I want to break free

February, 2011, Seoul, Korea

February 2011, Seoul, Korea

Mind of a traveller

I was 23 in Japan, living a life free of responsibility, every young 20 something dream. Yet there I was, residing in a cramped one-bedroom flat, wishing that I made different choices.

A mild state of depression slowly crept over me, causing me to reevaluate my current situation.  The tsunami hitting northern Japan,  causing a radiation leak at the Fukushima plant. The situation made me feel entirely helpless,  for a while I pondered about how my life had led me here, in this tiny bedsit, watching the walls alone. Wishing the time away; hoping something –anything that would come along and put me on the right path towards contentment.

The anxiety didn’t let up when my brother visited me that year, if anything I saw his freedom to explore the world and I envied it. During most March 2011, we were trapped in my flat too scared by all the fear-mongering of the British media about radiation poisoning to venture outside. A feeling of being imprisoned slowly took over, as trains were cancelled, flights delayed and food scarce.

Some might say that I was ungrateful, and looking back at it, maybe I was. But even after the threat of radiation had died down, I woke up everyday almost in tears. I went to a job I had no passion for only to increase my bank balance and secure my visa.

Flights out of the country became too expensive, the low job prospects back at home, promises made to friends I had to keep;  the chains were tight and every time I resisted it only toughened its grasp.

As an expatriate, friends come and go, and there is never a ‘forever’, only for those who have set up shop here with families and I had no temptation to follow, if anything there attitudes towards Japan only made me want to leave even more.

Two years later still miserable I knew I had overstayed my welcome.  Rather than book a ticket straight out of Japan, I opted to visit Fukuoka, costing me no more than a few hundred pounds.  After a brief romantic encounter with an Australian; I was in the air –literally (and figuratively).

Travelling is a life-changing event that affects people’s way of thinking, but you also find yourself appreciating home-comforts. Once I landed at Heathrow, I inhaled the multiculturalism of London and my first week passed in a blur of museums, long walks, and “good ol’ English pubs”. This was home.

The long job applications started and I was working within the first three weeks of being back home.  The job I had trained for and tried vainly to find in Tokyo. An ideal situation to most but it happened again; the stability had started to cause an unease. I was in a situation where I had total control, which ironically made me scared.

I was becoming an “everyday robot” and I ceased the opportunity to fly off again, this time to New York.

But it wasn’t enough, I was travelling to modern cities, while I had always thrived on the historical sites, nature reserves and mountains a country had to offer.  There was no stopping me from climbing mountains, visiting temples –seeing the world.

A few weeks ago, at my computer I scrolled through volunteer opportunities online. With the savings I had accumulated I booked my first expedition to Peru to help on an archaeological dig at Vilcabamba.  It did the trick, and settled my self-induced anxiety.  Jealousy still gets the best of me when I see tourists wandering through London, exploring the hidden  alley ways, or discovering that quaint little pub behind the promenade of shops in Holborn. But, I know its only a matter of time before I’m on the road (again.)

 

Being a world citizen

 

Every country in the world is made of nomadic people who at some point in time arrived there.

Every country in the world is made of nomadic people who at some point in time arrived there.

Since I was a child I had always felt quite disconnected to the concept of culture, as much as I love visiting different countries and integrating with their ways, I had never truly felt connected to any. I was born in England, and I have a British father so by all means that makes me British and of course if anyone asked I would say, “I’m English” and I still feel that’s the country I have most to share with, but I don’t connect with any traditional (or modern for that matter) English culture or values as much as I should or would want to.

Nor do I particularly connect with Colombian culture, which is my mother’s native land. I do believe that I share many attributes physically and socially to that of a Colombian. I inherited my mother’s passion and temperament, her olive skin and black hair. But I never felt “latino” either. I also have a keen interest in Colombian history, studying many of the pre-hispanic eras. One would say a spiritual connection to some of the tribes that still populate Colombia’s highland, specifically the Wayuu and Kuna, who live in sync with nature and stay far away from the politics of  the Mestizo/White-led government of Colombia.

Still I don’t feel anymore Colombian than I do British, before this year I lived in Japan, a country I had always wished to visit and one I thought I had a natural affinity with. Though as it proved as much as I loved the traditional and cultural elements, I felt even more cut off from society.  There is nothing more lonely or disconnecting than being judged solemnly on the way you look.

So when I sat down the other night to decide what it meant to be connected to be one place or nationality I concluded –not much.  The idea of being a citizen of the world had always appealed to me, and as I explained previously I felt no real connection to one country or culture.   Of course as humans it’s only second nature of us to categorise people to segregate them according to their nationality, culture and appearance. It is far easier for us to conclude that the way someone thinks is solely based on their background.

I wanted to be more than my nationality, that’s why I found solitude in the existing multiculturalism of London’s South East. Of course England and London especially are vastly multiracial and multicultural as it is – no way of feeling secluded, despite the fact when someone who is racially ambiguous like myself it can be harder to relate to the almost perpetually forming cliques in the capital.  Multicultural societies like the UK can cause more racial tension than more homogenous societies like Japan, and it’s not even as clear as black and white, with most unrest being directed at the Polish.

Would it be better to be associated as a citizen of the world, where every country’s problems are our own, replacing the dismissive stance we take when ‘shit is going down’ in other less developed countries? Who knows, I know from my experience in Japan that the conversation of nationality and ethnicity got very boring, very quickly.  As gimmicky as this sounds,  there is not much else I can do,  only complain more and write more blog posts that I doubt anyone actually reads; so here is for my first day as a World Citizen, spiritually and literally.