The Day After Tomorrow (the end is near…)

Fellow travellers, adventurous nomads, myth lovers and Veganians, good morning!

Yes, although my sporadic apparitions, I’m still alive, trying my best not to evaporate in the tremendous and sticky heat of Sukhothai and Bangkok : it was not useless, too, to perform the Rain Dance with the children of the sweet family hosting me, since a huge storm is now approching, with its army of black clouds full of heavy raindrops, grumbling thunders and crazy gusts of wind shaking the mango and banana trees.

Even Buddha sometimes can have his own little black cloud over the head (Sukhothai Old City)

Even Buddha sometimes can have his own little black cloud over the head (Sukhothai Old City)

However, despite our silence, we have not been idle (not so much!), and I had the chance to hear some very interesting Thai legends about Kings, twins and sacred elephants! Some of them were told by laughing children, some by jovial tuktuk drivers (many mosquitos have been unwillingly inhaled while storytelling and bumping on a country road) ; two monks, in Ayutthaya ruins and at the White Temple in Chiang Saen, exposed to me few anecdotes on Buddha and the Buddhist Hell.

Beware of the appearances...

Appearances can be deceiving…

... those two notebooks are full of wise and enlightening stories!

… those two notebooks are full of wise and enlightening stories!

To enter into the White Temple, you must cross the bridge over the Damned Souls... like Orpheus looking for his Eurydice.

To enter into the White Temple, you must cross the bridge over the Damned Souls… like Orpheus looking for his Eurydice.

I still have to finish the drafts on the shamanic Korean legends and the Japanese myths before I could report the Thai stories, and I will do it as soon as I’m home (I apologize for the suspense! But I need calm and time to think, verify and compare the stories, before writing them here). Yes, it’s almost time to go back home ; Janyce is already safe and sound in Paris while I’ve still three days to spend in amazing Thailand. I’m happy and excited to get back, see my family and friends, yet somehow it feels strange, and I’m a bit afraid…

Time flies and ten months have elapsed since we left Paris, last August. We lived many adventures, met wondeful people, laughed a lot, loved, had some issues (fortunately not very important!) and moments of deep homesickness or tiredness from the rigours of the journey (commonly known as the “E.T. phone home” crisis), sometimes even experienced fear (especially in Australia, thanks to Josh and his stories of drop bears), we were often sunburnt and dirty and covered of dust and soil, our shoes destroyed from walking… yet, it was a damn good experience, unforgettable, proving and wonderful.

I thank with all my heart my family and friends who supported me and enabled me to live this amazing adventure, and also the schools that accepted to participate to our project, as well as the people who shared their stories with us.

It was great to travel with Janyce, but also to travel alone. Two very different ways of traveling. I was scared as hell to go out on my own in countries whose languages I did not master or even hardly knew, face to face with my powerful sense of disorientation and wistfulness and bad character, but then everything turned out to be really nice, and I enjoyed those last four months across Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Thailand very much. I could almost cope with my being awfully shy, and open up, meeting the most helpful and sweet people I could ever imagine. And I could almost cope with my being lame. Almost.

I learned a lot, but am conscious there’s still so much to learn yet, to discover and travel. The common question “Where do you come from?” used to baffle me : am I Italian still, or should I say I’m French, since the greatest part of my life has been spent in Paris? Does it really matter? I’ve got two hearts, two homes, and as Socrate once said, I’m a citizen of the world, committed to a long-lasting affair with baguette and spaghetti.

Another question thrilled me : Why do you travel? At first I could not give a sincere answer.

Weeks later, watching the Maekok River flowing by and munching magic mushrooms mango slices, during my first night in Bangkok, I realized how much time and energy was wasted upon self-loathing and nurturing impossible desires, that of constantly being another person or finding peace, freedom and happiness elsewhere… Why do I travel? Of course, because I want to see, learn, experience, but also… to overcome the awful fear of what is unknown, to put my ideas – or should I say prejudices?- to the test of reality, to be free, accepting my own humanity and others’. I travel because I want to love truly. And maybe one day, I’ll be wise enough to learn how to stay.

And you, why do you travel? Why do you stay?

While waiting for your precious answers (and forgiveness for my philosophical fluff), little observations from Skias in Wanderlust :

1. Your passport is your preciousss best friend. Never let him in the wrong hands, or absent-mindedly abandon/drop it somewhere after drinking your second Terremoto cocktail/soju bottle. Keep a copy in a different bag.

2. Mp3 player and earplugs are vital in chaotic cities, crowded dorms, crammed trains or buses and apparently endless journeys.

3. Be patient and open to the unexpected. Plans can change, timetables can vary without prior notice, you’ll lose lots of trains and buses. But you can always manage to get where you want to. Moreover, you will learn to jump on and off crumbling trucks while they’re still (slowly) going on.

4. Trust people, but not too much. Follow your instinct and discriminate between a deceitful scam and a kind local who will introduce you to hidden pearls, out of the tourist traps. For instance, having lunch with Argentinian coastal guards and going into the Guarani Village in the jungle with Carlos was amazing, although highly inconsiderate. And yes, at some point someone will cheat on you, especially on the prices or visa procedures, or rob you in the street :  learn from that slap to your ego, learn to bargain and be more informed, then go on. If you rent a scooter, carefully examine the state of your engine and note down every scratch before you sign something. Most of people are very kind and helpful, some others are not that honest and few are real jerks.

5. Have fun and cheer up at the bar, but try not to get too drunk. Especially if you’re a lone woman traveller, never accept drinks that haven’t been prepared under your eyes or in trustful restaurants. As elsewhere, some gentlemen think that buying you a beer will imply a night of passion : just be aware of your mutual intentions.

6. It seems stupid to remind this, but sometimes it tends to be forgotten : be respectful of the people and habits of the country your traveling into. It’s often basic politeness, little things that will be rewarded with kind acts and big smiles. Take off your shoes before entering in houses or temples, dress properly (even if it’s impossibly hot, especially in temples or Palaces), don’t lose your temper in public, don’t drink or eat while walking in the street (Japan – but make noise when you suck up your udon!), try to greet/thank people in their own language or gestures (bow or joined palms)… Yes, English is not enough, more often than less. You can always communicate with broken words, mimes and pictograms, though, and it’s very funny. Be careful, some body language is ambiguous : in South Asia, people smile when they are pleased or, on the contrary, embarassed. And you will soon handle the chopsticks like a true master (I can’t yet catch flying mosquitos as Miyamoto Musashi did, but I won’t complain so much of my actual skills – as long as I don’t spill food everywhere). Be decently dirty, if you can’t be all clean.

7. Get lost! Keep your sense of wonder alive, enjoy life and have fun!

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light" (John Milton)  -After a storm in Sukhothai Old City-

“Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light” (John Milton)
-After a storm in Sukhothai Old City-

Legends and myths coming soon! 

Bonus! General state of your PokErika:

*Lungs : Gone with the Wind (Cusco, my killer queen)

*Legs : Dead Walking (sitting in the grass can be very dangerous indeed)

*Stomach : Sick Sad World (grasshoppers are made of peanut butter)

*Bag : The Big Bang Theory (you never know what nerdy quasars you can find at the bottom of the Universe) – the Romans called the luggages impedimenta = hindrance. They were awfully right, especially if too heavy and big!

*Clothes : Expendables (and no, I wasn’t talking about strip-tease)

*Heart : It’s a Wonderful Life! (Happy and grateful, singing Oooh-ohh)

=> Ready to evolve!

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