A YEAR ON THE ROAD
Time: 6pm. Location: Somewhere in Morocco, between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Physical and emotional state: An odd mixture of exhaustion, thrill and anticipation. The usual, one could say.
TO TRAVEL IS to live. Words – admittedly, somewhat forced – I remind myself, while the fuel warning's high-pitched noise makes it harder and harder to concentrate. Stopping doesn't seem like an appropriate option, given the fact that we – my better, equally adventurous, currently careless half and I – are driving through the Moroccan desert. As the sun sets, we continue to push the limits of our rental car. Petrol stations, let alone houses are a rare sight down here. The freedom of the open road (in this case, a dirt track) is seductive, serendipitous and liberating. How beautifully endearing the views in front of us are. Scenes filled with endless shades of brown and orange; a mix of rust, rock, and sand. Enough with the daydreaming, I remember. Fuel is what we need, not some inspirational Instagram caption. Now, where does one get fuel in the middle of nowhere? My name is Carmen. I was born in Austria, and ever since I first sat on a plane to the other side of the world, namely New Zealand, a few years ago, I've had difficulty keeping still. There's much to see, so I made it my mission to explore. Let's be honest, such ambitions aren't particularly remarkable coming from someone born in the early 1990s. The privilege of continuous access to information, to countries near and far, and to political stability for many western millennials has sparked an ever-growing sense of wanderlust. What it has also sparked, however, is an attitude of massive content consumption. In an effort to shift my very own paradigm, I intend to create, not consume. Or at least create more than I consume. Hence my year on the road. Never intended, it just so happened that I found myself in a foreign place for most of 2016. I nearly ran out of fuel in Morocco with my partner in crime. I solo-hiked many walks across my beautiful new home Aotearoa as well as my namesake's homeland Spain. I hid from moose in Canada and learned about Fado in Madeira. I wondered and wandered in Israel and galloped through Petra. There were turtles in Australia, too much wine in Italy, and days on end in French museums. But there was something else, too. There was a shift, a change of mindset.
Sharing tea with customs officers on my Moroccan arrival unravelled laughter, not weariness. Exuberant palaces in Portugal let the most colourful dreams come to life. But, most importantly, walking the endless streets of such countries created a
kaleidoscope of experiences with insight I would have never even dreamed of gaining. Insight such as the importance, no, the monumental weight anyone and everyone must place on doing social good. On paying it forward and looking after those most vulnerable. A year on the road, filled with a diversity of adventures and cultures, made me understand what it takes to build a community; to create a society, others, like myself, are so intrigued by they might just visit. A community like the one in Lisbon's old town. One where neighbours share bread and washing lines frame the streets. One where the homeless are an integral part of society, being actively offered not just shelter, but respect and jobs, like in Vancouver.
One where resilience and hospitality are indispensable, even after megatyphoons wiping out thousands of homes, like in the Philippines. Insight such as this invites a new attitude. An attitude of not merely seeing, but exploring the places I, we, go. Spending a year on the road showed me that it's not individual success or material accumulation that leads to happiness. But it's much rather the idea of a resilient, connected community, collective intent, and access to nature that perfectly links up with individual and societal satisfaction. Now, reading and watching it from our perceived comfort zone is the easy part. However, one will never truly grasp such ideas unless one has felt it in person.
By doing so, the act of travelling becomes more personal and meaningful to me. I talk less and listen more. I move with more intention and learn to embrace uncertainty. All the while, my soul is filled with ever-more passion for exploring, adventuring, learning and seeing more. I begin to cultivate a repertoire of experiences, understanding and networks alike. In the end, that's what it's all about. Let's all say 'yes' to adventure. Yes, to la dolce vita; yes, to a rustic fare in the shadow of snow-capped mountains; yes, to memorable escapades in the jungle; yes, to a new pace of life and yes to living out your heart's most vivacious, wildest desires.