The Challenge

 Some of you may not know it, but I’m going back to Europe at the end of this month. Due to some circumstances I do not wish to detail here, I bought a flight back earlier than I had originally planned to.

 I will stay at my parents’ farm for about six weeks and help milking the goats and preparing cheese orders and do other such farm-related things. I am thrilled to see my family again and at the same time I am sad that this first part of my adventure is coming to an end. But I believe it is fine this way, and I have a lot of reasons why.

 Of becoming blasé

 At the very beginning of my trip, in Eastern Europe, I met some strange people who looked completely disconnected from reality (in a bad way), utterly bored. They were not interested in meeting anybody new, in understanding all the exciting things I was seeing all around. No curiosity left whatsoever, they made you understand that they had seen it all. Unimpressed, blasé. They were also travellers, so I asked them for how long they had been travelling, and the answer was always something around two years. I thought to myself “is this what happens if you travel for too long? You loose touch with reality and you become blasé? I don’t want to be blasé!” I saw this as a warning. I would have to recognize the first signs of weariness and know when to stop, when to have a break, so that I would never turn into that. I didn’t want to become like them. I want to stay fresh, to stay alert, to stay curious. I think it is a sort of respect for all the people who help me along the way, who are ready to share and show their culture to me. I want to be always true in my interest and never feel like I have to do it. That would be a terrible lack of respect. If you can’t be truly curious about everything around you, then don’t travel. Wait until you’re ready again!

 I think I have managed to stay curious all the way up to here. One of the compliments that touch me the most is when some people tell me “Really, you have been on the Road for that long? How come you have so much energy? You look like you left yesterday!”. It happened at least twice, in Iran after nine months of travel, and again last week after thirteen. It tells me I’m safe, I have not become like the blasé people.

 Of how long one should travel

 But from all the people I met on the Road, I realised something about travelling. Somehow, in the West, and especially in France maybe, we have this romantic view of a “world-trip”, a long soul-searching trip that should transform you or whatever. It should be at least a year-long, usually. And after finishing it, people will settle down somewhere. Well, it doesn’t feel like that to me. I don’t see this as the end, but as a break. I think I will travel again, soon. Someone told me in a smile “Once on the Road, always on the Road!”. I’ve been a nomad for some time now already, since in 4 years before my trip, I had been living in three different countries. Now you can make it sixteen in 5 years :) .

 Before I left, people were asking “How long will you be gone?” and I would systematically say “between six months and three years” – I was aware that travelling might be tiring on the long-haul, so the three-years version would have included a long stop in Australia to work and make more money and I would have stayed with my relatives there. But deep-down, at the beginning, I think I believed it would be sort of lame to come back before I completed a whole year at least. So on the way, I realised that this type of idea is completely irrelevant. Yes, it is tiring to constantly travel and constantly have to adapt. And you don’t have to answer to anybody, you can travel as little or as much as you want – if you have the luxury to do so. The most important thing is, know yourself! I’ve meet people who travel hard-core every year for three, four, maybe six months, put all their soul and energy into it, then go home to take it all in, have a break and get ready for the next trip. And that’s completely fine, they are no less travellers than the people who wander the roads for years at a time. They just know how long they can stay true to themselves and the people around before burning out.

 As for me, it turns out that I am a slow traveller. So I am still on the Road after more than thirteen months of travel, and although I am fine with it and I think I could keep going for a long time, I believe the time for a break was drawing near anyway. I certainly didn’t think it would take me that long to come here, but it was clear from the start that I wanted to get to China, at least. Frankly, I thought it would take me only six months!

 Of friendship and family

 When I left, I already knew that my friend Sarah would get married somewhere at the end of August 2013, and I already knew I would have to decide if I wanted to go back home for the wedding or not. I postponed making the decision, seeing how things were going. And after nine months of travel, while I was in Iran, I decided that I didn’t wan to miss this event. The timing seemed quite good to me anyway, and this would not be the only reason I thought I would enjoy going home. Going through so many countries with different values and customs, I’ve realised how important family is. I have the extraordinary luck of having a wonderful family, awesome siblings with whom I get along very well, and I want to cherish that in another way than via emails, blogposts and phone calls. I want to spend some time with them and see my little nephew before he is two-meter tall – and that won’t take too long believe me! Because you see, as it turns out, most of the people who stay on the Road for a very very long time, for years, either don’t have a family any more, or are on bad terms with them, or their family comes and visits them somewhere in the world. Well, my family is not going to do that! So if I want to see more of them, I have go back, it’s that simple.

 Of music

 One other element that I take into account for welcoming this break is the opportunity to practice music more. I managed to keep practising quite well for the first six months of my trip. After that, I lost the rhythm and I found it very hard to get back on track. The good thing in staying in one place for longer is that you have more or less of a routine again, and you can plan the times you need for practising. I thing it is possible to be a traveller-musician, but you have better skills than I do. Right now, I feel more and more like sitting down everyday with one of my instruments and getting my level up to something more acceptable. In the past few months, there has been many days when I wasn’t feeling completely well and I didn’t know why. Something was wrong, something was missing. Then every time, I realised that it was just that I had not played any music for the past few days. I would have a session again, on my own or with people, and then be thoroughly happy again. I’m not particularly talented or anything but if there is one thing I have realised during this trip, it’s how essential music is to me. Doesn’t matter how good or how bad I do it, I have to be playing and all musicians have met on the Road have agreed to say it’s fantastic to travel to get inspiration, but you do need times when you just stay in one place and work with your instrument.

So after Hong-Kong, I’ll have two shorts weeks reunited with my good friend Jiesu who I haven’t seen in three years. I’m happy and excited to see her again. She will teach me some more Chinese, we’ll have a thousands things to talk about. And then I’ll be going back to Europe. It will be fourteen months since I’ve left Vienna, and fifteen since I’ve said good-bye to my family. I think it is a good time for a break indeed, but the break doesn’t really start then! Let me explain to you the little challenge I’ve set up for myself.

 The challenge

 Now, as I said before, I am as happy to go back as I am sad to halt the travelling for a while. So, I have decided to make it a challenge for myself: I’ll go back to the farm and try to retain a traveller’s attitude all the while. Because that’s what travelling is, mainly: an attitude. You can travel at home! But this part, staying a traveller where you grew up won’t be self-evident. I am actually very curious to witness my own behaviour once I go back there. The context won’t be exactly a piece of cake, I think I am in for a few emotional shocks. But it will be like an experiment. Will I easily slip back into old habits and old behaviours once I am back in my childhood environment? Will I loose my temper faster or will I manage to keep my traveller’s cool? Can I keep a traveller’s eye on things even there? And for how long? How fast and well will I adapt to staying in one place for weeks at a time? Will I manage to set time apart for myself and for music? So that will be my challenge, stay a traveller at my parents’ place. Or retain something of that at least.

 Keep sharing!

It also means that I’ll keep blogging and recording and documenting and sharing until I get home – and by home I mean Vienna. I’ll consider that the first part of this adventure has really come to an end only once I reach the Austrian capital again, where it all started. That part will be exciting as well! How will it feel to be back? Will it still really feel like home to me? Will I be able to stay a few months there as I plan to? How long will really I stay? Will I be able to play as much music as I want to? Will I find another job there? What’s the next project I’ll come up with? But all this can wait. For now, I’ll enjoy the two weeks I have left here and in the twenty-four hours trip back from China to France (I have a long stopover), I’ll try to make myself ready for my little challenge.

Besides, now I have friends ready my blog all over Europe, India and the Middle-East so… my adventures in a French farm might look very exotic to them! :)

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