Day 18. The cricket.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The cricket sang as if his life depended on it. It was after midnight already. The day of the dead had started. I was about to fall asleep.
For a moment I thought he was in the room, so loud did he tsjirp. A single one. I hadn´t expected to hear them anymore so late in the year. I love the sound, it makes me think of summer, it makes me feel warm.
I opened to door to my balcony, I am in hostel in Portbou, 72 steps away from the beach, 72, the year in which I was born. I opened the door and the sound got even louder. He was outside. Probably living in the wasteland I can see from my balcony, so different from the view to the other side where I can see the waves crashing on the rocks. There are cars parked on the land where once a building stood. On what used to be the first floor the bathroom tiles are still visible. A pale yellow. It is situated in a small quiet street where no traffic is allowed to enter. There is a terrace in front of the wasteland, it belongs to the hostel. There are usually some people drinking coffee or beer. I am lucky finding peaceful places inbetween the tiresome walking days.
I fell asleep with the cricket singing and in the morning I woke up with the sound of loud waves. I walked to the beach and stared at the waves, at the sea that has been the only witness to many people dying in its merciless embrace. When I returned from my beach walk to sit on the balcony the cricket was there again, singing his song with the same power. I felt at home.
I took the book, the only paper book I´ve got with me on my walk and found the page with the cricket.
"We live in cities, in professions and occupations, in families. But the place we live in is not really a place like that. The place we really live in is not the one in which we pass our days, but the one in which we hope - without knowing what we are hoping for - the one in which we sing without understanding what makes us sing."
"The nature of the cricket is to love its song and to take so much pleasure in it that it does not look for food and dies singing."
- Christian Bobin, The Very Lowly, p. 35


Day 17. Finding words.

The first night since many that I don´t sleep under the stars. I am in a hostel in Portbou, a room of my own. I went outside on my small balcony to look at the sky. I was cold. You get used to the comfort of a warm room quickly. I tried to find Orion, the Great Hunter but he was out of sight. I couldn´t see the moon either. I didn´t recognise any of the star signs in sight - there is still so much to learn. But when I looked up I saw a shooting star. The first time on my journey and it isn´t that I spend little time looking at the sky. 
I made a wish.
There is a tv in my room. I went through all the channels and it was mainly nonsense. But there was a nice item on TV5Monde Europe about two Syrian musicians, playing metal, who had fled Syria. About their music and how it was hard to make people understand their music genre at all but even more in a country where there is a war situation, where the dark side of it doesn´t go well with everyday life. They fled to Turkey in the back of van filled with people with hardly any space to breath, with only a few holes to let fresh air come in and afterwards they managed to get a place on a boat to Greece, almost being caught by the Turkish coastguards. From there they travelled to the Netherlands and the item stopped there. I would have liked to hear more about how they were managing in my home country. If they were still making music.
I tried to clean my hands but I´ve been living outside for too long. I ate grilled squid and salad and drank a draft beer. I checked out all the places in town and chose the noisiest one, with all the locals engaged in passionate conversations.
But first thing I did after I showered was visiting the Walter Benjamin memorial. It was just after sunset. It took my breath away. I´ve never seen a more impressive, beautiful, simple monument to pay tribute to somebody, connecting the traces of past pain, memory and exile, with the possibility of a renewed future.
It is situated on the edge of town, on a terrass overlooking the sea. There is the sky and the waves and a big olive tree There is a metal portal, a simple triangular shape and when you enter it you see the long metal stairs going down into the waves. The passage stairs. There is a glass wall almost at the end and already when you enter the portal you see yourself reflected down there. You walk down, towards yourself, towards the waves, 65 steps more or less until you reach the glass wall where the steps continue but where you can´t go any further and there it reads: 
"Schwerer ist es, das Gedächtnis des Namenlosen zu ehren als das der Beruhmten. Dem Gedächtnis der Namenlosen ist die historische Kunstruktion geweiht.¨
"It is more difficult to honour the memory of the anonymous than that of the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the anonymous."
Walter Benjamin, G.S.I., 1241
You spend some time down there. You read the text in all the languages, in Catalan, in Spanish, in French, in English, but most of all in German, in his own language. Then you turn around, to walk back. And you look up and all you see is the sky at the end of the stairs. And that is where you walk to. 

You didn´t take photos. Why would you if the memory of what you saw will be with you forever. Why would you if you can take the time to find the proper words.


Day 15. Small earthquakes.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

The water is slowly closing in on me. Earlier on, when I moved here after having spent a wet hour waiting for the rain to stop under an oak tree surrounded by big cows, I could still sit in the comfortable niche with my back against the wall. I never slept under a bridge before.

At five, when the pitch black sky had caught up on me, when the rain started and the lightning was getting too close, I had spotted the bridge and the narrow ridge underneath it already but I was still hoping for a farmer´s shed to appear or something else with walls and a roof. It didn´t and the oak tree seemed a good option but the rain got heavier and heavier and when there was a small break inbetween the showers I took my wet things and walked to the bridge. The ridge was big enough for my mattress and I cleared the rubbish away but the water is leaking through the walls and by now the ridge is completely wet as well. The last option is a lower concrete level, not completely flat and overgrown with thick blackberry bushes but I found a long metal rod and managed to trim them down so there is enough space for my inflatable bed. The area might be wet later on as well, but that is a later worry. If necessary I just sit up all night and write and get going before the sun comes up. It was a sunny day, the solar panel worked at top speed, my iPad is powered and the spare battery is full. There is even a good internet connection here. I´ve got food and chocolate and I found an almost full pack of cigarettes on the road. I´ll be fine.

It was a day of extremes with the most beautiful morning I experienced in a long time. I woke up in a bird observatory where I had moved to unplanned because my sleeping place of choice was also the rather big wild boar population´s favorite hang out. There was an amazing full moon, I saw it rise out of the sea from my window first and later on it moved slowly through the clear sky, lighting up everything. I slept a few hours on the wooden floor in my sleeping bag, woke up with Orion, the Great Hunter staring at me. I sat up for a few hours and went back to sleep.

I was at the beach, not even a minute walking from my shelter, before sunrise. There was still a big moon hanging in the sky opposite of the sea. The mountains underneath it were coloured in an unreal shade of blue. The sea was ferocious, big waves. The sky turned pink and yellow and then it happened, like it happens every day but I rarely see it and I never saw it under these conditions. An empty beach, the sun and the moon on both sides of the sky, noisy sunlit waves, mountains in all directions apart from where the sun came up.

I ate my breakfast, I am still not tired of chestnuts and wallnuts and pomegranates. The little red seeds that fell on the sand shone like diamonds.

In the far distance two big boats were balancing on the horizon. I remembered how before I left Barcelona, before I had even made a decision to go on this walk, I had read my fortune in the coffee remains of my coffee cup. My Turkish friends had shown me how to do it. Drink the coffee, put your cup upside down and wait for a bit, then turn it around again and look carefully. I had seen a long sea journey.

My original route didn´t go along the seaside but I decided to get back to the old Mediterranean path and although I first wasn´t sure if it was a good decision, passing a lot of industrial buildings in the beginning and then fishermen with cars along the big river everywhere, once I saw the sea I was happy about my choice.

The sun was out all day, I was in a birders paradise. Once I started walking, now and then one or two people with huge camera lenses passed me, ready to catch what they saw. There were wooden boards with pictures, showing what animals and trees were around. Wild boar -but I knew that already-, foxes, big deer.

Yesterday I had felt lonely and I thought about my last months in Barcelona. The dancing, the walking along familiar streets, eating dinner with friends, drinking vermuth at a local bar, talking through the night. Barcelona had forgotten about me but it didn´t matter.
I was hoping somebody else would sit on my favorite stone in the sea now and then and I was sure my silent Muñoz friends, legless and unmovable in their cagelike house at the square in front of the beach, would have other visitors. I hadn´t forgotten about Barcelona but I have to admit the city I love isn't in my mind always either.

But people sense it when you are lonely and in the middle of the night I read new messages coming in from a new friend who suggested walking with me for two days in the weekend, an artist friend from the UK had send me a donation and told me she was looking forward to tell her daughter about my walks when she would be old enough to understand. I was touched. Two years ago, on my first long walk, I had walked with her virtually on a late summer day on my way to the South of France. Rowan wasn´t born then yet and that day my friend took a day off from her worries about putting a child into this world and was going for a walk along the seaside. I would walk at the same time in a different country and think about her unborn child. I did. We "met" at one 'o clock, thinking about each other. And today, last night, she wrote me a message again and in the morning, when I was staring at the amazing sunrise, I thought about her. I collected some small shells for Rowan, the child with the name of a tree that attracts birds.
There was another message from a Facebook friend whom I hadn´t known for a long time and who was keeping an eye on my journey, asking me if she could help me in any way. And today a wonderful message came in from one of my sister´s old schoolfriends, a girl I remember as always smiling, still living like my sister in the village where all of us grew up. She sent me money to buy chocolate to keep me going and she wrote that she somehow understood what I was doing but not completely. I liked that a lot. Sometimes I don't completely understand it either but I guess that is one of the reasons I am doing this.

Today I realised my Facebook posts still automatically say I am in Barcelona but I am not there anymore. Part of my heart is but it has grown bigger on the road, being fed by all the people I met, nature, the charming villages, the small pleasures of a cup of coffee, a warm meal, washing my hands with warm water. I can afford to loose my heart everywhere, or at least parts of it. The holes fill up quickly again.

And I am not more lonely here than I am in a city I live in for a while, but in a city it is masked by my social life, people kissing me on the cheeks when they see me, touching my arm when I talk to them, joining me on the dancefloor. It isn´t a sad kind of loneliness though, although it sometimes makes me feel sad. Rilke writes in his Letters to a Young Poet about loneliness, about solitude beautifully;

"And to speak of solitude again, it becomes clearer and clearer that fundamentally this is nothing that one can choose or refrain from. We are solitary. We can delude ourselves about this and act as if it were not true. That is all. But how much better it is to recognize that we are alone; yes, even to begin from this realization. It will, of course, make us dizzy; for all points that our eyes used to rest on are taken away from us, there is no longer anything near us, and everything far away is infinitely far. A man taken out of his room and, almost without preparation or transition, placed on the heights of a great mountain range, would feel something like that: an unequalled insecurity, an abandonment to the nameless, would almost annihilate him. He would feel he was falling or think he was being catapulted out into space or exploded into a thousand pieces: what a colossal lie his brain would have to invent in order to catch up with and explain the situation of his senses. That is how all distances, all measures, change for the person who becomes solitary; many of these changes occur suddenly and then, as with the man on the mountaintop, unusual fantasies and strange feelings arise, which seem to grow out beyond all that is bearable. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us."

I love stumbling upon beautiful villages along the road and when there is time I sit at the village squares to take a small break or when there is a cafe, order a cafe con leche. Today there was a big village with a castle and a cathedral. There were restaurants and I checked the menu's, the last time I had sat down to order a warm lunch must have been more than a week ago. I found a cheap spinach cannelloni that was just what I was apparently hungry for. The terrace outside wasn´t meant for eating though and the waiter directed me inside, into the very fancy restaurant of the hotel. I hadn´t looked in a mirror for days and had no idea what shape my face was in but I could see my hands. They looked like I´d been living rough for two weeks. I was the only one in the room who was wearing a suit though. All the tables had expensive heavy table clothes with matching napkins folded carefully. Silverware and multiple wineglasses. The menu was in four languages and I spoke with the waiter in French. I had been thinking about a glass of wine before I went in but the wine was more expensive than the cannelloni I was going to order. Six euro a glass. Not today.

My table was only a few inches away from the couple seated next to me. I didn´t really notice them at first, being busy downloading the last three editions of the Dutch magazine I´ve got a subscription on, but when the man started talking louder and louder I looked at them. At first I thought that they were a couple with a big age difference but listening and looking at them I realized he was probably her son and they were on holiday here. He was extremely rude, told her again and again how wrong she was, how stupid she was, that she didn´t know anything. He opposed everything she said being very clearly extremely annoyed by her. She shyly tried to keep the conversation going, sometimes defending herself but it only made him angrier and more aggressive in his talking. I wanted to say something but I didn´t want to embarrass her. I think they were Swiss, talking in German, probably not realizing I could understand everything. I tried looking at the man a few times but no subtleties would stop him. I tried to eat but I couldn't. So I spoke up and told him he was being aggressive and that he was misbehaving. He shut up, not knowing what to say and the mother, like mothers do, tried to fix it, to take away the attention or maybe she was just happy to talk to somebody else. She asked me how come I was speaking German and where I was from. When I said I was from the Netherlands her son nodded his head and said "yes, of course" in the most derogatory way but I just smiled and he kept his mouth shut for the rest of the conversation. Suddenly it was as if he didn´t exist anymore and the lady, who told me just before she left that she would turn eighty this year, asked me all sorts of questions. I don´t think she fully understood why I was on the road but it didn´t matter. I think she enjoyed our little conversation and I was happy I got her out of being bullied by her son. Verbal aggression is terrible and it is always hard to know if you should interfere. When he left the table she stayed a little bit longer, we said our goodbyes and wished each other happiness and a good life. But I could see how sad she was and it was painful to hear her say that there wasn´t that much left for her, being eighty already.

I dared to order a coffee without looking at the menu, payed, left with a full belly and sat at the steps in front of the cathedral to grease my walking boots. I walked. It was late already, the days are so short and there is so much to do. I had seen the dark clouds already and I walked quickly, trying to stay ahead of them and I did for a bit. I had forgotten I was supposed to leave the old Mediterranean path for a bit to save some time but it didn´t matter. There was lightning and thunder and the mountains became invisible. I joined the cows and then moved to the bridge.

By now I have slept a bit. After I started typing I heard gunshots nearby, it is hunting season and I know I have to be careful when I am off the beaten track. There were sounds in the bushes, probably ducks or an otter. I heard footsteps over my head and decided to switch off all the lights for a bit. There is not much left to do in the dark but sleep. So I slept. And woke up in the moonlight with the Great Hunter back over my head. He makes me feel comfortable. Wherever I am, he is there to watch over me. Not even an earthquake will shake me.

It shook the bridge though and it woke me up. I couldn´t imagine it being anything else and I saw friends in Barcelona posting on their Facebook that they had felt something as well.
I checked my timeline and saw that while I was sleeping a far away friend had send me a smile, kisses and a hug, at that moment, in that order. Those things shake me up, touch me, make me realize how fragile life is, happiness is.



"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Day 14/15. Danger.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015, 01.30

A few hours after I had moved my sleeping bag out of the wild boar territory, I woke up in the corner of a bird observatory. It was 1.30. I was warm. Itchy. The musquitos had eaten away my face.
The sea was loud. The moon was bright. Orion was hanging over my head, the Great Hunter. Clouds passed by, they were shaped like a giant bird. From the window I could see the waves crashing on the beach. 
The danger is everywhere, around corners in the city, under a bush in the woods, in a slippery carpet in your apartment. But if you are careful and try to live without fear, they disappear. Usually.
I sat on a wooden bench and thought about all the people who are on the road because they had to flee their land. Because their dangers didn't disappear.
Human beings are the biggest danger of all. We destroy each other without reason. Wild boars are peaceful animals. I like to have them around. This is their territory and they don't harm me.


Day 14. Reunited

Tuesday, 27 October 2015, 23.00

Reunited. And as a bonus I saw a beautiful full moon rise out of the sea from my little hide out. I am sleeping under it tonight with the sound of the waves in my ears.

Life on the road can be tough but it can also be extremely beautiful.

(Addition: and a little scary. But not too much. Normally wild boar in my vicinity don't frighten me but after I posted this and crawled in my sleeping bag (no tent today, just me and the sky, well, me and the sky and some animals apparently ....), within 15 minutes 6 of them passed me at a two meter distance. The first one was screaming like crazy, the last three formed a small group, a huge one and two smaller ones. Maybe I'll make a small move.)


Day 13. Diamonds.

Monday, 26 October 2015. 23.00

I slept under a tree. Yesterday, when it started turning dark at six, I had tried the door of the small church that had suddenly popped up next to the sandy road. The only other sign of civilization was a big old farmhouse a bit further down the road. The church was closed, like most churches these days, but behind the garden with old olive trees surrounding it there was a slope and at the bottom of it, completely out of sight and with a beautiful view over the fields, there was a big old oak tree with branches bending down all the way to the ground. 

In the morning on Sunday I was surprised that it seemed to be light so early. I had slept in a shed smelling of oil, the calendar on the wall read 2002. When I checked my phone it said 8.07 but my iPad said 7.07. I wondered if they had changed the clocks. Sunlight saving time. I was out of time all day, a sunny day, a day in which everything seemed to go wrong. My Internet wasn´t working properly anymore, my iPad had stopped switching off automatically when I closed it. I dropped my water bottle and lost half a liter of water. My right arm was hurting more than ever. When I checked my route to find La Pera, the village where the friend of a friend lived and where I was going to be hosted today, I discovered that it was quite far away from where my friend had told me his friend lived, in Saus. I had already planned my route through Saus and I couldn´t afford to make a big detour and cancelled the visit. 

But there was sun and my feet were working well and at the end of the day I found the oak tree and got the confirmation the days would indeed from now on end already at six and even earlier every day I would move up further North.

I usually walk until it gets dark, then find a place to sleep, set up my camp, eat something and then crawl into my sleeping bag. Early most days, even earlier now. Eight thirty. I started reading Walter Benjamin´s "The Metaphysics of Youth" from his Selected Writings Volume 1 and was joined by a small prayer mantis, apparently attracted by the light of my iPad. I didn´t get far. The days are exhausting and when I am surrounded by the dark, sleep calls. It was silent. I didn´t expect any big animals here. I slept well.

In the mornings I am usually slow. Packing up, finding breakfast. It was easy today, I had spotted a pomegranate tree just behind my oak tree yesterday. I sat in the grass overlooking the fields. A grey sky. There were still loads of chestnust and walnuts, they had weighed heavy on my back but I never know if there will be shops in the small villages I sometimes pass through. Often they are closed, abandoned. And all this free food is a big luxury. 

There were two e-mails from Jorda and Jackson, two of the people I had spent time with in Girona. New friends. I thought about all the people who get connected to the walk, all the people I walk with. People I meet on the road but also old friends that are in my mind, people who walked for real or virtually with me on other walks, some people I only know through Facebook.

I always need to gain courage in the morning to start. The places I find for the night turn into a temporary home and it is nice to spend some time there in the morning, to stay for a little bit longer before the leaving starts again. But once I am on t he road I don´t look back. Once I start walking there is only the walking.

I thought some music would help to move me forwards and I lifted my bag on my back, climbed the earthen wall, passed the church, the old farmhouse and had a spring feeling for just a moment, probably because all the fields were covered in white flowers. I turned around and saw the blue mountains in the far distance, the beautiful landscape, a random song was coming through my headphones, Paul Bley´s "Open, to love." and I thought "Fuck, I am here."

Walking though woods, along winding roads. Taking a cold bath in a small pool. Filling my water bottle with water from a stream. Picking more pomegranates. Farmers passed me on tractors and they all looked me in the eye and greeted me. I didn´t mind when it started raining. A friend had borrowed me his rain poncho and it worked well. And the music was matching again. Faure´s Requiem, directed by Philip Herreweghe. I passed Llampaies, sat in a busstop, listened to the Barcelona composer Mompou, a light song, I checked the title and it said "Heugel et Cie. Paris". Yes, Paris ..... I sometimes forget that that is where I´m heading and I better forget now and then because it is far. But it is getting closer every day.

I was happy when I found a cafe in a small village. It was a great place, it seemed like it hadn´t changed in ages, the head of a big boar was hanging on the wall. Locals came in to drink coffee with rum, buy cigarettes and magazines, play the pinball machine that made cheery sounds. I fixed my Internet, was tempted to ask for some rum in my coffee as well but stuck to warm milk. I sat and watched. When I left it was already 3 ´o clock.

I walked through Saus, the village where my friend´s friend didn´t live. It turned out to be a magic place, the home of a Barcelona born artist, Alfredo Palermo, who had build himself a big museum with a garden and a narrow street with walls filled with his work. I sat on the bench outside the locked porched for a bit and then wandered through the ancient streets of the village. The 12th century fortified church in the middle was magnificent. Locked, of course. I was grateful my friend had misdirected me. Sometimes the best things come out of things that seem to be a mistake.

I walked on, along a railroad, through a forest. It started to rain, to rain more and just when I was moving through a tunnel to get to the other side of the railroad the sky opened. The road turned into a river and I could barely keep my feet dry. It was getting dark already, I was hoping for a ruin or an unlocked shed somewhere in the next half hour.

The shelters had been there every day, unexpected, crazy places sometimes but always quite comfortable. Today, when I needed it most, there was nothing but dark, wet forest. I aimed for the next village, Sant Mori, often there are abandoned houses close to a village but when I walked out of the forest and saw the lights and the beautifully lit buildings I realised chances would be small there. It looked posh. I checked out a big barn I saw in the far distance but there were lights and I heard lots of sheep and where there are sheep, there are dogs.

There was a playground at the border of the village. I sat on a bench and ate and waited. I checked online if there was any cheap accomodation in the town. I didn´t feel like wandering around there, asking, having to say no to expensive rates. The rain had stopped and I considered going back into the dark woods to put up my tent. Best option probably.

I would have done it, but fortunately I gave the village a try. Maybe there was a public park with a dark corner, a garden with a garden house. A niche in the city wall.
There wasn´t any of those but at the other end of the empty village, I found an old abandoned house. There were small stairs going into the wild garden and the apartment in the basement was completely empty. Stone walls, vaulted ceilings. A big room and two smaller rooms, dusty, but cleared out apart from a few chairs. It didn´t show any traces of building activities. Nobody would disturb me here.

I chose the room farthest away from the door, I closed the old wooden window shutters. Even if light would leak out, probably nobody would see it, I could only see a big field from the window, but it is always good to be sure.

So that is where I am now. Seated on a chair. Spiderwebs sticking to my back and probably in my hair. My raincoat and shoes drying in a corner, my inflatable bed in the other corner. I will make sure I´m out when the sun comes up, just to make sure. And who knows, maybe I will even find a cafe in town to eat breakfast. And if not, there are always chestnuts and wallnuts and pomegranates. And somewhere in my backpack there is a tin of sardines still and an apple. And of course there is always a small supply of chocolate. No walking without chocolate. 

The only animals tonight are beetles. But they are huge and black. They walk slowly on the walls and the floor. I guess this is their home more than it is mine.

They make me think of Jackson again, about evolution, how insects are so much better at surviving than most animals. And I am thinking about how earlier today I thought of Jorda, when I woke up under an oak tree and remembered his project where he was sleeping next to old trees, just like I had thought about his goat video the day before, when I had to climb a wall, using a big tree that had fallen down and felt uncomfortable at first, afraid I would fall but then I concentrated, thought of the goats, tried to feel at ease in my body, feel the borders of it, my new weight with the backpack on my back, I found my balance and climbed up like an animal.

People make me look at things in a new way, teach me new things. The road is the best school


Day 11. The magic.

Saturday, October 24

I woke up in Salt. It was a misty morning. From my window I could see a pale sun rsing behind the thin clouds. When we walked here last evening in the dark, Jorda, my kind host, had explained me the meaning of the word "salt" in Catalan. This used to be a village with a river running through it. Every summer the river would turn into a small stream and when it gathered its strength again later on in the year, it would change its course. It would jump. The village was called "where the river jumps", "salt" being Catalan for "jumps". Only the last word remained and in due time people would control the river and now it doesn´t jump anymore and the village became part of the city of Girona but the area is still called Salt. A lot of immigrants life there, there used to be big factories that attracted people from different parts of Spain, from different countries, and apparently the immigration worked well here. Jorda told me organisations from other countries visit Salt to see how they managed to do that.

Jorda made me breakfast, like he had been doing in the hostel where I had met him and where he was doing the nightshifts. On my first night there, when I had been up until early in the morning to do some writing, we had talked for a long time and the second night, when I was thinking about staying for a third night because I needed more time, but wasn´t sure if I should spend more money on a comfortable sleeping place, he had asked me if I was doing couchsurfing on my trip and he offered me the free room in his appartment.

We drank tea and ate toast and talked about our art projects. He was a bit worried about not producing anything at the moment because his job in the hostel took up most of his time but he would be leaving there by the end of the year to have all the time in the world to develop new things and go back to old ideas. He told me about something he had started but never finished, an idea that started with a facination for old trees, trees over a hundred years old. How the reason why they had managed to become that old was that probably they were situated in a good place, a peaceful place. He told me people can move when they don´t feel safe or when their living circumstances are bad but trees can´t. He had learned about trees and spend nights sleeping next to old trees.
After midnight he had showed me another project, a finished one, a collaboration in which he had been doing research about goats being fearless about hights, grazing on steep hills, being completely at ease, he had compared it with human dealings with heights, there were interviews with walkers he had met while filming the goats, people who told him about their own dealings with heights, with vertigo. The video didn´t only show footage of goats but also two people who were trained in the martial arts and were using the goats´movements and tactics to feel comfortable on ridges, overhanging rocks, climbing but also standing still and making slow movements. I guess somewhere I knew but wasn´t aware of the fact that most martial arts are inspired in their movements by the movements of animals. It was a beautiful video and a wonderful idea.

I said goodbye, set off, made a small detour to look at the river that looked so small and contained after the stories I had heard about it. I slowly walked back to the Girona city center, it felt like autumn. The sidewalks were filled with leaves in all colours and at some point I passed a square where they had lit fireworks last night, I had heard the sounds from my room. The remains of the firecrackers matched the leaves well.

The center was still quite empty but I heard drums and whistles and when I walked in the direction of the music I saw a giant golden bird with a crown dancing in the small street of the Jewish quarter. I walked on, passed a man carrying wooden spoons that were more than half his size. It seemed to be a magic day. A magic day after two full days, days filled with sunshine and wanderings through narrow streets, bookshops with books from decades ago, wine on the hostel terrass overlooking the river and the old city center, two days in which I had planned to write a lot but that had been mainly filled with long talks. With Camilla, with whom I shared a room and who had been reminded by David Foster Wallace´s famous Commencement Speech to Kenyon College class of 2005 "This is water" when in the morning, during breakfast, we were lining up in front of the toaster with the conveyor belt inside, letting the bread run through its insides and toasting it. She also mentioned Danny Wallace´s book "Yes man", I think after I gave her some tips because she was on her way to Barcelona where these days there is the Influencers festival with, among many others, the Yes Men presenting their work and tactics. Danny Boyle´s approach is a different one though and he is a Yes Man because for a full year he only said "yes" to everything and he wrote a book about it (and then a movie was made after it with Jim Carey in it).

I spent time with Jackson who was from France but was named after a boy his older brother had played with on the beach in the US when his parents were on holiday there and were enchanted by this image of their son playing with this younger kid named Jackson, they were already seeing their  own future son playing like that with his brother in this scene so they named him after the boy. Jackson was a biologist, just coming back from a science conference, still being bedazzled by all the science talk for seven days on end. We talked about evolution and ecology and he told me about his Phd, doing research about computer programs being of help in predicting how our evolution will evolve. We talked about history showing us how we never learn and we keep moving around in circles. He mentioned a small book written by Paul Lafarge who had married Karl Marx´daughter Laura, "The right to be lazy" and I added it to my readinglist that is getting longer every day. He also told me about a French comic and utopian movie "L´An 01" (by Resnais among others) in which the population decides on a number of resolutions beginning with "We stop working" but later on start producing again but just for their own use, to have water to drink, electricity for reading at night. They say "This is not the end of the world, this is Year 01, a new era. " It covers such diverse topics as ecology, negation of authority, free love, communal living, rejection of private property and labor.
When I tried to find the movie online I bumped into another interesting one: "Les Statues meurent aussi", Statues also die, by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker, a film tracing the devastating impact of French colonialism on African art, showing what happens when art loses its connection to a culture.
Talking to him Geerat Vermeij came to my mind, an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist who can see more with his hands than other people do with their eyes or microscopes even. He  studies marine molluscs both as fossils and as living creatures. His books include Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life, Privileged Hands, Nature: An Economic History, and The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization. He has an amazing memory and can quote things he read/heard years ago. In an article I found about him, his wife says that a student of his once said that spending time with him is like spending time with a search engine.
What struck me most about my talks with Jackson though was something he said the first morning I met him, shortly before 10 when I was just finishing my breakfast and he walked in, straight from his conference and being somewhat frustrated about this specific focus on science only all week, day and night. He said: "I want to have more time" and by the way he said it, I knew he was serious about it and he was going to make sure he would have it.

The mariner was a completely different story. Straight out of the navy after 4 years of service he was struggling to fit into the world but also very happy about being out of his old one. He missed the comradery of his navy friends and he was looking for company in the hostel. The first evening I talked to him, he made plans straight away to buy walking gear to join me on my walk, but the next day, when he had cooked a wonderful pasta with local mushrooms and Jackson joined us for diner, he talked about flying to Paris, where Jackson´s friends were organising a small party to celebrate his return. In the end he flew to London, like he had planned a long time ago, he was a planner, he had been trained well, he had the navy still in his system, you can´t just stop being a mariner, but he was practising dreaming and he was doing it well. It would take a long time though to become the different person he wanted to become, studying, living a healthy life, having great goals. I asked him why he had joined the navy and his answer was the regular one, the scary one: money, carreer opportunities. I am afraid they will keep directing him. But you never know. I didn´t ask him for his age but Jackson did. He was 22. He still had a long way to go.

As do I. I would like to write some more about the other people I talked to and the things I discovered in bookshops. About Italo Calvino and his story "Smog" I found in Spanish and when I researched online what it was about, read about the environmental awareness in his early works and his attitude regarding nature and culture, believing them to share a relationship of exchange. But I will do that some other time. The afternoon has already started and the road is long. Or at least I hope it will be.


Day 9. Walking boats.

Boats from my Girona medieval city wall walk. Do you want one? Or something else from my walk? Read how HERE

Day 8. The hour of the wolf.

Wednesday October 21

Girona. I checked into a hostel and took a shower. I took a train here. There isn´t enough time to reach Paris by foot if I want to arrive on time for the big march on the 12th of December. And the walking isn´t holy. Sometimes I need other slow ways of transport. Faster than walking. Sometimes I need to find a new balance. I was amazed how good it felt to be back in a city again, the promise of a clean body, a soft bed, culture. I was raised in nature and for a long time I thought I wanted to be a hermit, I wanted to live a lonely life surrounded by trees and birds but that is a very romantic thought and I guess I am also still trying to figure out what that is, loneliness, solitude. I am figuring out what I need to function best in this world. I walk to be able to take the time for that and sometimes I get out of the walking to look at things from a different persepective. It is all part of the journey though.

I have to catch up on my writing and there are some stories about past days I want to share but first I want to be in the here and now, I want to be in Girona and see what it brings me. I will spend another day here, to gather my strength to go back to the mountains, like I gather strength in the mountains to return to the city. Like all human beings, part of me is nature, part of me is culture.

Even before I had the opportunity to rest my tired limbs in my new home, in my new room, number 2.01 where I got bed number 5 assigned to me, I got into a conversation with my new roommates. The small talk on the road in my limited Spanish and pretty well trained hand-and-foot language is wonderful but it is also nice to be able to formulate your thoughts, your ideals, your goals well and understand all the details of your communication partner´s story. We are six in the room, four women from Canada, France, South America and the Netherlands and two men, one living in Germany and the other only 20 kilometers away from here, but conveniently staying in a cheap bed for the night in order not to have to drive back. We talked, we laughed and when I went up to the terrass overlooking the city I joined another company of five, three German girls volunteering at a Steiner school in France, my German roommate who had walked up to the roof before I had and a man from California who considered buying some walking gear and join me on my journey for a few days when I told him about my moving slowly through the world. Lem, who was living and studying in Halle, Germany, told us about his bikeride from Barcelona, where he had bought a second-hand bike, to Sevilla and then onto a place of which I forgot the name but where he had sold his bike to his AirBnB host. He was returning to Germany tomorrow and the three girls were going back to France, to bake bread, cook ecological food for their students, teach German and work in the school garden.

I left them to make a nightwalk through Girona and to buy a bottle of wine I had received as a gift from a sponsor upon arrival in Girona. People are kind to me.

The city was deserted, everything seems to close at midnight. I wandered through ancient streets lit by atmospheric streetlamps, found a bag of sweets, some fresh bread outside a restaurant that was just closing and a bag full of cloth hangers - I took two to replace the one I had lost on my way, the one that kept my suit jacket hanging neatly from my backpack.

When I entered the hostel, the man on duty was just changing the weather. 22 max and 6
 min today, 21 max and 13 min tomorrow. Cloudy.

In a city I move straight back into my city schedule. I write at night. I sleep little. But last week I discovered how nice it is to move with the natural rhythm. To rest when it gets dark, wake up in the middle of the night to do some reading and then go back to sleep to wake up before the sun rises, when the darkness gets slowly replaced by the light.

Since yesterday I have been carrying about three kilos of chestnuts. Ridiculous but at the same time indispensable. Power food. And I only grabbed what I found lying in front of my feet. I felt sad about missing out on the figs and grapes and blackberries but I realise every month brings something else, now there are walnuts and chestnuts and mushrooms. The strawberry trees are filled with red fruits and there are still tomatoes and apples. I found kiwi´s today, I only learned about the winter resistant kiwi last year at my Permaculture Design Course and they don´t grow in the wild but I do help myself to fruit and vegetables in other peoples´gardens now and then, only when there is plenty or when the garden seems to be neglected and always just a little bit to keep myself going. I don´t know how it works here but I know that in Germany there is a law that allows you to take from the farmers´ fields what you need for your own survival. I wonder if the farmers know though. And I don´t think they would appreciate it. I always make sure I´m not being seen.

I was asked tonight if i have a bigger goal and I didn´t know the answer, I returned the question by asking "A bigger goal than what?" I guess the main goal is to be in the here and now. To find the best way to connect nature and culture. To show people you can live your life anyway you want. To show that we don´t need to be fast to get where we want to be as quick as possible. If we want to be in the here and now, only slowness can bring us there.

There were some online conversations as well. The other world which I consider just as important as the world where we are physically present. A friend asked me about ideas to fight her capitalist business partner. Another friend just needed a chat. I asked a friend if he would take a confession but he wouldn´t. I told him I usually merely confess things I feel the urge to hide for the outside world but mainly to show I am only human and he called it a very catholic thing. I replied I might confess it to Facebook if he didn´t want to hear about it but I won´t use Facebook in that way. It makes me think about a book I started reading in Barcelona though, about the internet being the new religion. I don´t believe in religion and I will do anything to keep my Facebook or other Internet pages from being the outlet people use religion for. So no confession here. And I am not writing this to make you curious, it was just a minor act, nothing sinful, whatever that means. Nothing to write about. I shouldn´t even have mentioned it.

It is 3.30 now. The hour of the wolf. Last night around this time I heard the wild boars coming. Heavily moving through the undertow, making satisfying sounds. They didn´t really scare me, nothing that happens in the hour of the wolf does. It is the hour when most children get born and most people die. The hour between night and day when everything seems so far away. Complete darkness. And if I wouldn´t have written about that in my notebook already last night (and I will copy it here soon), I would now. Here it doesn´t count anyway. Here it is light, there is music, there is wine and coffee and the promise of a soft bed. There won´t be any wolfs here until I go to sleep, until I close my eyes.


Day 5. Another piece of the puzzle.

Sunday, October 18

I was hesitant to make a 3 km detour to Orrius to see if I could find some food there. I could survive for another day on my last supplies and the things I would find, but the thought of some proper food was tempting. It is nice to try to live on little and eat cactus fruits, berries and wild edible greens but this journey isn´t about hardship or endurance, although it is automatically part of it. Furthermore it is hard to survive on little if you have to walk and write and arrange your shelter every night, surviving on food in the "wild" can work well, but only if you can spend a big part of your day on hunting and gathering.

My fear that everything would be closed in Orrius or even no cafe or shop present was unnecessary. The street entering the village was called "The street of the oven" and it let me straight to the cafe that was a bakery as well. There was a small restaurant next to it and a butcher shop. The terraces were filled with people and on the city square in front of the church a group of musicians was just starting to play their flutes and drums while a female giant was lifted into the air to make her walk through the dusty streets. I had arrived at the perfect moment.

I allowed myself the luxury of a cafe con leche with a croissant, bought bread and discovered that the butcher also sold cheese and fruit and other things. I washed myself in the cafe, spent some time on the terrace, happily being surrounded by people after a few solitary days. The giant came back, more music and the crowd dispersed. I sat on a bench for a few more minutes and smiled when a car parked in front carrying the word "pathfinder".

I continued my walk, the bag now weighed heavily on my back, having bought supplies and I wondered what was the best way to go about this journey, stay on the hiking trails and now and then buy enough food for a couple of days or travel more lightly and make more detours to walk through villages to eat. Let´s see. Time will tell. And hopefully my back and shoulders will get stronger. I am a bit out of practise and the 12 kilo´s I carry without water and food are actually my limit for comfortable walking but finding water is more difficult than I thought, even with the Lifestraw bottle that filters polluted water. If there is no water around at all, it doesn´t help much. No streams or wells or lakes or puddles even. The land is dry and there is no rain. Comfortable at night, when I am warm and dry but it makes me carry some extra weight that makes it hard for me to walk much more than 3 kilometers in one go. I take a lot of breaks and still don´t walk too much in a day but it will improve.

I found traces of chestnuts! I had been looking for them, a great food source and I love them but there were only empty shells. Maybe later on in the walk. The trail was steep and I was happy I hadn´t decided to bring my walking cart. It is great for keeping the weight of your back and makes it easier to carry more or carry the same weight easier but here, and also in the days before, it would have been quite a burden.

The first loss. It always happens, you loose things and you find things. Most things I have with me are easily replacable but everything is chosen with care and comes in handy. This was only the cloth hanger I use to hang my jacket from my backpack though and I will find a new one. I praised myself for making sure things are always tied to my backpack well so the jacket was still there .... (I learned from an earlier journey where I lost it along the road but was lucky enough to find it after a long detour and many worried thoughts). The intriguing thing was that the moment I discovered the loss of my cloth hanger, pausing next to a rock in the middle of nowhere, I found a piece of a jigsaw puzzle next to my feet. Another piece of the puzzle. I had collected other pieces on other days throughout the years and this one looked like it matched the ones I found in Stoke-on-Trent last year when I was on a walk in my suit with Phil Smith, also known as Mythogeography.

At six, when I was hoping to walk another hour before the sun would set, I passed the ruins of a house. Never miss the opportunity of a good shelter at the end of the day so I made myself comfortable inside. It was a big mess, complete chaos, stones and beams and pipes and rubbish everywhere but I covered a small open space with a soft layer of weeds, put my air mattress and sleeping bag on top, installed my hunters knife, phone and walking stick, even though it felt perfectly safe.

I slept for a bit and then woke up and exchanged some silent words with friends in Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. Crazy how these two world get together in this lonely ruin in the mountains, thanks to my solar powered iPad and my mobile internet. It makes me realise again we live in amazing times and so much is possible these days. We just have to make sure we make good use of it instead of fucking things up.


Day 4, part 3. A comfortable home for the night.

Saturday, October 17, 20.00

I sat in the dark for a bit, listening to the sounds, to get myself accustomed to the place where I would spend the night. A shrill sound from an animal I couldn't place, some bird, and straight after that a sound I knew well but took me a few seconds to recognise. A donkey. The donkey was answered by a goat and after a few minutes of silence there was an owl. I love the sounds of owls. In the distance I heard churchbells, there was a village not too far from here. I'd seen it walking down and had decided to stay close by, to possibly find some breakfast in the morning. The bell rang eight times.

I was in my iso coat, in my sleeping bag, my back against a straight wall. The only straight wall in this small round building, or what was left of it. A ruin in the woods at exactly the right place at the right time. The walls were made out of ancient stones. A few meters from my bed there was what looked like a well, going meters into the ground, to the center of the earth. Maybe it was an old watertower. There was no roof, I could see the stars when I was lying down. But there was a tree over my head so I would stay dry if it might rain. It was a wonderful place to spend the night. Safe and cozy. A soft floor made out of dead leaves.

Earlier on I passed a sign pointing in the direction of a restaurant and I decided to make a small detour. In Barcelona, three days ago, I bought a little bit of food for the first day. A piece of bread, some cheese, a dried sausage, 5 bananas, a big chocolate bar, an avocado and some plums. I ate half of it on the first day and added things I found along the road. Wild spinach, cactus fruits, lots of the small red fruits from strawberry trees and today, when I saw my supplies plus my water running out, some what most people would consider inedible quinces. But when they are ripe they are not so bad and they quench your thirst. The thought of a proper meal was tempting though and I found the restaurant only 5 minutes from my route, situated in a small oasis. The terrace was overlooking the mountains and on the blackboard were written all the tasty things you could eat. The things I could have enjoyed a lot if it would have been open.

I walked on, found a comfortable rock and ate the last piece of sausage together with some cheese, a piece of chocolat for desert and some water I had found dripping from a tube coming out of a rock. My solar panel caught the last rays of sunlight, fast people passed behind my back, some motorcyclers followed by a car and two ladies in purple and pink running as fast as they could. I listened to some music, Yaron Herman playing an adaptation of Cohen's "Hallelujah". I watched the beautiful sunset and smiled, then laughed out lout.

There was still some time before it would get dark and I returned to the walking. I passed a field where a goatherd was just returning his flock for the night. He saluted me and asked about my heavy bag. He wondered where I was going. I told him I was on my way to Paris and he didn't believe at first I was walking there, he asked if I would continue by car or train but I pointed at my feet and made it clear they were my main means of transportation. "How long?" did he ask. "Ten days? Mas? More?" I answered "Mas, more" and again "Mas" when he suggested thirty days. Then he wanted to know how long it had taken me from Barcelona to walk here, five days maybe? I stuck up three fingers, tres, and he was amazed, although I considered it long, I could have done it in two if I had been fitter, more used to my heavy backback, less distracted from all the things happening on the road. Two runners ran by and he shouted at them in the going, told them this woman was walking all the way to Paris. The men had other things on their mind and stayed in their movement but the old sheepherd shook his head and said "Madre mia". We said our goodbyes, he returned his attention to his goats and I continued, realising my understanding of Spanish is good enough for some small talk, sometimes the most important talk of all. For the second time I laughed out loud. It had been a beautiful day.

Day 4, part 2.

Saturday, October 17, 15.30

I found water. It is dripping slowly out of the rocks and I am not sure how drinkable it is but my Lifestraw bottle filters poluted water. It takes time to fill it up but any break is welcome, useful time to sit down, connect with and look at the world around me. A dusty mountain road, green bushes, yellow flowers. It gives me time to take care of my body, stretch, inspect my legs that are doing well. Red scratches from last night's roaming through the woods to find a hidden spot for my tent. I could have rolled down my trousers to protect them, the trousers of my 3 piece suit, the suit people think is awkward for walking but it isn't. The jacket hangs from my backpack when it is warm, the QR code clearly visible. The vest has three handy pockets, in one I carry some rosemary I picked yesterday to hide the faint smell of my body, in one I carry my iPod that supplies me with music in difficult walking moments, in the third one I carry some small stones from the Barcelona beach. Sometimes I slide my hand in it to touch the stones.
The trousers have a QR code as well. When you scan it, you land on my blog. I wear them all the way down when it is cold and rolled up when walking. It doesn't matter when they get dirty or torn.
The scratches on my legs are minor wounds. The scars will form a nice pattern with the old ones from former walks.
After taking a look at the world around me I visit the other world, the world you are in now, reading these words. I can access it because I carry an Ipad and a solar panel that works extremely well. I almost didn't get it in time for my walk but thanks to a dear friend, who drove late at night to the depot where they had forgotten to send it off, I can be here at all times. I folded him a small boat on my first walking day. I folded more boats for people who helped me to get started and when there is more time I will post some images.

My bottle is almost full. Time to get back on my feet again. When I stand up I can still see Barcelona in the far distance. It looks like a fata morgana, as blue and see through as the water dripping into my bottle slowly.

Day 4. Remembering the past, seeing the future

Saturday, October 18

I am on a hilltop overlooking the sea. I woke up in my tent this morning and wanted to leave early, not get into the writing until after I walked a first stretch but the writing is as important as the walking, is in a way the same thing as the walking. Making lines, writing words, taking steps, lines of thought, connecting places and people. I´ve got a beautiful book on the subject with me, "Lines. A Brief history" by the anthropologist Tim Ingold.

I owe you a day 3 and I had planned to write it in my tent at night but I was tired and didn´t have the energy to write. I might later. The order of things doesn´t matter here, doesn´t matter now. The nice thing about walking is that time disappears and I can freely move around in the past and the future.

I see big ships moving slowly across the water, the sea has been there in the last days, appearing around corners of the road regularly and this morning it reminds me of something that happened not too long ago but before the walking plan arose.
I was drinking coffee with some friends, Turkish coffee from beautiful small cups. We turned the cups upside down after we drank the coffee, in order to read our fortune, our future, from the coffee remains. My cup clearly showed a long sea journey and I couldn´t image my future would see me travel the ocean. The sea has been on my mind the whole year though, one of the reasons why I love Barcelona is because the sea is so present and I missed it every time when I left the city, searching for it in other countries, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

It is hard to read your future. I don´t believe in fortune tellers but I do believe everything is present in the present, the past and the future and there must be traces of it you can feel, maybe see, sense in different ways than we sense warm or cold, pain or pleasure. I don´t know if you can really read your future from a coffee cup or from the stars or from the lines in your hand, but there is something there, maybe nothing more than your willingness to see something in it, maybe it is just an opportunity to give you a heightened awareness of the ability to know about your future, or at least a part of it, at any given moment.

And maybe this journey is the sea journey I saw in my coffee cup. A journey where I left from the sea and where it accompanies me while keeping my feet on the earth. Where it stays in sight for a while and then retrieves into my mind, stays in my memory when its vision is being replaced by woods and mountains and cities.

I carry some small stones in my pocket I picked up from the beach on my last seawalk, the day before I left. I had planned to leave them on Walter Benjamin´s grave in Port Bou and I will but I will keep one with me. And while walking I will remain seated on the big stone in the Barcelona sea where I used to take a break during my regular walk, sitting on top of it, surrounded by water, usually reading something.

Leaving and staying, land and water, past and future, it is all connected.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the boats I am folding on my walk. It was a gut feeling in the beginning, something I felt I had to do and seemed a bit ridiculous in the beginning but one of the things I learned on my walking is that you should always trust your gut feeling. And now it all starts to amke sense. I can fold you a boat if you want and send it to you. Or maybe I already will if you sent me something to support my journey, handy tips, a souvenir, inspiration sources or money or any other support. Read more bout that HERE


Day 2. Back under the stars

Thursday, October 15

There were still some things to be done, some problems to be solved, before leaving the city. I arranged my mobile internet, checked my bag for the last time, closed the door behind me and handed in my keys just in time - or actually just too late but fortunately there was still somebody present at the shop where I had to leave them. Otherwise it would have meant another postponing day and when I walked to the shop with my new house on my back I secretly longed for it but at the same time desperately hoped somebody would still be there. I had postponed enough. And I was lucky. A good sign.

I can´t describe the moment after I left my keys and realized there was no way back. It was a split second only. Complete happiness and extreme excitement. I felt light as a feather. But things turned to normal straight away. It left some traces though. Some good energy to start with.

One of my favorite Barcelona spots was on my way out of the city and I chose it as the starting point of my journey. Not the house where I had just left from. Like many other places in this city, kindly supplied me by wonderful friends, it had made me feel at home but it wasn´t where I left from. It was just a temporary place to be. A place I might never stay again whereas the Place de la Virreina was a spot where I had returned to often since I discovered it on my first day in Barcelona and where I took shelter regularly in difficult moments.

I ordered a cafe con leche at my regular place and straight away got into a talk with a German couple from Dusseldorf. I was hesitant to talk, I just wanted to be in the moment and drink my coffee, but my walk is as much about talking to people as it is about walking and being in the world slowly and silently so I told them about my walk and how this was my place of choice to start from and they told me they had chosen it today to escape the bustling city and enjoy it in a more quiet way. Gracia is different in energy than the center is, that is one of the things I like about it. They said it reminded them of their favorite places in Dusseldorf.

I moved to a bench on the side of the square, not to be there but to realise I was leaving. It was a beautiful autumn day, brown leaves falling down from the trees. I watched a plastic bag slowly moving in the wind from one side of the Placa to the other side. The girl sitting next to me on the bench was reading a book with one hand in the pocket of her shorts. It was warm enough still for shorts. There were people with dogs, one was carrying a black wig in his mouth but when I looked a second time I realised it wasn´t a wig, he had the biggest moustache I had ever seen on a dog.
A girl passed by in a sweater with the word SELFIE printed in big white letters on a red square.
I felt the urge to start writing a story on my iPad straight away but I shouldn´t slow down more now so instead, in order to not forget, I made some notes in my new, almost empty notebook. A moleskine, the notebook I always use on my trips, the notebooks Bruce Chatwin used, he even gave this name to this particular type of notebook and he writes about it in his book The Songlines, how the small French family-owned company in Tours went out of business and Chatwin set about buying all the notebooks he could find before his departure for Australia, but they were still not enough. In 1997 a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life and gave it the name Chatwin had used. If you buy a Moleskine notebook now, you can find this story in the small pouch in the back of the notebook.

I made my notes, in pencil. Pencils never fail when you have a pencil sharpener or a knife on you. I took the last photo of myself in Barcelona, fully packed, fully dressed. And just before I left a small flock of the green parakeets I know from Amsterdam, where they are quite an exotic species, landed in the branches above my head and started chirping noisily. I took it as some words of goodbye and I put my bag on my back.

I walked. I saw a corner of the city I had never seen before. Walking all the way through, out of it, made me realise how big it is really. Leaving the last houses behind me, the sun already setting, I thought it was the last I would see of the city and I took my goodbye photo and placed it on my Facebook page. I entered the park, walked on sand, was surrounded by the scent of nature. It was getting cold and dark and I didn´t walk too far, climbed a small hill, found some bushes that formed a good shelter and decided to just roll out my mattress and sleeping bag. On my left there was green and the entrance into a vast natural area. On my right I saw Barcelona in the far distance. The Tibidabo amusement park with a beautiful new moon over it. I saw Park Guell, Montjuic to the far left and in the middle of it all the Sagrada Familia and the big cranes surrounding it.

Nothing beats sleeping under the stars. And although it took me a while to get comfortable, mainly because there was an animal roaming around, I felt safe enough and warm and tired. Happy to be out in the world again, slow and sensitive to the things around me.


Day 1. Leaving and staying

Wednesday, October 14

I was ready to leave, I had been at my readiest on Tuesday morning already, mentally at least, but there were still things to be done. When I postponed my leave in the weekend the plan was to get some last important supplies on Monday but I hadn´t counted on a Spanish national day and shops being closed. Tuesday, yesterday, they were open again and just when I was about to go out to arrange the most important thing, mobile internet for my iPad to be able to communicate during the first stretch in Spain, my iPad fell apart. The screen had been damaged already but going on a walk with little means, in a suit I had been wearing for 9 months, planning to try to survive with as little money as possible, it seemed a good idea to just keep it using like this since it seemed to work fine. Maybe it was providence. Otherwise the glass would probably have started falling out during the walk and that would have meant a much bigger delay. In the past these sort of things freaked me out,
I would find it unjust that it happened to me at a very bad timing but these things happen to everybody at the worst moments. It helps to see it from the other side. To just take it as it is and see what you can get out of it. This meant some more time in Barcelona which would give me the opportunity to get some other things sorted out. It meant paying a lot of money, but it also meant I could use this device well somewhat longer instead of wearing it out too soon and then having to buy a completely new one.

The man from the repair shop kindly gave me a €15,- discount without knowing that that is what I count on as the minimum I need for an average day on the road. A nice coincidence. Money spent but also money gained. He opened his shop an hour earlier for me to have it fixed at 12 which was a kind gesture, even though in the end it was only ready at 13.30 and I wandered through Gracia the last hour to wait which was tricky because I have a bad sense of direction and I always use my iPad to navigate. It is my old area though, my first three months in Barcelona I lived at the other side of it and I took this opportunity to drink a coffee at my favorite square, the Placa de la Virreina and start a small embroidered drawing in my jacket. I remember well finding the square on my first full day in the city, on a quest to make myself feel home by finding places that suited me. After that day I spent many hours in this square, at daytime drinking coffee in the sun, on Sundays watching the crowd dancing in the middle of the square and in the evening sitting on a bench in the dark, like many other people, listening to the musicians playing guitar on the church steps and watching passers-by. Sometimes buying a beer from the street vendors. Meeting friends now and then but usually on my own, to take a break from the work in the gallery, from embroidering small stories in the pockets of found clothing items.

My backpack was already packed, among other things a pair of found sneakers and two found shirts, the third one, also found, was on me. I had thought about carrying a fourth one and when I picked up my iPad and walked back to the place where I am staying, I bumped into a container with a nice collection of summer clothes in it. It looked like a good sign. I am a bit afraid to walk into winter but I know I will be back in the warm Spanish days afterwards and there would be no harm in already having some clothes waiting for me here. I took a few things and also found an ultralight, nicely decorated shirt that would take up almost no space at all in my bag. I wondered if there was anything else I needed.

A few minutes away from my door I smelled lavender and for the first time I noticed the big field in the middle of the square I had passed several times. I picked some flowers to put in my inside pockets. The jacket will get smelly on the road. Herbs and flowers, natural perfumes, work wonderfully there.

The goal was to leave at some point during the day and walk to the old industrial part of the city to spend the first night at a friend´s place on the way out of town and continue tomorrow early from there but the closer I get to my slow walk, the more things seem to slow down. I guess it is a good thing. The only deadline, apart from the big march during the Climate Conference, are the deadlines I created for myself and it is nice to blow life in them again and move them a little bit.

Another leaving day turned into a staying day and it makes me think about leaving and staying again, how they relate to each other and how sometimes you leave by staying and other times you stay by leaving. One of the things I know for sure is that the leaving keeps my love for the city alive. Every time when I am leaving, I see it with different eyes, I see things I never saw when I was in my staying mode. I move in circles here often, like so many other people, but I drag myself out of the circle regularly, with some effort because I think I don´t want to be out of it but I always enjoy it, especially the pleasure it gives me when I return, when I get out of the bus at Placa Catalunya and remember how it was all new to me the first time I arrived, just over a year ago. How I had no idea of what and how and where and now I call it mine, even though I still don´t speak the language. I call it mine because every time I am leaving I am staying as well. Where if I would just be staying, I would probably get lost. I would disappear.

Now I will stay present here. And when I start walking time will disappear. I don´t have to say goodbye. I just have to leave. In order to return.

Tomorrow. First thing. No more delays. I will open my door, close it behind me and time will disappear. I won´t. I will be more present than ever.

The first boat is for Chris, who fixed my iPad today. A golden one from the inside of a cigarette box.


Walk with me

In a few days I will start a long walk from Spain to Paris. I will be on the road for two months, wearing the three piece walking suit I have been wearing since January, carrying everything I need on my back. I am walking to the United Nations Climate Chance Conference (COP21), to join thousands of people for a march through Paris which is called “the largest civil disobedience action on climate change in Paris”. On my way there, I will meet people on the road, talk with them, listen to their stories. Any stories.


My themes will be ecology, simple and slow ways of being, consumerism, history, humanism. Love and life and death, in small and big ways. I will write about it on my blog, I will leave and collect traces. It will be an adventure and I’d like you to be part of it as much as the people on the road and the people I will walk with in Paris will be.


I need your support, whatever you have/want to offer. And I am not talking money. Tips, advice, inspiration sources, people on my route you think I should meet, places I should visit, where to sleep and what to eat. Money ....  comes in handy too, but my journey will be about exchange in any possible way, getting away from materialism and easy ways to go through life.


Whatever you’d like to share with me, I will give you something in return. Equal value. Something material or immaterial. I will make you part of my journey. Not because I can’t do it on my own but because I don’t want to do it on my own. The only way to change things is to work together, because we are in it together no matter what.

I’ll build you a boat, you’ll be part of the fleet that will carry me to Paris. Over land.

(boats from trash i found in my garden)

Here’s what I’ve got to offer:


* Stories. They will be online. They can be shared.


* My attention. If you are on my route, I’d love to spend time with you. Or you can come along and walk with me.


* A small boat. I will fold them on my way, like children do, using the discarded materials of our culture, breathing life back into what has been left behind, slowly building a big fleet to bring me to Paris, vessels to help me reach my destination. Every one of them will be dedicated to somebody who is helping me on my journey in any way. 


I’ll exhibit the fleet in Paris and I will send you a digital image of your boat and the full fleet, or:

1. if you want your boat, send me some money so I can snail-mail it to you afterwards, a few euro’s will do the job already. 

2. If you want to share a day with me as well, send me the minimum of €15 I know by experience I need to "survive" (some days I sleep and eat wild but other days there are unexpected expenses) and choose a day inbetween Oct. 14 - Dec 10 or leave the date up to me and I will think of you on that day and take a photo especially for you which I will send you by email from the road (and the boat will be send to you later).


3. But if you want to donate more (let’s say € 25,- or more) I can also offer you a professional photo paper print (A4, limited edition) of the full fleet in Paris & a digital photo I will take especially for you on my journey on any day you’ll choose (Oct. 14 – Dec. 10) which I’ll be sending to you by e-mail from the road (and I’ll be thinking of you). Plus a boat of course.


There’s a paypal button on my blog (top right) and if you have any questions or comments, send a mail to monique.besten@xs4all.nl


If I get more money in than I need, I’ll use it to send everybody who helped or inspired me in any way a boat by slow mail. It would be great if afterwards all of them will be all spread around the world.


Still the best support I can get is if you read my stories here and keep an eye on me in that way. It will keep me safe and sound.

* It will take a bit longer before you will receive your “physical” boat and the photo print.

(2005, At Home Galery, Now Here)