I’m sitting in the lobby with my computer, reading news from Sweden. Figured since I’m connected to the world and have more time than I can handle, I might as well get updated for a moment. All of the sudden a young boy, working at the hotel, comes up to me and takes a seat. He doesn’t look to be more than 16 or so. He’s wearing a read uniform with golden buttons and a big, cylinder shaped hat and all. ”Hello” he says, and just looks at my computer screen. ”Swedish news” I say, a little bit confused about his interest in it. I keep scrolling the page, clicking on links, and the boy sits there beside me. After a moment or two he leaves. People are passing through the lobby, on their way out, and as I look up I see the boy walking with them showing the way. Just as he is about to exit the room he turns around, smiles, and gives me a wink. As I burst into laughter I’m reminded exactly how much I love traveling, and why.
Moments worth living happens when you are open to them. That might be why I love traveling so much. When I’m on the road, by myself, I’m automatically open to the world. Meeting new people, listening to stories, experiencing those small, humorous moments where a brave and curious young boy oversees all the social rules in the book and gives a wink to a foreign woman far older than himself. Something happens when you are thrown into cultures, different from your own. You start reading patterns and pay attention to the people around you, instead of just walking by. You want to understand and make sense of the new world that is surrounding you. You have to adapt and, to adapt, you have to be open to everything that’s happening in that exact moment. Just going with the flow, alive, present and aware.
Contrasts are the colors of the world. Sometimes they’re strong, sometimes we don’t even notice them. Sometimes they blend, sometimes they separate. Yesterday morning I went to the hospital and as I entered the massive waiting hall, I stood in front of 80 empty chairs, not a single patient in sight. I looked up and my eyes noticed big chandeliers hanging proudly from the 10 m high ceiling and behind them broken glass windows patched up with barbwire and stripes of fabric. I smiled at the human tendency of wanting so much, yet lacking the ability to maintain it. This was an army hospital, and all male personnel were dressed in white coats with military uniforms underneath. After signing in, 3 doctors where discussing my condition. Far from agreeing on what had actually taken temporary residence in my airways, they decided to send me to x-ray to check my lungs and at the same time take some blood samples. The girl drawing the blood from my forearm was dressed in a baby pink coat with matching pants and shoes. Giggling with every other word, she looked up at me and then down at the needle again. The young doctor beside me proudly told the nurse that I was from Sweden. ”Capital is Stokholmos, right?” he asked me. I laughed and replied, ”Yes, something like that..”
It’s like a ghost town but with new, shiny buildings. At least that’s how it feels to me. Like a town built for more people than has yet to find their place in it. Shigatse, located 250 km southwest of Lhasa, is the second largest town in Tibet. It’s described as a ”modern, sprawling city, with wide boulevards humming with traffic (even in the pedestrian-only lane)”. However, the mix of old, fragile and memorable historic housing and the new, glossy residences does bring a gap to what one sees and what one used to see. Maybe this contrast is just too big, or maybe I’m just old fashioned. I have yet to figure that part out. The city is divided into a tiny old Tibetan town huddled at the the foot of a fort, the empty Shigatse Dzong, and a rapidly expanding modern Chinese town. It’s a bit odd. While I’m wandering the paved streets of Shigatse I meet an old lady dressed in traditional clothing, spinning a prayer-wheel in her right hand. Her face is graced with lines of the past, and the more I look at her the more I see a map of a past untold. I wish I could read it, and listen to the story that is yet to be told to the world. Behind her is a giant, empty building. It has no story nor past. For some reason I’m struck by a contrast that saddens me for moment. Two eras colliding, one taking over the other with no regards to neither untold tales nor wisdom lost to the fleeting time that so easily trades the old with the new. One wrinkled brick replaced with yet another shiny square. However, that moment got me thinking. Maybe it’s the in-betweens that we need to stay curious about instead of clinging on to one or the other. Learning to appreciate and utilize the gaps so the eras can blend rather than separate. Maybe it’s up to us to find and fit the glue between the bricks, not judging the old or the new?
Traveling makes me want to become a reporter. I’ve always found something beautiful in storytelling, and the telling of other peoples stories. It lights a fire and an urge to share to the world what I see, and paint a picture of the worlds colored contrasts. Good stories and hopeful pictures. Pictures that can bring about a sense of compassion and joy. It’s a hard task trying to narrate and build that bridge of emotion that I live through when climbing mountains. The moments I encounter while traveling to and from it. In the end I would rather that you yourself got to live it. But somehow I believe that we can connect via stories, and that they can impact our lives whether we are there or not. That’s why I’m in love with traveling. Because of it’s abilities to create that connection, to create momentum and to expand our minds and perception of what is and could be. But in the end I think I love traveling because I love the stories. Stories told and stories created. Stories by people, moments, eras and high places.