The feeling of derailing one's life increases as the date approaches.
I am of course currently enjoying a perfectly fine summer full of activities here in the surroundings of my homeland, but I realize too that this will be my last summer here in a long time. The unpredictability of the changes that may happen to my life after the Asian trip provokes me a feeling of an ending of the things "as I used to know them", so now it's like I am living the last true days of my current life, and whatever changes may occur, they will change everything forever, like the course of a river that alters its path once and then the stream never returns to the former. One said that the end is the only thing that gives meaning to something, so now that is the way I feel, immersed in meaningful events.
And it is not a dark sensation, no, not at all. Now the sun shines high, days are pleasant and enjoyable and the routine is bearable. It's the time to have fun, to do what you have always been doing these estival days for the whole span of your life. But summer too will end pretty soon, and autumn will mark the no returning point up to the beginning of my trip, when I will start asking visas, looking for medical insurances and spreading the new of my depart among my beloved ones that still don't know it (and won't like it a bit).
One whole year (at least) of travelling, not being a mainstream worker as I am now, is a big deal, and I know it will not always be sunny mornings and happily warm days, there will be loads of raining afternoons, sadly cold nights and lonely passages too. I think too much about it, anyway, and most probably these matters must be faced from the heart.
This is not only the much feared jump-into-the-abyss but also the enticing walk-through-the-threshold, the gate to a different world, and once you cross it, there is no come back.
I have been talking perhaps too much about Couchsurfing in this blog, but nonetheless it truly has given me so much, so many experiences related to travelling, that I cannot avoid referencing it here.
For instance, I could say (thinking about my last post) that Couchsurfing provides a way to exchange non-monetary values. Because Couchsurfing doesn't use money; you never pay in cash for your hosting by this system, neither can a host ask for it.
But Couchsurfing is not free about free hosting, of course it is not. One way or another, both host and guest pay an invisible fee for its services. And this fee is the desired exchange of cultures, languages, travels, adventures, ideas, thoughts...
You may show the place where you live but at the same time you're learning new things of this place and from the place where your guest comes from.
It not only allows you to see your homeland through foreigner eyes (and question what you see, then), but also to observe distant places while you stay at home, imagining them as your guest narrates them to you.
Of course, in this stream of travellers going from one destination to another, stopping by your place briefly, you may catch a tip or a valuable piece of advice for your own next trip.
Sometimes, you even get a hint of taste from a far-away country you wish to visit.
This was my case yesterday, quite literally.
These days I am hosting a young photographer from Kyrgyzstan which currently lives in Dubai. She is of Russian descent (third generation), and according to what she told me, Russian is still a very common language all over Central Asian countries (so I reassert myself in my intention of learning it).
Last night she cooked a traditional Kyrgyz dinner.
She called it lagman, but I found out that it is also spelled laghman or la mian (in Chinese), being originally a recipe from China, especially of those peoples on the Silk Road (Hui and Uighur), and it is considered a national dish in Kyrgyzstan.
It was a kind of a stew of beef or lamb, with vegetables and noodles. Definitely yummy.
I thought I could almost relish the Central Asian steppes, the dust-covered paths through the Tian Shan mountains, the craggy shapes over the Taklamakan desert, and the green meadows where horses stomp their hooves on the grass.
Also, she told me that most Kyrgyz people cross the border to Kazakhstan when heading to China, so it would be wiser going from Ürümqi to Almaty by train, and then crossing to Kyrgyzstan than my original plan trying to get through Irqeshtam pass or somewhere between these countries.
The final depart to Asia seems to draw nearer every day.
I think that one of the things I love about travelling is its pure non-monetary value.
We live in a society that values mainly physical goods, that judges one person's achievements by the money s/he got, and infers related abstractions (power, wealth, sympathy, prowess, triumph, leadership...) out of the things people have, people buy, people want badly to acquire and people are told that they need.
Knowledge, skills, relationships, tales cannot be seen, because they're invisible values that require hard work to obtain, a lot of time and effort, but they're nonetheless more permanent than any of the expiring products we're constantly offered.
Things are not important... the real value lies in what we do with them, so if you don't use something it's because you don't need it anymore. For instance, books are only containers of knowledge, their physical attributes not being important. Once I read them, I like giving them away, so this knowledge keeps on moving.
We cannot pay to get the abstractions that we want to have in our lives. We have to live in order to get them.
I know that this all sounds like antisocial chitchat, because everyone out there has thought about this, and has come to the same conclusions. Then s/he resumed his/her daily routine.
A single minute lived within a trip worths a whole life of everyday 's shades of gray; so intense, so new all that surrounds you (smells, colours, sounds...)... it makes our brains work harder to capture every sensorial piece of this foreign world, thus effectively enlarging our memories, slowing the (perceived) pace of time and widening our understanding.
I read that too, somewhere, that the only way to make our lives longer is living new experiences. They may not be longer in actual time, but they are for our minds.
Languages, I love languages, indeed. They're my only true everlasting love and lifelong lovers will they be.
I like learning them, writing them, listening them, reading them, speaking them. I don't master several at all, but I like learning bits of many of them.
I hide a comforting pleasure everytime I learn a new word or comprehend a grammatical structure.
These cherished abstractions are a useful tool too. Especially when travelling abroad.
Even nowadays I make many mistakes anytime I write or speak in English, and sometimes don't grab instantly the meaning of what people are saying, but English has been so far the longest standing language in my life (apart from my mother tongue, of course).
Basque language too has been here and there all over my life, sometimes nearer, others further (now currently I'm at the peak of it).
Latin at school came afterwards. An old, ancient language which provoked me new feelings and rewarding learning.
Soon after that I started creating my first own conlangs, based on the knowledge I had of English, Basque and Latin, which in turn led me to other Indoeuropean languages (Germanic and Celtic branches, and then Sanskrit and Old Indoeuropean). I learned some Quenya too, of course, during my Tolkien-fan years (that spanned a long time, actually).
I had also one year of French at the end of high school, but wasn't very profitable.
The quest for the origin of Basque language took me to the Finnic languages (I learned some Hungarian while travelling there with my father, and Finnish has been a favourite language for some time now), and as far as ancient Sumerian and Altaic languages (we're talking about my early youth now).
When I started university (Computer Sciences) I learned to write and read in Greek and Cyrillic alphabet, an acquired knowledge I have never lost.
Further on (still at university) I started German classes for 3 years (and managed to get an intermediate level at some point) and Japanese with a hired native teacher (the lessons were at her flat).
I did even continue studying Japanese when I went on my Erasmus to Bath (England, where I got back my ability to move around easily in English), at the local university there, and eventually I passed the exam of the lowest of the 4 Nôken Japanese Language Degrees.
In my last year in the university I took one term-long Classical Hebrew lessons, which was the most exotical (of the scarce offer) one they offered. I had never really been into Semitic languages, but it was cool enough.
When I started to work I quitted all of this. On the other hand I began seriously to improve my Basque language and marked a kind of start to my solo trips all around Europe.
In the meantime I also assisted a short course of Arabic script, but I don't keep in mind much of it.
Catalan and Gascon (Occitan languages) got my attention too, Catalan since childhood when I used to watch TV in Catalan during my summer holidays on the Mediterranean, and Gascon since I (recently) discovered that was not a dead tongue.
Last year I resumed my French learning and now I can somehow express myself in this language, but haven't mastered it yet, sure.
Apart from all of this, I have read books about the grammar of many other languages, but just for fun, no real skill gained.
Lately, last year travelling in Bulgaria I managed to ask questions, read signs and understand some of the language, and this year in Greece I prepared myself before going there reading about its grammar (which proved handy).
Now I have just registered myself in a basic Russian course in the language school here (A2 level), so I can grasp a bit of it before I depart to Asia next year (I will take these classes, roughly from October till January).
I consider it will be extremely useful in Russia, given that many people there are not very fond of English. Besides, a workable knowledge of it will be able to help me through Central Asian countries, where it still works as a secondary language (instead of English).
But sure enough I will have to go back to what I knew of Japanese and deepen into Chinese, to easen my trip thoroughly and make it more rich and enjoyable.
Couchsurfing too has helped me a lot in keeping fresh some of my language abilities, which I greatly thank.