Each step brings us to another curve leading to a long stretch of alpine nothingness. It’s just us alone in the world, heads down and walking different paces alongside the Panj River that sometimes meanders a few meters below or rages through narrow gorges.
There’s comfort in solitude. There’s unity between the human spirit and the natural world. There’s also a simultaneous sense of bigness and smallness, being a speck in the shadow of mountainous greatness while having a heart large enough to notice the smallest rock sparkling in the sunshine.
It’s easy to get lost in these long stretches in between Pamir towns. The monotony invites a meditative calm, a peace that comes with moving at about three kilometers an hour. It often, too, stirs restlessness and a string of unconnected thoughts anxious for answers or impatience from feeling like we are going nowhere fast.
We crest a hill, round a bend and instantly become famous.
The family of about 20, huddled around a fire in front of their house, wave to us and greet us with big hellos. We smile and wave back. They start pulling out their smartphones. We start pulling out our smartphones. We are, hands down, the strangest thing that passed in front of them today on this back country road. We find them strange, too…strange in the way that makes every single one of us fascinating.
I take a bite of a sugar cookie and slowly sip my instant coffee. I feel safe and protected. We have been welcomed and given the green light to continue on our foot journey. I am grateful for the kindness we’ve been shown.
We accept friendship in whatever way it comes from whoever extends it. Today it comes in the form of friendly conversation, cookies and coffee from police and soldiers at one of the handful of border control checkpoints between Tak and Mae Sot.
We all want the same things in life, regardless of where we come from or where we’re going. We want comfort, security, good health and a better life than our parents had.
There are other universal things we collectively seek out. For example, we want to belong. We want to fit into a family or a community, or said more simply, we have a human sense of belonging to each other that we spend our lifetimes trying to satisfy. The flip side of that is more complex. In the same way we individually crave to fit in and belong, we also have this tendency to want to help others belong to whatever circles we move in. Despite what the headline news tells us about fearing “those people,” whoever “those outsiders” are in any given moment in history, there’s a part of us that cannot resist the urge to extend a kind hand and open heart to another person.
Thailand has given us a chance to reflect on this dynamic.
Our first week walking has been full of surprises. Every day we learn something new, and the practice of living in the moment has taken on new meaning.
We headed out of Bangkok uncertain of what lies ahead, but knowing that we had to stop thinking about the big overwhelming mission of crossing Asia and Europe. We had to shift our focus to the here and now. Out walking, the best we can do is have a weekly goal, a daily objective and an hourly status check to see where our bodies and heads are at. We measure progress step by step, minute to minute and one kilometer to the next.
This past week gave us many opportunities to test this “right now” game plan. What we’re learning most is how to manage our own expectations of what this trip will look like on a day-to-day basis and what our bodies can handle.
Instead of translating each other's posts, we're leaving these in our respective native languages, English (Jenn) and Catalan (Lluís), to capture the essence of what we each feel. There are, however, no words that could fully describe the illusion and hope we carry with us for this adventure.
Happy birthday to me! What a way to start my 44th year! Here we are, early morning on 1/16/16, across the way from Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, an appropriate place for starting a new day, a new trip and a new life.
Today, we begin our long walk home. Geographically, we call Barcelona home. But, home, as they say, is where the heart is, and that’s the home we’re looking for every day. We have maps to guide us through the physical distance, but we know we won’t be walking in a straight line. Life almost never takes us in a straight line, despite our best efforts to make it seem that way. Visa limitations, weather, safety and health issues will likely detour us, and we’ll have no choice but to take them all in stride.
We often talk about this walk as a way to find goodness in the world, which we believe is all around us just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Perhaps, though, the goodness we’re out to find is already in us, and one of the gifts we’re meant to share with others. Maybe, this trip is about being brave enough to step forward and letting our hearts, smiles and goodness lead us home. We shall see.
On that note, let’s get this party started! Off we go, on our way to the big unknown.
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Aquí i avui comença la festa!
Ja ha arribat el dia. Després de tant de temps d’haver-ho decidit i d’estar esperant i preparant aquest projecte, avui 16/01/2016 comencem a caminar des del cor de Bangkok cap a la nostra estimada Barcelona. Avui comença ‘oficialment’ la nostra ruta, el viatge, l’aventura, la recerca de la bondat de la gent!
Confiem que serà un viatge molt enriquidor, un viatge molt especial en que pas a pas anirem explorant aquest fascinant món en que vivim, al mateix temps que coneixem la bondat de moltes persones de cultures totalment diferents amb les que ens encantarà relacionar-nos, mirant de comunicar-nos de la manera més bàsica.
Tenim una barreja de nervis, emoció, ganes, motivació… i seguim amb tants interrogants com quilòmetres tenim pel davant. Ja veiem a venir que degut a les durades i restriccions dels visats, monsons, hiverns, estius, salut, situacions geopolítiques i de seguretat, … sembla que no podrem fer un recorregut recte i continuat com ens agradaria. Tenim clar el ‘què’. No tenim ni idea del ‘com’. Però això entenem que forma part de la definició d’aventura.
Una cosa que sí tenim clara és el fet de viure la nostra vida de manera intensa i apassionant.
Esperem que la salut ens acompanyi i amb una justa dosi de bona sort podrem fer realitat aquest somni tan esbojarrat com apassionadament meravellós.
We spent lots of time this summer mulling over really big stuff about our upcoming walk, almost to the point of mind-numbing overwhelm. So we’re shifting gears and getting back to basics of why we’re jumping into this huge adventure and tackling all the practical things that have to be done before we head to Bangkok.
We’ll talk about the nitty gritty details in other posts, but, for now, let’s settle up the questions people immediately ask when they hear about our 14,000 kilometer hike through Asia and Europe, “Why are you walking? Wouldn’t it just be easier to take a bus or a train?”
Hem dedicat una gran part d’aquest estiu a pensar, escriure i compartir moltes de les nostres inquietuds que no deixen de rondar pels nostres cervells fins un punt gairebé malaltís. Ara mirem de canviar per tal de tornar als temes més bàsics. Anem cap a aquells temes molt més pràctics que hem d’afrontar i enllestir abans de llençar-nos a aquesta aventura-viatge-repte-canvi de vida.
Ja parlarem dels detalls de la planificació en algun altre escrit, però ara mirem de comentar algunes de les preguntes que molta gent ens fa immediatament quan s’assabenten que volem caminar aproximadament uns 14.000 quilòmetres entre Àsia i Europa. Per què voleu fer-ho a peu? No seria més fàcil agafar un autobús o un tren?