Bart Och - Travel Journalist

The road snakes its way over large glaciers and mottled peaks reminiscent of a marble cake. I walk for many hours, and, many times, I resist the temptation to stop in case I lose my pace and motivation to continue hiking. Through the eyes of my imagination, everything looked so simple – probably why it is easier for most of us to dream than to fulfil our dreams, to complain than to look for solutions, to stay than to leave.

Sometimes I wonder why instead of getting pampered in an elegant spa and participating in conventional social activities, I choose to ramble, get cold and dirty, endure discomfort. I think this is just my highway to some form of happiness. Happiness which reveals itself only when on the verge of endurance I feel that I am beginning to live. In the fight against fatigue, cold, and hunger, I find something that I wasn’t aware of – a power dormant in every human being, an unimaginable force that pushes us forward against body, mind, and reason.

Currently, we can go through life without experiencing prostration. If I am tired at work, I take a coffee break. If I am tired of walking, I take a bus. If I am done, I quit. Easy. Out here, you can grind to the limits of endurance; there are no advance-to-go or skip-a-turn cards to play. In the wilderness, your choices are limited; you work with what you have. Ironically, this can be quite liberating.

It has been two weeks since I got out on the road. I find myself a small lodge in the middle of nowhere to spend a couple of nights in. It doesn’t bother me that there is no electricity, hot shower, or even the internet. I toss my heavy backpack and filthy boots covered in mud and bits of green moss aside. In a small bucket, I finally get to wash my greasy hair and dirty clothes.

Sitting by the window, I am unable to peel my eyes off the view that accompanies me as the sun descends into the night. The dark halts at the glass between me and the rest of the world; candlelight illuminates the rustic interior of the desolate, wooden cabin. Inside, I feel safe. I feel warm.

I realise how little I need to be happy and learn to appreciate all of the things in life that most of us take for granted. I can’t move forward until I get rid of my excess baggage: not only my possessions but also my privileges, my ego, and my unrealistic expectations.

How long has it been? How long since I have left the comforts of my life? It is hard to tell.

When I quit my job, my boss didn’t seem surprised. Maybe he saw it before I did. Maybe he didn’t really care. Neither did I.

It wasn’t long before I moved out of my flat and shut the door behind me for the last time. Eight years full of memories condensed within that small, two-bedroom box. Soon, someone else was going to call it home, as I did once. And maybe there is a place for me too. Maybe I belong nowhere. But, at this moment, I feel as if the world belongs to me.


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