"Where Are You From?"

2010-03-22 20:44:28

An innocent question often asked to make conversation and satisfy curiosity. Yet, over the years answering it has become for me very annoying! When disclosing my place of birth, the other person automatically expects to already know a great deal about me. That’s never the case, so I try to avoid it or give blurry answers.

As a broader consideration, I perceive the nature of the question seeking to separate rather than unite; it reinforces differences and sometimes hatred. Within a single city people from different suburbs look at each other differently, and the same applies across regions, between north and south, and ultimately across nations. The answer to the question becomes even more complicated for people who travel extensively or have relocated, residing in various continents and perhaps acquired different citizenships.
Of course there are also other questions that incite separation. Whether we talk about ethnicity, religion, politics, or even sport the creation of groups gives us a sense of belonging but it also inevitably emphasizes differences and competition, which are just a stone throw away from mutating into racism, terrorism, war, and vandalism.

The Art of Travelling

2010-02-22 19:28:48

I am not a professional photographer and neither intend to become one. Yet, every once in a while, during my travels I take a lucky shot either thanks to the subject, the colours, the angle, or something else. These few pictures are important to me as they represent great memories to treasure for life.
A nice picture taken in a remote part of the world really has the power to transport us over there, to momentarily make us forget the routine of our lives, to raise questions in our heads about creation and the universe.
If a single picture can do all that, when we move from frame to frame in a collection of similarly beautiful shots, we can really imagine ourselves pulled into those faraway lands, forget who we are and where we come from. Could the spirit of a traveller be exactly this: to abandon himself into the unknown in order to rediscover his most hidden nature?

A trip to foreign lands, where life is still ‘simple’, is not just an escape from our homeland, the traffic, our job, etc... It can mean waking up from a limited life, constrained by a society with too many concerns, rules and obligations. Running away, even if temporarily, from such madness is like living in a parallel dimension characterized by complete freedom bounded purely by nature and fate.
So the aim of a real traveller should not be to escape his daily routine, but rather to experience a FULL life, where every second is a mystery. A travel is a metaphor of life, a journey into the unknown, a way of testing ourselves, a voyage of discovery, growth, triumph and defeat. How far can we go without sleeping or with limited food in an unfamiliar territory? How do we blend into a slum, a local tribe, or a characteristic food market? What emotions do we face in front of a desert, a jungle, or at 6,000 meters high? A trip can be perceived as a search for the “moment”. When I travel, there are no plans, I am alone and always in different places. As a result, every second is new, unexpected, and intriguing. The average day seems to last a week rather than its real 24 hours!

I am strongly convinced that Western (or better Modern) society is significantly damaging our lives. We fear things that are just natural occurrences, our priorities are illogical, our feelings/emotions become more and more shallow, etc. By travelling to remote places, we can still witness today GOOD lifestyles. How to recognize them? No deep search or expertise are required to cherish big smiles of children’s faces, serenity in the expressions of old people, joy and laugh among farmers in lands where you’ll never find a single piece of plastic. And most importantly the aspect to reflect on is that such people eat while hundreds of flies feast at their tables, walk miles to and from work or school, sleep on wooden benches, have floors made of dust, and their houses are built with bamboo walls.
We have to completely rethink our way of life if we want to find happiness! Through travelling and by witnessing happy people in poor places we might perhaps learn how to progressively get rid of most of the fears and delusions that exist only in the minds of modern men. That will eventually help us to find again the simple answers to existential questions that we keep putting aside for better times: how do we find happiness? What is the meaning of life? Should we fear death? What is freedom? What is friendship? What is love?