The Desire to Travel

7 Jun

in Paris

Back in Ulm after a beautiful weekend with friends in Paris, and I have spread my last three diaries out on the table around me to finish transcribing into Munay. It’s five days before my flight back to Perú and in going through the diaries, I am reliving my last month there: reading about my surprised love for Cusco, my joy of teaching, and the crazy inspirations from simple everyday life in Los Nogales. The emotional journey is beautiful, painful and rewarding.

I’m not surprised by how I lived in Europe after that kind of life in Cusco. That I couldn’t stop backpacking and travelled to London, to Berlin, to London again, to Holland and to Paris. I lived Munay. And now, with 5 days to go until my flight back to Perú, I am writing again.

There’s something I’ve been worrying about writing because I didn’t think I could do it: the moment Munay‘s main character, Anahata, decides to leave her town and join the caravans. She is a young woman who has spent her entire life in the shelter of the town, and had believed that this was what she would be doing for the rest of her life. How do I explain why she suddenly tosses this aside? How does she justify it to herself?

This decision, ofcourse, says so much about the character’s personality, attitude and in the end: possibilities… So however she comes to reach this decision will say even more about her. A lot of people dream of running away with the circus. Few actually do it. Why are those few different? How is their decision formed?

I sat and worried.

and because it wasn’t getting me anywhere, I began to take pictures of myself worrying

Then I thought: Perhaps I can use something from my own life. After all, I joined the circus. It was when I first joined the circus and fell in love with the aerial arts, that my fascination with “flying people” began. I watched my friends and students closely, studied their mannerisms, their methods of flying, the looks in their eyes after they had flown…

I fell in love with the world, and at every convention, at every training, every time I climbed the cloth myself, I tried to remember everything: the feeling of the fabric, how the muscles tense up, the concentration, the ecstasy of flying… and the comical difficulties we have afterwards of walking on the ground, tripping over our own feet! These were the first ideas for Qayqa and now for the sequel Munay.

How did I join the circus? The truth is actually unspectacular. I was working for SWR Television at the time, filming the news, and we kept bumping into the circus people at special events. I thought they were incredible but never dared to believe that I could ever learn to do that. I put it out of my mind until (here’s the truth) the relationship I was in ended and I needed a complete change of scenery. I saw it as an opportunity to invite new things into my life: I learnt a bit of poi, attended ballet lessons, and I called the circus. I told them I was interested in learning the trapeze but perhaps I was too old? They said, “In the circus, you’re never too old. Come round and let’s get to know each other.”

It’s said that circus people are among the nicest in the world. I agree. The circus world is my colourful, crazy and beautiful family and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

Here are some pictures from my Scrapbook:

I’ve been with them for five years now, and began teaching trapeze and aerial tissue two or three years ago. I use the teaching to explore the role of the circus mother, Ti. I observe which words best explain how to learn to fly, the things that my students pick up on, how their bodies change – and I take all these things to Munay. This book is, after all, about a woman who learns that she can fly… and I want to depict every step of her self-discoveries and changes.

But my worries aren’t really about running away with the circus. In reality, they are about travelling. About leaving. Again, I looked to my own life for ideas. But I’m a Third Culture Kid; I’ve been travelling all my life. I’m not afraid to pack my bags and leave – in fact, I live for the moments when I’m on the road again. So I am in no position to explain what it’s like for a young woman, who has never been outside her own town, to pack up her things and go.

I don’t know what that feels like, and I would hate to escape to deus ex machina moments that simplify the problem with a sudden unexpected turn of events. Like Anahata’s father conveniently being a violent alcoholic who beats her and she therefore has to run away.

Hell no. There’s got to be a better way to get her out of there and into this world.

So, back from Paris, I poked through my diaries from Perú, looking for notes left to transcribe – and I saw the thoughts I had written just before I was about to return to Germany. A few sentences that bounded out of the pages and into my heart. They fit the concept but were meant to be personal, and I hesitated to transcribe them into Munay.

Literally as I was debating back and forth, I received an email from a friend I hadn’t heard from in months, in which she spoke about her restless desire to travel. What she said echoed what I had written, and I thought: “This one isn’t mine to keep, this one is to share.”

However personal – it’s human. It justifies the desire to travel – whether you’ve been doing it all your life, or you’re about to take the first step out the door.

I added a few bits and pieces here and there, taking away the intimacy of the diary and adding the feeling of Munay. Less Ritti, more Anahata – but in the end, perhaps it’s a little of all of us? And since it belongs to her, I want to thank Marthe for the chameleon.

Here is a little of Munay, Anahata’s contemplations on the desire to travel, shortly before she joins the caravans:

How difficult is it to step outside the norm – yet where else am I supposed to go? I was always a little different from the others… but now I’m beginning to think that my differences were a preparation for a different kind of life. My skin is the right kind of leather for the desert sun. I have calloused feet perfect for walking long distances. I have the patience for travelling, the optimism for sudden developments, and a love for whatever isn’t secure. My back can bear heavy burdens, as can my heart. Everything I need in life, I was given at birth.

I want to be learn how to be comfortable with living an insecure life. But that’s not really the fear – the fear is that I will become accustomed to it faster than I believe, and after that, there will be no turning back.

All this madness makes me wish I were a different person. Someone less susceptible to life outside the norm, someone who says dreams belong to sleep. But then there is my undeniable restlessness – the chameleon in me changing colours – my stereoscopic vision which cannot believe that I am restricted to one life only.

All my life I have been looking around – and with the coming of these caravans I realise what I was looking for: a reason to stay. I never found one here, so perhaps I will wander with these restless caravans until they satisfy my hunger. Perhaps they will give me a multi-dimensional lifestyle perfect for a stereoscopically-visioned girl. And one day, perhaps, I will find a reason to stay somewhere, and when I set up my camp, the bigtop tent of my pacified soul will be a spectacular thing to see. And all will gather around and shout: “Anahata, you found your home!”

Sound familiar?

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