I love to travel, subsequently, I have done many trips! I started to travel young when my parents would pack us three kids into our Volvo (but of course!), the boot full of bags and buggies and the passenger-seat fully packed by us three children, toys, lego, bags, candy for the road, books and audio books all to keep us occupied! And off we would go! For weekend trips to visit friends in other parts of Sweden, or in the summer time, we would take the fully packed car abroad. We drove all the way to France a number of times, and England, and Ireland and Denmark. Each trip was always an adventure and a lot of fun! As we grow a little older our parents got us all backpacks and one year took us to Greece to backpack while island hopping. That was the preparation for our longer, and wilder, backpacking trip when we all went of for a month of backpacking in Asia! All I knew about Asia by the time we set off, was that it was a continent to the right on the world map.. After each of these trips, we would come back home full of fun memories and new bought souvenirs, and the mind a little more full by all the new impressions and moments shared together.
Bitten by the travel bug, consequently trips with the family followed by trips by myself and friends to camps and school trips and language-study trips and even a football-fan trip. Every time when I came home from a trip, I would be full of new memories and a bunch of funny stories to share!
Thus, going on a journey is something slightly different.. When you go on a journey, you know that you do not know where it all will end, and you know, that it will change you in ways you can not imagine.. You do not know how, only by following the road ahead you will find out, eventually..
The first journey I took was after I graduated from high-school, and went off to Ireland with a friend. I did not even realized when I left I was going on a journey! Our idea was to stay for three months in Dublin if all went well! But if not, we already warned that, if we could not find work and a home, perhaps we would just spend our money and be back in a couple of weeks!
Little did I know, that that journey would lead me into living for seven years in Dublin, making friends of a life time, and being dubbed “born again Irish”. Those initial three years in Ireland, was my foundation for going off to university in Scotland, and Dublin would be my home for the next seven years. That trip to Dublin turned out to not be a trip at all! But a journey that began that day I left Sweden and continued and continued and developed into life changing events and friends for life, and there was no, and is still no, definite end to that trip which transformed me from a very Swedish high-school girl, living with my parents, to become an adult with a full time job, my own flat and becoming Born Again Irish in a country and culture far from my origins.
When I in 2009 decided to go to Brazil for two months to train capoeira with my best capoeira buddy, then I had a feeling that something was about to happened..
We were going on a capoeira journey to Brazil, and that was the first time that I had the sensation of that I was actually going on a journey, and not a trip.. The trip was planned to be two months in Brazil to train with a number of mestres and groups that we were dying to meet in real life. We both were very curious to find out what capoeira means to Brazilians and the culture aspects of capoeira in its mother country. My ticket, and plans, were subject to change though. I did not know in what form, but I was open for the possibility to stay a bit longer. The contract for my job for the Scottish Government had finished, I had applied for an internship for the European Commission and received the answer that I was “pre-selected” but the definite answer would wait another two months (what it basically meant to be “pre-selected” was that they said NO to 75% of the applicants. The remaining 25% they kept on the hook for another two months to wait for an answer..). I had made a deal with myself that if I get the internship than I would go back to Europe and do it, but if not.. then I might as well stay in South America since I had been dreaming for a long time about doing volunteer work.
My plans were as loose as that. I had never been to Brazil, I could not speak Portuguese and I had no idea if I would like the country. I could speak Spanish, so it would probably be better to do a volunteer work in a Spanish speaking country, but since I did not yet know if I was going to be offered the internship with the Commission I did not want to contact organisations in case I would find myself with a double commitment. So off we went, my capoeira bestie Maria with the intention of staying for two months. Me, with a changeable ticket, knowing when I was taking off but not exactly when I would be back…
At the time we went, Maria had shaved head, piercing in her tongue and face, and had given up drinking alcohol years prior to the trip. Before the trip, Maria was joking about who knows what would happen to us in Brazil? Before we knew it, perhaps we would find Maria sitting on the beach in Copacabana, with long hair sipping caipirinhas in the sun?
The beauty of a journey is exactly that, that we know some where that it will change us, but we do not know how. And we do not even realize we are being changed until after it has happened..
When we arrived to Brazil, we went to Bahia and stayed in a friends house in a local neighborhood hood in Itacare. Far from the bars and restaurants. Far from the surfer tourists and forro dance-places, but in a house in the local neighborhood where there was no hot water in the shower, no door to the bathroom and we had to fetch water to drink daily with the other locals by the water pump.
In my first week, I bought a new pair of earrings. Made of some wood material, maybe coconut?
One of the few nights we attempted to go out, (training capoeira twice a day takes the most out of you and the evenings were for resting, cooking and talking, as supposed to sipping caipirinhas in the bars.. Chocking, I know! the amount of locals who thought we were kidding when we said, us two European girls, had come to Brazil only to train capoeira. “You..?! Ah, not just capoeira, right!?”
“Hum… well, yes, just capoeira! That’s enough!”)
Maria was lying on the bed studying Portuguese from my Teach Yourself Portuguese self-study book I had bought, as I was getting ready.
“Maria, do you think I should use my new earrings or these silver rings that I always wear?”
My silver rings had been my trademark earrings for many years. The boss at the restaurant where I used to work 6 days a week, even said to me that he would not recognize me without those earrings..
“Of course you should take the new once! We are in BRAZIIIIL!”
I tried them on, and looked at myself in the mirror.
I looked like a European gringa (= slang for foreigner in Portuguese) who had just arrived to Brazil and tried to blend in by wearing a new pair of Brazilian looking earrings.
It did not look like me.
It did not feel like me..
“Ah..Silly! No point of pretending! I am European and do not feel the least Brazilian. I wear my silver rings, that is Me!”
8 months later, when I eventually came home, one cancelled return ticket later, heartbroken by having to leave my new found love – Rio de Janeiro, behind, I was unpacking my bag in my parents house. As all the clothes was out of my backpack, the berimbaus put aside, I shook the backpack, and to my surprise, my silver earrings feel out! Where had they been? They most have been stucked in the bottom of the bag, or left forgotten in some side pocket! I had not even realized they were missing!
I picked them up from the floor and looked at them.. The silver had faded and they looked stained, unused and rather crocked after being mashed somewhere in the bag for so long.
I looked over to the desk, where my new jewelry box with all my treasures from Brazil was sitting. I had got so much new jewelry that I had to get a jewelry box for it all where I could hang all my earrings and leave all my necklaces. The box was filled to the brim with my feather earrings, all in different colors and sizes, the various wooden earrings and necklaces made of colorful seeds. All my jewelry were made of natural materials, and if anything, looked very Brazilian! I loved them!!!
I looked down on the stained crocked ear rings in my hand.
“When on earth did this happened..?” I thought to myself..
When did the silver earrings end up in the bottom of my bag, without me realizing it, I never missed them, and when, exactly did I start to feel comfortable wearing the jewelry from Brazil? Not just cause I liked it, but because it felt like me..?
I have no idea.
Somewhere on the journey it happened. Perhaps around that time when suddenly I tried a beer, quite liked it, started to wiggle a bit of samba, cause I could not be the only one not dancing and the music is quite nice – after all! And a piece of meat slipped down out of desperation, and since it was not too bad I had it again..
Suddenly I remembered Maria’s joke about her sitting on Copacabana drinking caipirinhas in the sun with long hair. The image of Maria on a beach reoccurred in my mind as I sat on the bedroom floor, 8 months after going on that 2-months capoeira-journey with Maria. Instead, I had spent 7 months in Rio de Janeiro, getting the taste of Rio in my system and the rhythm of the city in my blood stream, and the love for the city penetrated deep into my heart.. In fact, it was me, who suddenly, before I knew it, or know how it happened, suddenly was dancing samba, drinking beer and eating (small pieces!) of meat! What happened to that vegetarian girl who left Edinburgh 8 months not drinking beer and disliking samba!?
I think about that sometimes. Those silver earrings feels like a symbol of the beauty of going on a journey – that we only know where it starts, but have no idea where it ends or where it leads us.
And the exciting feeling of going on a journey, all the way down to the belly giving us nervous butterflies in the stomach, that we know that the journey will change us, for ever, some how, thus we have nooo idea how..!!
I do realize, I had no idea what I signed up for when I decided to come here to Ubud to write.
All I knew was that I had to do it.
It is very thrilling, and a little nerve-wrecking to think about.
For now, I can only give it my best, take it all in, learn as much as I possible can,
cause the journey,
has only just began.
What journey have YOU taken that did not lead you to where you expected? or which gave a very different results than you had anticipated?
If you feel like, I would love to hear your story!
Thank you for listening,