Mar 312012

La Paz, Bolivia.

“Soul-searching”. That’s looking at your navel. Or sitting in the hot tub thinking deep thoughts about yourself. Or perhaps confiding something to a diary or journal.

And these things do play a part, but I’ve found something vastly more important than that.

Special People.

The ones that listen as I try to explain some of the convolutions in my brain, and without saying a word help me get things so much more clearly in my head.

Those that dare to take a step that I’m longing to take and thus inspire me to actually take my step as well. I might not follow directly in their footsteps, but I will move forward with a more steady pace.

My friends who do not shy away from the difficult discussions, but instead keep on talking until the issue is truly resolved.

The persons that open up so much that I have no choice but to open up as well, to share my secrets and finally examine them in the light that they have been craving for. Monsters sometimes are monsters, but mostly they’re cute stuffed animals once you get to know them a bit.

The people who give me a kick in the but, to stop talking and start doing.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, everybody who tells me they trust me, that I can do it, that they have faith in me, that they love me.

I’m not putting any names in here, I don’t have to. You all know who you are. Thank you!

Want some Special People of your own? Try talking about the things that are truly important to you, the things that worry you and the things you think about. You’ll be surprised by the reactions!

Mar 262012

Copacabana, Bolivia

If you have a bag of marbles and you give half to your neighbor, you’re left with half a bag of marbles.

If you have a television and you give half of it to your friend, you both have something that doesn’t work half as well as a complete television.

Physical stuff doesn’t share very well. Giving it away leaves you with less. Sometimes with even less than you might expect, as in the case of half a television.

Some random other stuff to share:

After almost 5 months, I finally arrived in Bolivia (4 and a half month later than planned!)

Book is going well, chapter three is almost finished. Yay!

Went to visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. I broke one. (dropped through a thin bit, to go for an involuntary swim in the lake)

Bolivia is cool and cheap. Unfortunately ATM’s don’t seem to work here as well as they do back home…

“Duh!”, you might think. “Of course you are left with less if you share”. Yet for the most important things in life this is not true.

The movie I downloaded I can share with the world without losing anything myself. The joke I heard told in the pub I can tell again without diminishing anything for anybody (unless it’s a really bad joke of course).

Better still, some things get stronger if you share them! You get my praise for the the performance you gave that I really enjoyed. But if I tell other people how much I enjoyed it, you will feel even happier.

When you share the wisdom you gained over the years, you help another and you allow yourself to become even more wise as you open up to the insights of others.

Loving someone, saying so and acting on it only makes my love stronger.

We however act as though praise, wisdom and love are commodities. We act as though sharing them will leave us with less of them. They should be hoarded, kept save, only to be shared with a select few and then only if we get something in return. But the opposite is true! The more we give, the more we are left with. The more we share, the more there is.

A fair part of the world has enough in the sense of worldly possessions. We learned to take before giving, to barter and to manipulate to get more of what we wanted. And now we are stuck with the same mechanisms to get the things that are truly important, recognition, wisdom, love. Yet these do not follow a market mechanism. They are not scarce, do not diminish when used or given, are not consumed.

Improve the world: Give away that which is needed most, so that you yourself have more.

Mar 232012

Bus from Arequipa to Puno, Peru.

Back in the good old days there were sabre-tooth tigers, poisonous spiders, cliffs to fall from and water to drown in. All worthwhile things to fear, all very good to either stay far away from or to handle with extreme caution. Fears your mother would be proud of.

Scary kitty

And even though most of that stuff is now extinct, domesticated, tamed or left in Africa, we still fear them. A bit sad perhaps, but nothing to truly worry about.

What rules our lives much more is our fear to speak up, to look ridiculous, to be alone. Where did those come from?

Back in the good old days we spent our time hunting antelope, gathering herbs and running away from sabre-tooth tigers. And with the use of a bit of technology, we were damned good at it. Throwing axes to take out an antelope from a distance. Spears to keep away that sabre-tooth that’s making the neighborhood unsafe. Sticks to dig out the tastiest roots.

Life was good.

Perhaps a little too good?

Lots of food means most of your kids survive to a nice old age (say 25!), to have a whole litter of their own. Growing tribes, more mouths to feed. Enter the third rider of the apocalypse, Famine (the first two, Death and Pestilence were already sitting around the campfire). Time for part of the tribe to go look for pastures greener. Maybe things are better on the other side of that hill?

Fewer mouths to feed, more kids survive. Having kids of their own. Time to go look behind another hill. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Yet at some point, you’re going to run out of hills to look behind. Or at least, you will find some people already hiding behind it. Yet, you’re hungry. And they’ve got way more antelopes than they could possibly ever use. We could just take one, maybe two. Right?

Enter the fourth rider of the apocalypse: War.

The shaman is mumbling something incoherent as he sacrifices an antelope to the newly invented god of war, sure to bring you good luck in the coming battle. Your spears are sharpened, your throwing axes ready. You’re looking forward to the honor that will be bestowed upon you when you return.

Then one of your clan mates speaks up: “Perhaps those other guys aren’t so bad, if we just ask politely maybe we can have an antelope or two?” After a moment of deep silence the laughter starts. “Ridiculous! We tried that and last time and got our asses kicked! But if you feel like that how about you just do things the way you want them, but leave us alone!”

The lone warrior droops off.

The following day the war party return, victorious! New hunting grounds to feed the tribe for many moons to come. As one they had been, united against the common enemy! Singular in thinking and in action. And the results showed!

And the lone warrior? Without his tribe to support him he was an easy snack for the first sabre-tooth tiger to come across him.

Speaking up got him ridiculed, and he was left alone. Being on your own in the stone age kills.

No wonder these fears are so deeply ingrained in our subconsciousness.

Yet life nowadays is different. We (almost) life in a post-scarcity world (ok, the lucky do, but the number of lucky is growing). There is no war with our nearest neighbors and there never will be (for most of us). Being left alone does not mean death. And there are enough tribes out there who will happily accept us if things don’t quite work out with our current one.

So next time fear hits me, I’m going to thank my forefathers (and mothers) for getting me this far, but would they please take their no longer relevant fear and take a hike.

Perhaps you could do the same?

Mar 222012

Arequipa, Peru.

Three days of hiking through Colca Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon (USA).

I found I’m actually not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of depths…

Getting up at 3 AM (ok, I was supposed to get up at 3. At 3.30 the friendly night-guard came a-knocking on my door. The bus to take us had come while I was still deep in slumber land. They left to pick up some other passengers to return a few minutes later, giving me the time to get dressed and grab my bag), to drive to Chivay in Colca-Canyon-Land, where we were to have breakfast.

Meeting up with the rest of the group in the bus: Some Peruvians, two Canadian girls, an American couple, a British couple. General tourist riff-raff as you will find on any trek basically (I felt completely at home!)

Now, I have the unfortunate trait to be awake once I get up, even if it’s before 4 AM. And in a horribly good mood. Which is very irritating if you are not a morning person (some of my ex-girlfriends can attest to this).

Luckily for everybody, I wasn’t the only one. The British guy had the same disposition as I did, so we spent the first hour trading friendly insults and barter, whilst the rest desperately tried to ignore us.

Driving, breakfast, splitting up (some of the group were doing a 2 day hike, we were doing 3). Left with the two Canadian girls and a Frenchman who didn’t speak English (but good Spanish. With a horrible French accent) and who had thought it necessary to bring a change of clothes for every day, a sleeping bag, 4 liters of water and his laptop (he quickly found out that our guide (Juan. Everybody here is named Juan) was actually quite a good mule as he made Juan carry all his stuff. Pobre mula!

3 days of hiking, going down into the canyon, walking around, getting back up again. Wonderful. Stunning. Amazing. Terrifying!

Let me tell you one thing about canyons: They are steep. Which is bad enough when walking in them. But even worse looking down. I was out of my depth (pun intended. If you come over you have every right to giving me a slap in the head).

Yet every time I looked down, the butterflies in my stomach seemed a little less upset (why do they even worry, they can fly down!). So every time a little bit closer to the edge. With every hair-pin bend I gazed into the abyss a little longer.

And it works! Step by step my fear of heights (depths) is getting less and less. So, when we came to the bottom of the canyon it was time to take my new-found courage to the test:

Laughing in the face of fear

The view from above

The bridge was about 10 meters above the river. Not that much, but it gave a definite rush of adrenalin!

I wouldn’t say I’m cured of my fear of heights (depths), but it certainly got a lot more manageable!

So, next time there is the opportunity, I’m going sky-diving!

Are there places where you can learn to say a prayer?

Mar 172012

Arequipa, Peru.

A little under a week ago I finished and posted the first chapter of my book-to-be online (find it here) and by doing so reached the goal I had set for myself:
It is my goal to finish the first draft of the first chapter of my book, consisting of at least 2.500 words, and post it online, before the 1th of April 2012.

Since then I have been taking it easy for a bit, mostly enjoying the precious time that I had with Vivi to go see the Islas Balistas (poor man’s Galapagos) and Arequipa (where I still am right now, though she had to go back to Lima 🙁 ).

But, now it’s time to pick up my (proverbial) pen and start churning out those words again.

For my first chapter I found that it really helped me to have a clear-cut goal to work towards, so I’m going to set up a new one, this time for a bit more than a single chapter.

I’ve been reading up on how people actually write books. The lessons I took away so far are:

  • When writing, don’t edit. Create words, worry later about making everything perfect (or better, good enough). – This has been very hard to do, but I have found it very good advice.
  • Create a routine of writing. Write every day if at all possible. – Also good advice. I sometimes found it hard to start, but once busy, I got into a flow very easily.
  • Set a daily goal of how many characters or words you want to write. – I have been focusing on a chapter but I think this would actually be a better idea, as it gives me the opportunity to asses every day whether I made my goal or not.
  • A good story is some sort of “conflict”, with an initiation, crescendo and resolution. – That got me thinking a lot. What is to be the (main) conflict of my book?

I found that I spent quite a bit of time on not just the story, but also on the background, the world I’m creating. That doesn’t go into the book, but it is very useful to me in creating something consistent and in my opinion believable. When working on my first goal (my first chapter) I was a a bit scared in the beginning that all my time would go to “world building”, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to make the actual goal itself. Thus, I want to include anything I do for world building in the goal.

When actually spending the time to sit down, I had no problem writing a thousand words per day. This would thus be a good minimum to strive towards. I am however on the move and writing every day might not be possible. Thus, a weekly goal of say 6.000 words might be a good idea.

My parents will be arriving in South America to join me for a bit of backpacking (yay, way cool!) in the beginning of May. I think I won’t want to spend a lot of time behind the computer with them around, so I’ll set my intermediate goal for just before May and decide on what to do in May when the time comes 🙂 That gives me just over 6 full weeks of writing, or 36.000 words.

Thus, my goal is:
Before 1 May 2012 I will write for my book 6.000 words per week, making a total of at least 36.000 words. These words might be directly part of the story or they may be part of the background material.

Note that I’m not including the posting of anything online (don’t want to spoil everything!) though if you bugger me for it enough I might put another chapter online at some point 🙂