It was a cold Autumn afternoon in Berlin when my noble Polish friends, who introduced me to hitchhiking, made a tempting proposal (or was it me who invited myself to it?): Going to Iran next Summer.
I do not need many arguments to be persuaded to travel, so I accepted it on the spot, not even knowing if I really could make it.
We would descend from Poland to Turkey, then enter the country that is the terror of the North American presidents, but which is also recognized for its hospitality and joy.
Traveling alone does not mean being alone
My traveling companions did not have much free time and would return sooner than I would like to.
Since I do not see any problem and I enjoy traveling alone, I decided to extend the journey. From Iran I would find a route to Uzbekistan, where I would visit another friend of mine.
Some ask me how I have so many friends in the most diverse places on the globe. Well, these are things that the cosmopolitan face of cities like Berlin, Mumbai, Seoul and Bangkok have offered me.
Be nice to everyone around you, without expecting something in return, that an invitation can appear when you least expect it.
The best plan is actually not having plans
As usual the planning did not materialize. Have you ever noticed how plans almost never go the way they should?
My friends had to start the journey already in July and I would be free only from August. It was too late, both for this trip and for not traveling anymore.
I decided to go by myself, but on a different route.
I opened the map and began to see the possibilities. The hot summer heat made me discard Iran. The roads should through different places, through Eastern Europe.
My sister who is not silly or anything has jumped in, in what has become more than a pilgrimage around the world, and what we like to call a project.
We would not simply go to places, try new flavors and aromas, we wanted to prove that we can conquer our dreams and show how the world really is, outside the touristic bubble.
A project by definition has to have a beginning and an end, and returning to the place of origin did not seem a good conclusion for it. I began to study possibilities and looked eastward. That’s when I saw China and its mythical capital: Beijing.
From Berlin to Beijing
It even rhymed, so in a few minutes I made my decision, with no basis or strong reason for it.
Taken by the euphoria of the idea and without self-control of my impulsivity, I commented with some friends what I intended to do. Among the various reactions, one fellow mate who works for a newspaper told me that this could be in the news, that people would like to read about, and that he would communicate the editorial of travel and tourism. I did not give much attention to that and continued my daily life, still not sure if the plan would actually materialize, until a journalist contacted me.
Questions from there, honest answers from here, and I was able to describe what I was not even sure yet. My trip would be published in the highest-selling newspaper of the state where I was born. I had no choice now.
It was the result of a crazy idea, with the help of friends that everything happened, or rather, that everything would happen.
I just needed to finish my international business studies and the consequent lessons to improve my poor knowledge of the German grammar, so I can leave without any problems or pending tasks.
The last few months have served as a laboratory. I camped in Portugal, and in the region between Germany and the Czech Republic, taking note of what was missing.
I’m not a perfectionist, but I do not want to go through basic problems that could easily be avoided.
Friends are the best thing you can have
At my last night in Berlin I invited some friends for dinner, a basic but necessary thing. The support of others is my favorite fuel. We cooked, they shaved my head (making some fun with it) and we had an enjoyable time. We discussed expectations, yearnings, and fears.
When the last of them left the apartment and closed the door, I felt what was happening. The silence seized me and for a brief moment it mingled with a tear. Not of sorrow, but of compassion. I was overcome by a good feeling, of being loved, of having good people around who cared for me, but at the same time I would again leave them for an indeterminate time.
I went to the front of the mirror, wiped away my tears, slapped myself in the face, refreshed myself and went to sleep, after all the next day I would leave for China, with no return date, no routes, no schedule. Only with the conviction that it would be all right.
It was probably my best night of sleep of the last months.