2014 — Leaving the Ashes
An essay that might make some of you dislike me and why I mustn’t give a fuck.
I originally wrote this as a Facebook Note, but decided, it might be worthy to be put here ;)
Even long before the Eurovision Songcontest, I had the recurring figure of the phoenix dominate 2014. In fact, I even started the year by drawing one, saying “2013 was a burner, now let’s have some sweet rebirth!”
And it definitely was. People who know me well, are aware, that the last couple of years have had their heights, but that the past wouldn’t stop haunting me, which led to very emotional situations, poor decisions and a frequent fight with depression. The end of 2012 and the entire year of 2013 was indeed one hell of a mainly unpleasant, burning ride. I’m very grateful for the outstanding people, I can call my friends and family, who helped me get through this time.
And — even though, I can’t say, to have left the haunting past completely behind me — 2014 has been cleansing like probably no year before.
In the beginning of the year, I slowly started to realise, that I had made a very poor decision in Spring 2013, settling down in Vienna. It was mainly driven by the heart. A way of holding on to a lost past and coping with the need for some sort of anchor.
Due to the break down of my rather successful online business, two days after I signed the contract for this dream apartment, I also depended a lot on my family when it comes to paying the rent. I felt terrible. Especially after thinking that I had it finally figured out. Winter was giving me a hard time as well. I have a tendency of fighting with Winter depression anyway and I already felt caged into my golden apartment. The horizon was screaming at me. I wanted to be able to move around again.
Something had to change.
In Spring 2014, the answer to my questions was held right in front of my eyes: A guy on Youtube, who travels from Chile to Alaska in his VW van (“Hasta Alaska”).
A van would be some sort of home, some sort of anchor. And yet, it would enable me to travel again.
I started to record video for a Kickstarter campaign to somehow be able to afford this unexpected dream. It was in this time, that I also decided, that I wanted to start a video series of my own: About Wings.
In June, I stepped into my apartment one last time. It was empty. With the help of my family, I managed to move out earlier and free all of us from this financial burden.
The loads of work for my Kickstarter video should become quite unimportant after moving out to my mum’s place in upper Austria:
As a late birthday present, my mum surprised me with a mini van, that I named Hermes. The patron of the travellers.
It took three tedious months to get a driver’s license and furnish the van. In the end, both were big accomplishments for me. I never thought, I’d ever go through the struggle of getting a license, was almost a bit scared of the thought of driving a car.
Upper Austria made me feel pretty lonely, which made me come back to Vienna every now and then. Seeing my friends was a relieve. But I also felt that in most cases, something was off. With a lot of friendships, I didn’t feel too satisfied. And yet, this was mainly a subconscious feeling, that I should notice a bit further into the future.
Summer came and went. The area where my mum lives, gave me the most frustrating Summer I had in years. Clouds, rain, cold and fog.
After the second attempt, I finally got my license on August 29th. Two days later, I drove back to Vienna with my new car and home, Hermes. I lived there for about one and a half months.
In this time, two friends of mine told me, I was ungrateful and they felt used. One of them chose to end his friendship for me.
I am a rather self reflecting person and consider myself as somebody who wants to see the people around them happy and tends to put quite a lot of effort into that. If people offer me their shower or food, I will take it. At the same time, I had not yet understood properly, that not everybody speaks their mind, if they aren’t happy with a situation. It’s not a habit, I appreciate about others, but it seems to be something I have to deal with.
Anyway. a few months later, people would laugh at me, because I was so overly cautious of making somebody feel as if I’d use them. Some even got a little annoyed with it.
It surprises me, how big of a chapter, this topic takes, right now… I want to close it by saying: No, I don’t try to use anybody. Especially not my friends. I give my best to give just as much — or even more — than I take. I feel bad, if I get the impression that it’s not that way.
I am definitely — despite all my different ways of thinking and my constant obsession with freedom — NOT a selfish person.
It took me months to deal with the fact that two people I love told me that. Two people who wouldn’t say a word for weeks, if not months. If you have a problem with me, but don’t tell me before you have a big, unreasonable explosion, then it’s not my problem.
I hope, nobody takes that the wrong way. But I’m sick of having guilt planted into my head for things that simply aren’t true. I’ve had enough of it in my childhood and I won’t accept it anymore.
I care almost too much about the people around me — even strangers — and carry a strange urge of saving the world with me. But at some point I have to learn to look out for myself and stop letting thing like this get to much to me. I deserve better. And it took me a very long time to finally understand that.
If somebody doesn’t appreciate my friendship and the things I contribute to it, so be it.
That said, I want to mention that I’m very grateful for the friend who I could talk about it and who decided to stay the important part of my life that she’s always been.
Shortly before I left Austria I spent some time at my mum’s place again. The last couple of days, I had noticed myself, making up excuses for not leaving. At the same time, I knew, I had to. It was getting cold and if I wanted to continue living in the van, I needed to go South. The first episode of About Wings was posted in this time. And considering, it was the first one, it got quite a bit of attention, which I’m very grateful for.
Over the period of months before that, I was asked the same questions over and over again: What are you running away from? Why are you doing this?
I liked to think, I wasn’t running away from anything. I liked to say: I’m maybe running away from a life of routine, but I’m actually running towards a life of adventure and the chance of leaving a meaningful footprint in this world, before I leave it. I’m running for the sake of running.
And all of this is very true. And at the same time, I have finally become honest with myself and have started thinking if I might be running away from something after all. And I’ve come to a couple of theories. I’m not sure if they are as heavy-weighted, but there has to be a reason why I came up with them after all. It’s probably a mix of all of them.
One thing I’m running away from: You know it. When you move to a new city or find a new circle of friends, you are the new person. Interesting. there’s much to find out about you. people spend a lot of time with you because you are especially exciting. Simply because you are new. But there always is this one point in time — and there usually isn’t much of a transition, it’s more like a light switch being flipped over — where you aren’t new anymore. Not that exciting. A nice person to hang out with every now and then, but people simply don’t take that much time for you anymore. THIS. THIS is something I’m running away from. One of the things I’m running away from, is the moment where you don’t feel very appreciated by your friends or your partner anymore. I’m a quite emotional person and I think far too much about the reasons people have for their actions. Often probably more than they think about it themselves. If a friend asks me, if I have time for them, I take it, or I find a ways to combine my original plans with this friend. I wouldn’t come up with excuses and I always love spending time with my friends. There isn’t a day where I wouldn’t want to see you. No reason strong enough to prevent me from seeing you, if you ask me. It’s probably down to my philosophy, that the toilet seat of some space station might slam into my head at any moment. Life is precious. I saw that even clearer when I lost somebody very important to me in 2013. And I want to spend this life with the people I love and people who appreciate me, the way I am. But in most friendships, there comes this stupid point, where people seem to take me (or other’s for that matter) for granted. I don’t like this moment. Because it’s the moment where I start thinking about people’s reasons. I start feeling unappreciated and my self confidence takes a deep drop. This is what I’m running away from. When you are constantly the new guy, because you are in new paces constantly, this moment vanishes.
I want to make one thing clear: There is a tiny percentage of people in my life, that don’t make me feel that way. And an even tinier fraction makes me highly appreciated at almost any time. Actually I can only think of one person tight now, who actually tells me frequently how happy they are, to have me in their life and… and why.
The first days after leaving Austria I felt like shit. I felt alone and I missed my friends. Even people I wouldn’t consider that close to me. It was like a rehab from a very bad addiction. In Venice I still thought of going back to Austria. Even so in Genova and after Italy in a lot of parts of France. Due to the threatening cold, I had to move quickly and didn’t really have time to get to know new people in most cities. I was alone. All by myself, a vehicle as my only companion.
From Perpignan to Barcelona I took the freeway the first time in weeks. That’s because I have a set of lovely friends there. I arrived in the middle of the night. They only found out a couple of hours earlier and still, they welcomed me with so much love and excitement, that it’s hard for me to put into words.
Spain was much nicer than the journey before it. Sure, I always enjoyed checking out the places I had gone to, but at the same time, I felt rushed and couldn’t really enjoy the journey. Down here, it was warm enough to slow down a little. And I noticed as soon as I could take the pressure from me and open up a little, how all of a sudden, opportunities started to open up all around me. I met a lot of new, lovely people and learned many things about a variety of Spanish cities and traditions. I started to meet fellow travellers and was overwhelmed to actually get to know people who rolled in a very similar ways as I did. I met people who have been friends for years, and still don’t run out of amazing ideas to surprise each other. And I have come across a gay couple, that has been living together for a very long time, which resparked a bit of hope, that some day, I might find something similar.
I have seen gorgeous sunsets and breathtaking landscapes. As a matter of fact, I see a gorgeous mountain view, as I look out of the window in this very moment.
I have learned a couple of new skills and started to appreciate life a little more again.
At the same time I started to let go of Hermes a little and tried to find opportunities to meet other people through couchsurfing and workaways. I have a feeling that I will continue the vanlife for some time, but that the van might be a little too much of a burden in the long run. Other travellers, I have met have told me plenty of stories about hitchhiking, that inspired my a lot.
But one thing I have to say about travelling in your van, rather than taking a plane: It’s not just a travelling and seeing new cultures. It’s a freaking adventure and I’m really enjoying it.
I have no clue, how I will continue after letting go of Hermes (probably in autumn?). IF I let go of Hermes. Maybe a bigger van? maybe a tiny house? Maybe No home at all, switching between cities with only a rucksack? Or maybe… just maybe… I want to actually stay somewhere? It doesn’t really feel like the latter at the moment.
And all of this doesn’t matter. I know, I will cease ever opportunity that comes my way and give the very best to enjoy every moment of this life while giving my best to leave this meaningful footprint in this world, that I have always strived for. And — one thing that has become very clear in this past year, yet again — give more of a fuck about myself and understand, that I deserve to be loved and appreciated. That I don’t need to change for anybody but myself. That there are people out there, that are capable of that. And that — some day — I myself, will be capable of it.
Robin over and out.