers does your tumblr blog have?” it’s not really important to me. It’s just a little way to ‘publish’ the work, and occasionally I share it with people who like eating. It’s kind of the same intention here – just a quirky little way to write what I want and if there’s something particularly relevant to someone, I might send them a link.

So – why do I write in this way? Marcelo Rinesi’s quote comes to mind, “Fiction the way internet intended it: short, disjointed and trying to take over your mind.” Every line, every experience is an entire story in itself. Every person I mention is a whole world. In art, I find the tension too much sometimes between ‘living your life to the full,’ and ‘spending time recording your life (to the full)’ – you simply can’t just do art because then you have no experiences to base the art on, but if you just experience, then…you don’t make time for art either. So I jot down moments. Little things. I like finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. It seems like a checklist or a ‘hey look at this long list of cool experiences I have and things I’ve done list’ but to me it’s just a fast way of capturing what happened rather than an ego-enhancing exercise. It’s useful. The lines are a basis for fleshing out stories, if I so later wish. I read through it again and feel little sense of ‘Yeah, I’m the man,’ (or, er the woman) – only occasionally when I seriously break personal barriers such as Death Road mountain biking and hitchhiking in Chile – mostly when I read through, I feel surprise (because my brain doesn’t seem to be very good at remembering things anymore; living too much in the present for that) and gratitude (because in each thing I write of is a giant story that would never have been possible were it not for other people’s help), and I have this overwhelming sense of: ‘life is really beautiful; what on earth was I worrying about?’

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