‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ ~ William James
A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to an old telephone booth in Berlin. Nice, you could say, but what is special about that? Well, this specific telephone booth was completely filled from bottom till top with all kinds of books. Old, new, fiction, non-fiction, big, small, but one thing they had in common: they were all placed there by a previous owner to be passed on to the next reader.
I love this concept of sharing books for free. You give a book a new home and replace it by a book that you are ready to pass on. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you can find some real jewels. Maybe that one book you have been hoping to read for a while now or a great classic.
Thanks to a very nice person, I went home with a German copy of ‘Sophie’s world’ by Jostein Gaarder and a series of books about Commissario Brunetti. I had never heard of the author Donna Leon before, but since the books were in a good state, compact and seemed interesting enough, I decided to take two of them with me on my travels through Indonesia.
That is how I came to read ‘The girl of his dreams’ on the long train ride from Bandung to Yogyakarta with the sound of air conditioning buzzing in my ears. I almost finished it in one session of reading and not just because there wasn’t much to do on the train. I really enjoyed my first encounter with Commissario Brunetti, his family and colleagues. I followed the thrilling storyline with pleasure, but was surprised by more intellectual aspects appearing in the book as well.
On the train from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo and then further to Banyuwangi, I started reading ‘About face’ by Donna Leon. Although it evolves around the same main character and again in the city of Venice, it can interest me enough so far to continue reading and to look forward to reading the rest of the books, waiting for me back in Berlin.
Spending time in Indonesia has brought up some deeper questions in my mind that I would like to share with you.
To be honest, I feel overwhelmed several times a day and sometimes I feel homesick. To me, the traffic is crazy, the weather so hot and humid, insect bites itchy and not so easy to go to the places I want to visit, unless I cough up a lot of money. I actually had hoped for a lot of beautiful nature closeby so that I could make walks, rewind and come closer to myself again. Instead I am lost in the amount of information of ’22 things you have to do in this or that place’ or ‘most beautiful places in…’. It costs so much to go to these spots and to me, the amount of other tourists and merchandisers around take away most of the charm and serenity. The funny thing is that I read a lot about places to take cool pictures for Instagram or other social media. Well… I am not that kind of person.
This made me wonder what I actually look for, by travelling across countries and even continents. I don’t like it to visit touristic places to take pictures to show how hip I am by being there. I don’t think I like it either to be the backpacker who goes completely back to basic, socializes with everyone and who undertakes great but dangerous adventures in the wild. I am a rather calm, sensitive, dreamy and introvert person. I do like it to do voluntary work and stay with a host family, but I didn’t manage to find an opportunity for that.
So what is travelling all about? Is it about getting away from your normal life that includes work and education? Is it to meet new people and lay connections? Is it to relax? Is it to explore new places and challenge yourself by trying new things? I honestly don’t know. It made me think about the book Ecclesiastes in the Bible, written most likely by King Solomo. He wrote about the purpose of life and that the best way we can spend our lives is to try to enjoy our days, because everything else is meaningless.
This makes me think that it actually shouldn’t matter at all what other, or even most, travellers are looking for. I want to try to find my own way and to grow as a person. Maybe the lesson I need to learn, is to let go of my perfect image of how this trip should be and to let go of the pressure of doing things that others do. Life, bring me your lessons. I want to learn to enjoy.
It has been a couple of days since my last post. That was not without a good reason: I travelled all the way to Indonesia and spent the past days trying to blend in. This is my second visit to Java, but since the first one was organised group travel, now I really feel like I am slowly stepping out of my comfort zone.
I am doing the same thing in the literary world by starting to read the books of Jane Austen. I have read some of the Classics already, for example books by Tolstoy or Dickens, but never by female authors for some reason. But a while ago, I thought it was really time to give it a try. I started with ‘Pride and prejudice’ (in German) and, surprise or not, I loved it. So today, on the train from Jakarta to Bandung, I started reading ‘Sense and sensibility’. The first chapters were already promising.
In the coming weeks I will be posting less frequently, but I hope to share some of my experiences here sometimes with all of you out there. So, we meet again soon!