A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ZackMeursault

the stranger.

Tomorrow I fly to Iran for two weeks. Sitting outside and enjoying a perfect Summer evening here in Warsaw I'm not able to grasp whatever is ahead of me in the next 14 days. I don't feel fear nor excitement. I feel empty somehow, filled only with void. Curious about what this experience will bring, but serene.

I've been serene for quite some time now. Been contemplating a lot. It's a great feeling when we are able to stop looking into ourselves and just focus in contemplating the life around us. Especially the lives of those we love and cherish. To quietly notice not only their smiles, their happiness but also their worries and hidden sorrows. To observe them and their souls as a whole but without being noticed. As if, in a given moment, we press pause in life and make a print screen of that specific moment which then we imprint in our memory forever.

I did a lot of contemplation in the past 3 weeks. In that period I've been fortunate enough to spend meaningful moments with my family, my closest friends, with random strangers (like Stefano and Sara in Bologna, maybe one day I'll write about that) and also with myself. In the big scheme of things, our lives might seem an undifferentiated collection of days and moments but how nice it is to acknowledge the beauty in the precise moment it is happening. To let ourselves be overwhelmed by it and at the same time realize the frailty and fleetness of it.

The past weeks have been also a period of loss. My great-aunt recently passed away after a lifelong battle with health misfortune. Not many people know this, but she was and will always be one of the persons I admire the most. While I don't think there's a particular meaning for our existence, I can clearly identify the meaning of her life. She existed and suffered like few to be a beacon for those around her. Through her misfortune, I was able to be taught the most valuable lessons from my parents. Through her, I learned what unconditional love means, I learned what family really means and more importantly, I learned how to enjoy the beauty of my own life. Often my eyes became damp when she smiled. To me, her smile carried all the innocence and pain in the world. When a person that is born deaf, mute and gradually becomes totally blind over the years is able to laugh, I am left with an inevitable truth: how insignificant is our existence, with our petty problems and doubts. Her example helped me to be "happy" (happiness is always a misleading concept, however it is easily understood by everyone) with little and always be aware of how lucky and blessed my existence is. She never knew any of this, locked in her own innocent world. But her life, in all its limitations, was more much purposeful and meaningful than most lives. I always knew that sooner or later I would have to mention her here, so here it is, a simple homage to a divine person.

Camus has been on my mind as well lately. For a variety of reasons. Because it's getting late and I need to rest for my next adventure, I won't elaborate much. But let me just use the words of Sartre to describe Camus' "The Stranger", perhaps my favorite book and character: Meursault.

"If we are able to refuse the misleading aid of religion or of existential philosophies, we then possess certain basic, obvious facts: the world is chaos, a “divine equivalence born of anarchy”; tomorrow does not exist, since we all die. “In a universe suddenly deprived of light and illusions, man feels himself a stranger. This exile is irrevocable, since he has no memories of a lost homeland and no hope of a promised land.” The reason is that man is not the world."

"But that is not all; there is a passion of the absurd. The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusion, and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the “divine irresponsibility” of the condemned man."

"And now we fully understand the title of Camus’s novel. The stranger he wants to portray is precisely one of those terrible innocents who shock society by not accepting the rules of its game. He lives among outsiders, but to them, too, he is a stranger. That is why some people like him—for example, his mistress, Marie, who is fond of him “because he’s odd.” Others, like the courtroom crowd whose hatred he suddenly feels mounting towards him, hate him for the same reason. And we ourselves, who, on opening the book are not yet familiar with the feeling of the absurd, vainly try to judge him according to our usual standards. For us, too, he is a stranger."

Much love to all.

In my element. Maceda. June 2017

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Posted by ZackMeursault 12:21 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

18 months in Poland. Laying the foundations

...for whatever will come next!

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This past Monday marked the passage of 18 months since I moved to Warsaw. I figured that after writing a post celebrating 6 months and then 12 months here, I might as well write something on another landmark as I sit in a nice, quiet square nearby my place, enjoying breakfast outside and watching life slowly unfolding around me. Musically, I chose Josh Rouse as my soundtrack provider for the moment.

Going back to what I wrote in those two occasions I can't help but smile. It's always easier to look back at our past with the eyes and knowledge of the present. After 6 months here, I was writing about notion of time and disruption in our lives. I didn't know then what life would bring, but now I clearly feel like I have already lived 3 completely different lives in Warsaw and I'm about to start a fourth one! In my case, 18 months seems like a lot of time, as during that period my routines changed radically, several times. And that's actually something that I love, the fact that I am discovering the city through different angles, different lifestyles, different experiences and different people. Like I wrote before, just by changing little things in our daily life, we can influence our perception of time. For example, lately I have been practicing tennis twice a week with a polish friend, usually early in the morning. The club is by the river, so it has been almost perfect to ride along the Vistula under a beautiful early morning sun. Besides that, I get to pass in the river front of the Old Town which is actually quite beautiful with the Royal Palace and a big fountain.

Those are little, simple moments that make all the difference if you are open to notice and experience them. At the same time, being on the tennis court is always a source of happiness to me. No matter what, tennis has been a pillar in my life for the past 25 years. Another thing to be grateful for.

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Like I mentioned above, these past 18 months can be separated in 3 periods that can be generally titled Ecstasy, Reality Shock and Desolation. I think the titles are self explanatory and constitute a cycle that has ended. As I look around the square now, I wonder if I'm finally able to break the series of cycles in life or if I finally built some physical and mental foundations that will stand and resist vigorously to any future shakes or oscillations. Then again, only time and future will tell.

Back to Warsaw, today. I've been asked a bazillion times: "Why Poland?", "Why Warsaw?" "Are you crazy, to leave the ocean and move here?". Polish people are paradoxically proud and at the same time not proud of their country. I've been saying lately, after putting to sleep the ideas of leaving, that if one manages to be truly happy and in peace with his/her life in Poland, then he or she can surely be happy in at least 80% of the world. The funny thing is that I started saying that as kind of a joke and to my dismay, most people seem to agree that Poland is a tough place to live. I don't think it's that tough, honestly. Winter is hard, fucking hard, but it's not like Poland is the only country in the world with tough winters. My impression after all this time is that polish people like to live in the future, always looking forward to something, almost blindly believing that anything will be better than their present lives. Basically, I get the impression that people complain about the present, want to forget the past and hope the future will be better. Personally, I try to live in the present, I value my past and I don't really lose much time planning or thinking about the future. I'm always enjoying the moment, any moment as much as possible (sometimes even too much thus exhausting it), but at the same time I like to remember my past experiences and people. Regarding the future, I'm just curious to see where life will take me and for how long.

At the same time, and as the entire western civilization gradually collapses, I feel that here existence is still conflicted between deeply enshrined catholic values, a communist past (and overall a recent history of subjugation and control) and the wild invasion of capitalism. It's just my opinion, but I can see that quite clearly in people of my generation (early 30's). I feel people are a bit lost as they start to question more and more if everything they have been told all their lives is actually true or if there's something more in life. You might say that it's like that for everyone in this world and I agree, but here it's clearly more visible in here. I believe that there's a "polish mold" that fits a huge majority of the population. One might even add that it boringly fits most of people (sorry for that). At first, I was a bit frustrated with the fact that was hard to find like minded people here. But now I decided to embrace those differences and enjoy, as a kind of outsider, the whole process of change here. Rather than try to change people or an entire society (obviously impossible), I will simply exist as freely as I can, according to my own beliefs and opinions and make the best of life. Yes, it's possible to be happy here! :)

As I'm about to finish this post, I found out that Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) has died. A stark reminder that life is really fleeting. So yes, let's fucking live, shall we?

Much love to all.

Posted by ZackMeursault 04:56 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Life in transformation

If the title of this post sounds familiar, it's because I "stole" it from a 1988 documentary film called "Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation". I have it in my computer for months now but didn't find yet the right moment to watch it. However, the title goes hand in hand with the period I believe I'm living at the moment.

I don't feel so inspired tonight and I also don't have much time but I think it's important to lay down some thoughts for future reference. The future me might need to read these words, albeit a bit random and unorganized.

Last week I finished refurbishing my room. While to some this might seem something natural and even obvious, I had never felt the need to truly spend time and money in making the place I was living more appealing or cozy or whatever word might be applied here. There are many reasons for this sudden need, but lately one that came to mind as very relevant is the fact that while in Portugal I had what I call circles of peacefulness (my beach Maceda on top of them all), here in Poland I don't really have that. More importantly, the harsh reality of a Winter that lasts 6 months here, makes life outside really tough. While in Portugal I spent most of my time outside, here we are forced to be inside for a considerable part of the year, thus making it almost obligatory to build a place where you feel safe, protected and comfortable.

So I did that. I gave it some thought during the past months about whether I should move to some other country or simply move flats, I decided to stay in the same place and improve it. In doing that, I also committed to staying in Warsaw for the foreseeable future and fight whatever ghosts or dark thoughts were flying around in my mind. I'll build something here or at least I will try. Can be with tennis or can be with something else but there's a lot to be done in this city. And for the moment, I feel like trying.

I have a lot of thoughts about this last month that I would like to share but I'm just not able to put them into concise words, so I'll just share two pics that can easily illustrate two very distinct states of mind. One was chaotic, intense, passionate, seeking for life and beauty in every moment but neglecting simple tasks, routines and the importance of comfort. The other is stable, peaceful, disciplined and more focus on the durability rather than the intensity of the moment.

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I'm happy to say that now I found my home in Warsaw.

The other thoughts I want to write down are connected with Berlin. I was there for a music festival for only 24h and spent a total of 16h in a bus. When I woke up on sunday to catch the bus, tired and sleepy, I really said to myself that I should stop doing these things, that I'm too old for that. However, 12 hours later, after a nice stroll around sunny Friedrichshain and enjoying a beer by the Spree near the East Side gallery, when I entered the main stage in Astra Kulturhaus and heard the incredible sound coming from a band called Mother Engine (worth to check these guys if you like psychedelic rock), I felt like I was home again. And was invaded by a indescribable sensation of happiness and belonging. That was my place, I was meant to be there and I was so thankful to myself for having dragged my ass out of bed that morning. I felt alive and filled with life and that how I basically like to feel.

Berlin. I love Berlin, always have. I guess I can describe it as a city that I understand and which understands me back. I guess no one is indifferent to Berlin. Either you love it or you hate it. I love its chaos, its dirtiness, its mess. I feel like Berlin is a place for misfits and the place where misfits will feel like they belong. Although I know that the city has changed a lot since I first lived there (more than 8 years ago), I still feel like it haven't changed one single bit. It's still magical to me, despite the massive tourism that invaded the city in the last decade.

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As a final thought and note to myself, I guess that while I will certainly focus in leading a more stable and balanced life, I will also let my spirit roam free and I will follow my passions, no matter where they take me. They won't be an attachment, they won't be something I need to be happy, but they will certainly continue being an invaluable complement to the more mundane, steady life.

One thing is sure. The next couple of months will be hectic. While I was trying to slow down the pace, I suddenly realized that my natural impulses made me plan a lot of stuff for the next 8 weeks. I'm curious to see how will I emerge from that period! But I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Posted by ZackMeursault 13:32 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Late night tales from a newfound man

Attraction. Pleasure. Attachment. Fulfillment. Satisfaction. Boredom.

I have spent most of my existence trying to figure out a lot of stuff about life, myself and the world around me. This blog itself is a testament to that with a lot of introspection I had over the past 6 years. And, to be honest, until some weeks/months ago I thought I had grasped the key elements to lead a fulfilling and satisfactory journey on this Earth. For years I have been (or trying to) deprogramming myself from all the conditioning present in our lives from the moment we are born. From an early age I started to ask questions and was lucky enough to find many answers in books, music, films, experiences or people I have met along the way. I thought I was going in the right direction: free from any attachment to money, comfort, power, career or whatever other materialistic instruments of dependence our society fiercely tries to impose on each one of us, I was feeling ready to fully embrace existence and experience it in all possible ways.

However, as the years passed, I started to notice a pattern in my life. A frequent repetition of the same events and the same situations, as if in some kind of an endless replay of similar phenomena that wouldn’t go away, no matter what. And the older I got, the more helpless I started feeling, especially after all the decisions I have made that led me to a terrible winter in Warsaw and gave me the opportunity to contemplate my own life.

And for a while, I have to admit that I had a hard time looking at all that and still feel optimist about the future, my future. I started to worry whether I would be able to finally break free from those cycles or if I was doomed to live them over and over again until the very end. For the first time in many years I started doubting my own path. I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer anywhere. I was feeling trapped and, at the same time, disappointed for still not being able to shatter those vicious cycles affecting my life and damaging my peacefulness. In one word, I was frustrated and scared.

And then the light came again. All it took was a tiny, tiny book, recommended by a friend. In those pages lies the answer to all the doubts I was having. And I finally could see the way to break the cycle. I realized I had spent 33 years of my life figuring out a lot of important stuff but I had taken for granted the most important element and the one I always thought was naturally incorporated in me, the one I thought was actually one of my strongest features: how to properly LOVE and experience life knowing what love really means. How wrong and deluded I was…

Reading that book was like being mentally beaten, almost every page contained some life lesson to me, something that would completely obliterate my previous beliefs about what love means. I often felt ignorant and kind of an idiot for never having been able to realize such things, which now seem so obvious. But at the same time (and the book is all about becoming aware), I started to feel peace in being aware of my own misconceptions, my wrong views. Then again I started to contemplate my life and the path became again clear and vivid. All the clouds went away, all the doubts vanished and I could envision a future completely free from the shackle called ATTACHMENT, in all its forms, whether it’s love, money, success or whatever drags us to frustration and unhappiness sooner or later.

I’m aware that it is not going to be easy to change. It’s going to take a lot of effort and even a lot of resilience to endure the opposing forces, both internal and external, that will be always present in this world. The book argues that most of people are asleep during their short lives and most of them will inevitably reject all and every potential disturbance to their “sleep”. They won’t even dare to wake up and search for the TRUTH. They will settle for some story they are told from day one and they will die without ever having truly lived. But that’s none of my business and the trick is to embrace everyone and their differences, even their blissful ignorance.

For all it’s worth, I believe that now I see the way ahead of me and that’s all I need…

PS - Those who know me, know my tendency to remember dates. Although it's over midnight now, I started writing this post on April 13th. One year ago, I had flown to Italy for a short vacation. On that day, I drove through the beautiful landscapes of Tuscany as the sun was going down. Sitting next to me was the most beautiful woman in the world whose hand I was holding while we listened to the songs in my ipod . The beauty of the moment was so unbearable that tears of joy started running through our faces as we looked at each other. No words were needed, they would only have diminished the pure connection we felt in that moment. I guess that love was traveling with us in those unforgettable minutes. Just that and other moments long before and long after compensate for all the suffering that life contains.

Today, one year later, I had the utmost normal day a person can have. Nonetheless, and although my mind often reminded me of Tuscany, I'm sitting in my room, looking through the window as I write these words and happy to go to sleep without feeling sad but rather happy and blessed for all that I have and don't have anymore.

All that matters is the REALITY OF NOW.

Posted by ZackMeursault 14:15 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Bieszczady Mountains - the base for people with mist

A few Mondays ago, while sitting in the empty dining room of the hut I was staying in Wetlina and recollecting all the events from the day, I wrote on my personal journal: Will today be the first day of a new life? I was alone in the room, silence reigned, the lights were dim and through the windows I could see nothing but complete darkness. And yet, filled with serenity I feared nothing nor I felt sad nor happy nor worried nor confused. I felt capable of facing my ordinary life, my problems, my doubts and live beyond that. There is something greater than life, within life itself. That is what I aspired to start doing when I wrote those words. That is also the sturdy willingness to confront life that the mountain generates in me.

Unlike a regular walk in the city, every step I give while in the mountain is purposeful, it is a step towards a higher point, both literally and metaphorically. At the same time, all the distractions present in ordinary life disappear, it is just me and the unknown path ahead. The fact that I am alone also creates a sense of urgency, in the sense that a slight distraction or a wrong move might put me in a difficult situation. While walking on the trail I know that my whole life is condensed into that moment and that moment is the only thing that matters. Therefore I feel complete.

The mountain gives me a simple mission. It makes me disciplined and patient. Simple things like having a shower or eating after a long day outdoors are almost divine moments. The warm water running through the tired body soothes not only the muscles but also the soul. Food tastes a million times better and gently comforts the famished stomach.

(to be continued...maybe!)

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Posted by ZackMeursault 06:03 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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