Travels and the Unexplainable

Who we meet on life’s windy road and why we meet them has been pondered by many men (and women) from the time of Herodotus et al. Then again, who knows what musings preceded them and have been lost to the passage of time?

Some people like to attribute everything to a divine being whilst others purely to chance. I don’t rule out the former playing a hand of sorts but I don’t think we should overlook the importance of deliberate human interaction. By that I mean the will to step out of bed each day with a purpose of sorts. Those last 4 words are fundamental – “a purpose of sorts.” When I was a teenager this purpose centred on schooling (apparently a necessity but which held some interest too), sport (cycling chiefly) but most fundamentally, a desire to interact with the natural world.

Some people like to attribute everything to a divine being whilst others purely to chance

At some point these conflated interests unwound and intertwined with others. The desire to find love (and not just a lover) probably featuring most potently, not withstanding a desire for reconciliation with love lost (my father’s principally). I came away sourly wounded about 12 years or so back when my purpose seemed lost in the mire and conflict that life sometimes brings upon its human subjects.

Fast forward to the present and I look back at a third of my entire lifespan lived since then. It almost seems like I was born again into another life at the age of 24. On paper it would seem as though I’ve traveled far and wide in the intervening time span but it has been mostly in a rather linear pattern. Bouncing between the nations of Zimbabwe and South Africa for almost 6 years before heading north to the United Kingdom for a similar time again, notwithstanding months and weeks spent back in Africa every other year hence.

People would raise their eyebrows of course and even with some amusement remark on the ‘traveller’s wanderings’. I think I was even regarded with envy by some of my friends, similarly unsettled or at least yearning for more than their immediate environment could provide.

One thing that travel has taught me is that we actually yearn for some semblance of familiarity, even in the exotic. For me, travel has helped me confront my own predicament yet not cure it. I understand now more than ever before that people the world over go about the mundane and humdrum as a matter of necessity for the functioning of their respective societies, yet most do not rebel against their lot. I know there are those that have done and the consequences are sometimes tragic, with a nod to Syria and other nations in severe turmoil, but people are people are people…

One thing that travel has taught me is that we actually yearn for some semblance of familiarity, even in the exotic

I love the fact that there’s a pervading desire to be interconnected, that we all love food and laughter and that we make jokes about our bodies and the shortcomings thereof. Wherever I’ve gone this has been the case and there’s no reason to believe it will be any different in China, Brazil or Alaska.

So why I am I still so fearful about the past? Why the feelings of un-belonging and sadness that sometimes assuage me in the still, early hours of the morning before the sun has risen? I’ve long looked for reason in my own reasoning and it becomes null as though I’m traveling an endless trajectory along some sort of Mobius strip of human experience. Just the thought of a certain place and time is enough to elicit a sort of reflex response of dismay or distress. It is as if I’m living in the moment again. A form of PTSD? Perhaps, but without the violent experience that precedes such a condition. No, it’s more subtle than that. The challenge is in coming to view the past differently through my experience in the here and now.

I’ve long looked for reason in my own reasoning and it becomes null as though I’m traveling an endless trajectory along some sort of Mobius strip of human experience.

Actually, that is not just a conventional wisdom or my version of it spun out philosophically but the (wise?) words of a man I met recently in Cape Town. I met Carllo whilst staying in a backpacker hostel. He originated from another South African city but had chosen Cape Town to escape some sort of family feud, specifically a protracted dispute or argument with his father whom he refered to as his ‘nemesis’. Some of what he told me sounded familiar to a younger me and it made me sad to see him at war with his own father even if it were only in his own head.

I felt the same way about mine all those years before but now that I look back I see what I perceived as an implacable fortress as just that, my perception of the man. Seen from another angle he was vulnerable and old and emotionally detached; someone to be pitied. Circumstance is everything and it was the context of our relationship that made him seem like my nemesis. If only we could step back from the pictures we paint we would see things so much clearer.

Whatever his situation Carllo elaborated at some length on his own philosophy or pursuit thereof. As one who looked to the East he believed in the power of contemplation. He spoke about an essence that seeks to reveal. I don’t know much about these things so I don’t have a point of reference to established schools of thought or theology. What he did say, which resonated with me, was that situations would keep recurring until such a time as I would be able to face them with confidence (or was it honesty?). Interesting that.

What he did say…was that situations would keep recurring until such a time as I would be able to face them with confidence (or was it honesty?)

In fact, whilst eating a late-night dinner at an oriental takeaway somewhere in the heart of the city he sought to divine my own future by consulting this apparent ‘essence’. He foretold something of a future love to whom I would run to at the appointed time, whatever that meant, but also that I should stop writing! When I queried this he shook his head quite emphatically.

“Stop writing or it will bring you trouble…big trouble”. To be honest I was more flattered than concerned. Show me a writer who doesn’t want to be noticed, avoids controversy, and fears critical acclaim. All the same I wondered if he’d done a spot of intelligence gathering beforehand? Just simply Googling my name would’ve revealed that I had self-published a while back, that I had a blog and contibuted to various social sites and news feeds. But does this classify me as a writer? I doubt it. It could’ve been an inspired guess as to my inclinations based on the several preceding hours we spent in each other’s company. We had quite a bit to drink after all and had spoken on a range of thoughts and experiences.

The funny thing is that I would never have divulged that I had written anything notable without remembering that I’d done so, nor do I remember talking about writing in any shape or form. I’m intrigued but since I never did learn Carllo’s second name and am not living in Cape Town it is unlikely that I will ever get the chance to ask him again. Perhaps the essence of life intends it to be so…

I never did learn Carllo’s second name and am not living in Cape Town it is unlikely that I will ever get the chance to ask him again

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3 thoughts on “Travels and the Unexplainable”

  1. Hi Leo, interesting but please don’t stop writing! And that’s the most wonderful photo at the top. Though I can’t help thinking if only the person would stop, look around, look up at that glorious sky (which will pass away in a moment) and look at the bird rather than down at his feet… though I guess up on a ridge like that you have to be careful where you tread. So much beauty and so much to be thankful for, all around. xx

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    1. Hey Barbie, how are you? Well, I hope. Yes I was just going through some material from this year. Obviously you saw the reblogged post! Don’t worry I don’t take that sort of thing too seriously. Carllo was a nice man with some big insecurities. Hardly make him stand out from the crowd though would it? As for the photo that is of a Norwegian chap I met at one of th backpackers in CT. The photo is at Camps Bay as a weather front moves in…

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