Gwen - French

Gwen – 27 years old – French – 114 days in Australia

Gwen ‘My older sister came to Australia with her boyfriend a few years ago, during which they slept in their car for 10 months. I couldn’t stop thinking about this experience and I kept dreaming about doing the same thing one day. Australia is at the other end of the planet but I wanted a new challenge in my life, a challenge to explore who I am.

This is how my story started!

First of all, I decided to go to India, alone. It was a trip to test and prove things to myself. When I arrived in Mumbai I was surprised by the explosion of colors around me, the smells in the street, the people, and the way of life. When I first arrived at the airport, I was instantly embarrassed when I saw all these people on the floor, eating food wrapped in newspapers. When people looked at me, it caused me feel uncomfortable. It felt like they were looking deeply into my eyes insistently for a long period of time. And when everyone is looking at you this way, it makes you feel like you are a complete stranger.

When you are traveling around India, you are challenged by a number of different things in their culture that may be very confronting to oneself. For myself, it was a shock to face the poverty that many experience in India. I thought about my culture, and how lucky we are to have many great things, but we still manage to complain. Whereas in India they have nothing, yet they are smiling and many people share generously the little they have. For example, it easy to find a place to sleep in India. They will always have a little space for you to stay, even if it’s a piece of mattress to sleep or a little bit of food.

I picture the road trip in Australia by traveling from point to point, and visiting amazing places. Whilst in India, you go door to door and ask if you can sleep for a night in people’s place.

When people first see you, they come and surround you. Everybody wants to know who you are, and what you are doing there. And even if they don’t speak english they will try to communicate with you. It’s touching to see how welcoming this country, and its people are. Something I found funny in India is how people could be amazed by your camera. You don’t even need to ask them to take pictures, because they come to you asking for a photograph. You could have up to twenty people around you, where everyone wants their picture taken, and to see how they look. Simply because they never saw themselves in a photographed. This experience is both special and magical. In some remote villages people never met any european or white people before, so they all come around you to touch you and say ‘Hello’. I didn’t even know what to do in this situation, so I just enjoyed this moment and I understood why I was there.

I often traveled during nights, even when a lot of people told me this wasn’t a good idea. I remember one night, I was traveling in a bus and around 3 o’clock in the morning, the driver had to stop and asked me to get out. I started to freak out, not due to the location I was in, instead I kept on thinking about all the stories I was told about a girl traveling alone in India, and how unsafe it could be for them. But when I left the bus, the streets were crowded and I didn’t feel unsafe anymore, I stopped being worried about these stories. From this moment, I proved to myself that I was able to travel alone and stopped being worried. I had similar experiences which pushed me further.

One night, I had nowhere to sleep and some people proposed that I come with them to a school and stay for the night. I assumed that I was going to sleep in a bed, but when they showed me the room I would spend the night, I noticed that there was twenty other people, whom were sleeping on a mattress made of straw. I had nothing to sleep on the floor except my Yoga mat. So my backpack became my pillow and as I had no sleeping bag, I covered myself with the only sheet I had. It was a hard time, as I laid there, I watched the cockroaches walking on the floor really in front of me. On the other hand, it was also a memory I will never forget.

It was a difficult time due to the conditions I experienced, but in the same time I was happy. Happy because I couldn’t image that I would be able to go over my limits, to push myself further and try new things. But I had no choice but to challenge myself, as I was alone.

India was more than just a country to explore, it was about taking a trip within me.

I’ve been practicing yoga for two years now and my travels were linked in with this. Yoga is important to me, it helps me understand myself better.

When I was in India I went to an Ashram to practice my Yoga. Where wake up in the early hours of the morning with empty stomach and going to a temple for meditation was a part of my daily routine. I could have chosen six hours session of meditation, however I decided to start off slowly, with a three hour session. When you are in a meditation, you should stop thinking, which I find is the hardest point. You have to stop thinking about the pain in your crossed legs, about your back hurting, or your belly grumbling. You can’t do anything, as everyone around you is extremely quiet and you cannot disrupt them. When you starting meditation, you normally think about a lot of things, but with time, little by little, you have no more superficial thoughts. The real work can start on yourself, with the possibility to go much deeper. To be honest, I started to cry during the meditation. For the first time I was focusing on myself for three hours and found the whole feeling strange, as I’m not used to it.

If you think about your current life, you are always busy. Busy with your work, your friends, your phone … You always have something to be distracted by. I would like people to keep in mind the important thoughts that the Zen buddhism pointed out.

The mind is like a chattering monkey swinging from branch to branch, from greedy thought to anxious thought.’

And it’s exactly what is happening in our society, we never take the time for us to relax.

At the beginning I was really wondering about myself being in this meditation session, but after a week I felt the expected benefits. Things you minored until now, start to become essential. It is so important to take to review your life.

Whilst in France, I am studying Philosophy, and I’m defending the philosophy as a way of life, what I mean by that is I’m not playing with words like Jean-Paul Sartre. Philosophy in general shouldn’t be abstract but real. I believe in the teachings of Pierre Hadot, who was a specialist of the antique philosophy.

The only real pleasure, its the pleasure of existing.’ is one of my favorite quotes from his studies. And after spending one week in the meditation retreat I can now say that this sentence makes complete sense for me.

Traveling is one of the ways to touch the pleasure of existing. Feeling the emotions through your skin and asking yourself what is the meaning of ‘BEING’? When you take the time to think about that in an environment which helps you, you understand that you always missed it but you can’t express it with words, it’s a feeling.

Today I’m in Australia! For the moment, I’m in an ordinary life in Sydney but I look forward to change. I would like to go in the bush and work for a care center animal, or work in the desert and do something completely different, this is my new challenge. At the end I want to be able to say again : ‘Yes i did it and I’m proud of it’.

This is the way I’m thinking, this is the way I’m traveling.’

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