On my way back home

It is time for me to go back. It is time to go back home, back to Romania, back to Iasi, my hometown. There where my roots are, where I grew up and got ready to stand on my own two feet, there where I am now coming back, to gather my forces and my allies, to start creating a new kind of life for myself, rising and standing again, maybe differently now, on my own two feet.

The sun is setting, high above the clouds, sending its orange light into the dozed off silence of the airplane. I look around me for a moment, then I turn my eyes again towards the hypnotising light of the sun. The next time it will set, I will already be in Romania. I smile – the first day of my trip started into the light of a sunrise, seen high in the skies from another airplane, the one taking me to Paris. Now everything is coming full circle. One journey, which felt like a lifetime, is coming to an end, in between the light of a sunrise and the light of a sunset.

It is so that this Light Journal, the blog of a girl’s one-year trip around the world, is coming to an end. And we must say goodbye.

I want to thank you. It has been a joy to have you accompanying me along the way, sharing with you moments, and feelings, and images. And who knows, maybe we’ll see each other again, in one part or another of this world!

Epilogue on the back of a photo: The beginning of my new Romanian life came with orange marigold flowers, grey rainy clouds and a lost luggage, and the loving smiles and arms of my friend Irina and her daughter Mara. Interesting mix, isn’t it? Well, if this is how it started, I can’t wait to see what the rest of it will bring!

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Delhi, my gateway out of India

Delhi, last stop in India – a perfect mixture of what India has been for me. On the one side, experience of peacefulness, and quiet, and beauty – with one of the most beautiful parks I saw in a city, the Nehru Park, full of flowers, and bees, and freshness, and with large boulevards bordered by trees, and smaller parks, and embassy houses. And on the other side, a dusty metropolis, always full of voices and screaming horns, full of people, and people selling, and asking things from you, and noise, and dust, and heat, and everything all together, until it gets too much and too tiresome to take it all in.

As I was about to start my journey here, I was asking myself whether India was going to be for me a “love” or a “hate” experience. And now, as I am leaving it – this country that one cannot tell you about it, not even show it to you, but that you have to experience for your own – now, I look inside myself and I find both: both the love and the hate, both the falling in love and falling in peace, and the anxiousness, and the tiredness, and never-ending restlessness.

Maybe India is just a big, oversized picture of Life itself, full of flavors, and colors, and relentlessness, and all sorts of experiences; and good and bad, and life and death, and here and there… And all you have to do, in the mists of all this craziness around, is to be yourself.

About happiness

Thailand-7859Back in Bangkok for a few days. One of the evenings, I go for a walk by myself, in the park close to our guesthouse. I sit somewhere near the river. I can see in the water, glittering and moving lazily, the lights of the buildings next to me. Boats pass from time to time – boats from the five-star hotels down the river, small, decorated with little strings of lights, big touristic boats, sliding across the waters surrounded by a halo of colored light and music, long cargo ships, dark, anonymous, noticeable only by the dark enormous shades with which they cover the reflection in the water of the buildings across the river. Closeby, a Thai young man is playing the guitar. A girl is sitting beside him, holding out a notebook from which they both read. Sometimes I can hear her voice, timid, slightly off key, singing. The sound of the guitar reaches me faintly, like in a dream. I cannot recognize the song, but the warm and gentle notes of the guitar make my heart soften and smile, opening up and filling as if to the memory of a long forgotten love. And to all the beauty that is now around it.

And I suddenly have a feeling, a familiar feeling that it’s been creeping into my life, the last year or two: that THIS, this moment right here, could be a scene of a movie. One of those movies that we love to let ourselves drawn in, enraptured, intoxicated by. The kind of movies that we want to be a part of. And my mind instantly creates the whole story around it: it could be about this girl that left everything and when on a trip around the world. To look deeper into the world, to look deeper into herself. She is now in Bangkok, exotic, chaotic Bangkok, looking at the lights of the boats passing by. And a soft soundtrack music kicks in, the distant sound of a guitar blues.

Yes, it could be a movie! One of those romantic, I-want-to-be-in-it, happy-ending kind of movies. But – and I start laughing by myself – all of it is just such an illusion! I’ve been in Bangkok for several days, visiting, going around, trying the street food. And I did not have that “this is a perfect moment – I am perfectly happy“ kind of feeling. And I realize (a realization to which I come back, again and again) that the scenery of our lives does not contribute but little to our feeling of happiness. That you can be in the most extraordinary and exotic place on earth, on a beach in Thailand, sitting in the sun, but if you don’t open up to feel its beauty, to fill up with the wonder and gratefulness of you living all the sun and the sea and the sand, it is as if you were not really there. And then, you can be in your own house, in a little apartment in Bucharest (let’s say :) ), having a glass of wine with a friend, on your balcony, or a cup of hot tea inside, with some music and small candle lights, and you could feel, as I felt many times, truly blessed and perfectly happy.

Throughout this year of travels I have been, many times, more often than I would usually find myself, in places and situations in which I said to myself: “wow, this is a truly perfect moment!”. About some of these moments I wrote in this travel journal. But each time it happens, I realize that it is not necessarily the place and the time that makes it perfect, but the way my heart, in that moment, melts down a little, opens up to receive and understand the beauty around it. Because the beauty is always there! Even in the most ordinary situations of your life, even at the breakfast table, pourring your coffee, or going to work in the morning, looking at all the different people around you, each with their world and life around them, or looking at the clouds in the sky, with their different shades and colors, or going to a park, or meeting a friend, or enjoying the comfort and coziness of your home. Or reading a book, or playing a computer game you love, or cooking for someone you love. All of these can be moments of happiness – only if you acknowledge them as such. Of course that when you travel, as I am now, it is easier to let your heart open in this way and feel this happiness. But I tell you, precisely because I do feel it now and because I felt it sometimes when I was back home, happiness does not depend on what is happening in your life or in the world around you! I know that many have said this before and that this is not anything new, but I just want to share this with you, my own little revelation: happiness is about opening your heart to receive the beauty that already IS there. Sometimes this is easier to do, other times it’s more difficult. That’s why we should practice it, whenever we find it easy, so that we have the experience of what happiness feels like, for those moments when everything seems dark and gloomy and hopeless.

So go out today, and choose one place, one moment in which you can just relax. Look around you as if it were the first time you see everything, with new eyes and new heart. Smile and look at the beauty, the tenderness, the sweetness in the things and in the people surrounding you. Invite all that into your heart and let it sink in, until it reaches every fiber of your being, until you can feel it in your toes! Then breathe in, smile and feel how blessed you have been today.

After a while, hearing again the tune of the song that lighted up in me all that stream of thought, I got closer to the Thai couple, made friends and listened to what they were singing. And a new smile took over me. It was an old song that I had just discovered this summer and with which I fell instantly in love. I heard it from an Irish guy, who stayed in Afroz for a few weeks and used to play the guitar in the afternoon. It brought back memories of wonderful times, full moons, and loves, and friends, and smiles.

Afroz, here I come!

Last evening in Athens. I pack everything, make a list of things not-to-forget in the morning, take a note of how to get to the airport. In the morning I am going to fly from Athens to Mytilini, the capital of the Greek island Lesbos. And from Mytilini, I will have to arrive to Afroz, my next destination and home for the next few months, around 80 km on the other side of the island.

To get to Afroz, one option would be to take the bus from the Mytilini airport. However, considering that the last bus of the day is scheduled some 20 minutes after my flight’s landing time, it is very probable I will miss it. If so, either I would have to take a 85 euro taxi or.. do not know yet. The people from the Afroz center told me that they will announce me if there is another person coming from Mytilini the same day, to share a taxi. After packing, I check my e-mail one last time: no news from Afroz – probably no one else is coming. It then occurs to me that I could stay one night in Mytilini and catch the next day’s bus – and probably one night of accommodation would be the same price or even cheaper than the taxi. I liked the idea of discovering this city, capital of the island of Lesbos – now, that I got used to staying a few days in one place, then packing, saying goodbye and going to somewhere else, the idea of stopping one night in Mytilini, finding a place to stay, unpacking, staying the night and leaving in the morning, did not even seem tiresome – the traveller in me seems to have got awaken. Last year, when returning to Bucharest at the end of my holidays in Afroz, I was surprised to see in Mytilini some very beautiful beginning-of-the-20th-century buildings, with an air of aristocracy, ease and holiday spirit. The idea of taking pictures of the city in the warm light of the afternoon sun instantly seduced me.

Thinking of Mytilini, I remember that one of my friends living on the island told me once that he knew somebody owning a little hotel in Mytilini. So I decid to write him and the Afroz center asking for information on accommodation in Mytilini and call it a night. Not really knowing where I will be sleeping the next night – but I find myself in peace with that. One thing I keep practicing in this trip: trying not to think about something that I cannot solve in that very second. Sometimes you don’t have enough information, sometimes it is just not the moment to take a decision, other times, even if you could decide in advance what to do, you don’t know what you would like more to do when the time comes. So I developed a kind of preliminary analysis of any problem that presents to me: is it anything I can do about it now? What? So when I have to plan something, to solve something, I do whatever I can do about it in that very moment. If nothing can be done, I take all the information I need and then I let it be. I don’t think about it anymore. To try to predict what would happen is just a waste of time. For instance, there is no need to try to think about whether or not I will catch the bus in Mytilini and what I would do if I don’t – there is no point in trying to decide what I will do tomorrow, in Mytilini, when me, I am here, in Athens, just finishing to pack. I will see it when the time comes. There is no need to worry about it or overthink it. I am sure what I have just wrote will bring a smile on the faces of my friends – people knowing me as a person who likes to plan, organize, make to-do-lists, trying to foresee how things would go and have a plan about it and – why not say it? – a somewhat controlling person. I am not pretending that this part of me has completely disappeared. Just that I am now tasting and practicing a new way of being, of living. And you know what? I am really enjoying it: just letting go, letting life unfold, giving up the control a little bit.

Well, having finished everything, I set my alarm clock and go to sleep. But I find I cannot fall asleep as easily as I usually do. I am tossing around, moving in bed, with a big smile on my face: I feel excited as a child before his first day of school! I don’t even know exactly why. Maybe in another post I will tell you more about my Afroz experience last year and the sense of freedom, joy and peace I felt then. But that was then, this is now. I was opened to the fact that this year I may not like it at all, that three months is a lot of time to stay in one place, that this year I would be working full time in the center, so maybe the feeling of it would be totally different… Well, if I don’t like it, I will leave sooner to Thailand or even back to Romania, if I feel like it! And that is all.

I finally fall asleep and wake up 3 minutes before the alarm rings. I close my luggage, eat and check my e-mail again – no reply from Lesbos. Well, I’ll see in Mytilini what to do. I give a last goodbye hug to my cousin and her beautiful little child and set off to the airport. I almost miss the bus station where I have to change for the metro: as the doors of the bus open, I ask “Metro?” to a guy with a big luggage near me (he must know!). He replies in English he does not know and another person going down says “Yes, yes, here, metro!”. I go down and after a few moments I hear behind me the guy with the big luggage: “Hello! Actually, I have to thank you: I was, me too, going to the metro, but did not know I have to go down there”. I find out he is French, back-packing for one month in Greece, going to Penepolis by train. We say goodbye at the metro and each go our own way.

I take the metro and, when almost to the airport, I get a telephone call from a Greek number and a voice says “Hi” in Romanian. I am confused at the beginning, but I finally understand it is the Romanian friend who is also working in Afroz for the summer. She tells me that Tameer, the person running the center of whom I have a wonderful warm memory from last year, is going to Mytilini by car to do some shopping for the center and that he could pick me up from the airport. I would just have to wait two hours or so. I take the number, I say many thank you-s and a very happy “See you soon!”. I close the telephone and I cannot help smiling, with my lips, with my eyes, with all my being. The old man in front of me must think I am crazy! I look at the window and smile, I look around me and I cannot seem to put my lips in a “normal” position. Not that I try very hard. I feel I am happy. And that the air around me is happy and vibrating with joy and gratefulness! Because it is sunny and warm, because I am going to a Greek island, because life has a way of solving everything (if you let it), because friends are waiting for me, because I feel protected and loved and taken care of. Because I love.. Not exactly sure what, but I do! :)

I finish writing this post in a taverna right next to the Mytilini airport, where I wait for Tameer. I see the sea across the street, olive trees and flowers, I look at the cats moving around me and the two children who are playing digging their hands in the grass and dirt in front of the restaurant.

I will close with some words I read in the airplane this morning and which, today maybe more than in any other day, speak to me:

“Live this moment, live this moment as totally as possible, and suddenly you will come to realize if you live it totally, it is solved. There is no need to solve it. Life is not a problem, it is a mystery to be lived. If you live it totally it is solved, and you come out of it beautiful, enriched, with new treasures of your being opened, but nothing hanging around you. Then you move in another moment with that freshness, with this totalness, intensity, so that another moment is lived – and solved.” Osho – Intimacy

Life is not a problem, it is a mystery to be lived…

Sunset at the edge of the world

(written during my trip in Iran, 25 April – 12 May 2013)

Shiraz-8970Coming back from Shiraz. Watching through the window of the bus as the sun is falling, fading, slowly, behind the mountains. The light filtered through the clouds has a delicate beautiful feeling to it. To the east, the sky is still blue and the white clouds receive faint reflections of red and orange and pink – hints of the revolution happening on the other side of the sky, on the other side of the world.

It seems as if we are moving towards the sun, as if the road is going to disappear into the incandescent light in front of us. I look at the sun through the corridor of the bus. Back here it’s still a normal world, with people chatting, listening to music, with clocks, days, years, distances, buses and meaning. But there, into the light, everything disappears into nothingness. And this light bewilders me, enraptures me with hypnotic power. I cannot turn my eyes away, I cannot run away from the immense force of this incandescent black whole which seems to absorb everything.

Shiraz-8985

And fast, almost without me noticing, the sun fades behind the mountains. The last piece of it disappears behind the horizon, as an eye slowly closing, leaving behind it wonderful warm colors of red, orange and grey. The ground gets dark, fading into the night, but the sky still keeps for some time the memory of the incredible turmoil which just has happened to the west.

I start thinking about my life, about where I am now in my life. Yes, I am really in Iran, I am really on a trip around the world. And in this moment I am alone – it is me, just me. There is nothing and nobody else, all that I can feel now inside of me is all I have; and I will carry it with me around the world. I feel utterly free and utterly alone – in the same time. But I am ok with this feeling of loneliness: I always thought that in the end we are alone, that in this world you can share moments with others, but that ultimately, in our most inner self, in our core hearts, we will be alone.

I thing about my future life, about what it would be. I wouldn’t like this trip that I am taking, now, at 30, to be the highlight of my life. I am thinking why not take another sabbatical year when I am 60? Wouldn’t that be nice? I try to open up my heart and my senses and to probe the future in order to understand how this other one-year trip would be like. How would I be like at 60? How would I taste then a trip around the world?

And I start sensing in my body that part of me that experiences the world and that I feel will remain the same throughout my life. As if I can feel that woman traveling around the world at 60 in the body of the 30 year-old woman who is now coming back from Shiraz and looking at the colors of the sunset. I feel that my most inner self, that part of me that in this moment I start feeling, that I let expand and inhabit me, will not change. It will be the same.

And, instantly, I feel terrified. As if I am on the top of a cliff and I am about to jump into fin air. 60 seems so much closer to death. Another 10 or 20 years. Close to the not-being, to the unknown. I feel the ground disappearing from under my feet. My heart stops beating for a few seconds and I cannot breathe. I feel the death that is in my body.

This is how it should be, I know. Death is inevitably braided in our bodies the day we are born. And it is not that I think that existence stops when the body dies. But I do think that after death there is a different existence, a different way of experiencing life. And the woman I am now, the 60-year-old woman that I feel in my body, they love this life and they love living it, with all its ups and downs, its suffering and joy.

I bring air into my lungs and breathe slowly, with the pain and the memory of death still inside of me. After having occupied my whole being, my whole body, the feeling of all this naturally and gradually disappears.

It has been a long time since I didn’t live such an acute feeling of death. I almost thought that this fear of dying faded away or was replaced with my trust into the existence. How foolish sometimes we are. As every fear or pattern that we have inside of us, it is still there. Maybe it does not have (anymore) the power to dictate your every movement, maybe it is just so dim that you cannot see it in the light of every day life. But in the shivering light of the sunset it can re-appear. It is there, it will always be there. And all I can do is acknowledge it. Let it be and witness it.