Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Back from Lebanon

Finally back from Lebanon and getting prepared for the last stretch before I leave the UAE!

My trip was not as relaxing as I wished. I spend almost half of it sick at home because of some food poisoning or whatever it was. I still have an upset stomach, better be careful with what I eat!

While I still have family over there, and although it’s a beautiful country, traveling to Lebanon has become less exciting for me.
Sure there is still much to see over there, but unfortunately many places have been “plagued” and corrupted by politics. Old buildings, Landscapes or touristic places are “decorated” with political party flags or portraits of “leaders”. In Lebanon, it is unacceptable not to have political ideas or not to belong to any movement. That’s all they have and all they are interested in… Politics.

Over the years, I personally find that Lebanon hasn’t changed much. It is still as chaotic as it was before. It must also be one of the last people on Earth that still clap when the plane lands safely in Beirut (I mean.. do I have to clap to my taxi driver when he gets me somewhere?).

Still, politics aside, it remains a beautiful country with amazing landscapes. A concentrate of mountains, valleys, beaches and forests in such a tiny space. You can go from baking under the sun on the beach to skiing on the snowy slopes of the mountains in less than 30 minutes! (if no traffic jam that is..).
I just hope it remains that way and some areas would stay protected as buildings tend to pop up here and there very fast, spoiling the whole landscape and wilderness.

I had the chance to visit 2 areas while I stayed there. The North of Lebanon and Baalbeck, the biggest temple dedicated to Jupiter in the Middle East. I’ll write about it in 2 different posts with photos.
North of Lebanon is still one of those rare untouched areas with amazing mountains, valleys and old villages.

Overall, it was an “ok” trip, if I hadn’t been so sick. Time to get seriously to work now and prepare my departure for the 5th of September.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to overcome Doubt and Fear?

Sitting in a popular CafĂ©, in clean new clothes, enjoying my mug of hot chocolate, I start typing my new blog entry. I think of what I might do this evening: Meet up with some friends and have a drink in a bar? Watch a movie? Go shopping for new gadgets? Or maybe just chill at home in my comfortable couch, browsing on my laptop or playing some new games…

My phone rings, I got a message! My friends? No it’s the bank.. My salary just got transferred to my account.. Sweet! Maybe I should go shopping then!

And this is when that little voice in the head starts kicking in. “Enjoy it, because in 2 months, you’ll be left alone, no money, no comfort, no pleasure”.

This is when I start suddenly to doubt. Am I really making a wise decision? Leaving all this behind to start a new life from scratch, travelling around, taking photos and trying to make a living with it, is it REALLY a good idea?

Doubt, Fear.. They keep on paralyzing us from time to time and try to murder the motivation we need to carry on with our plans. We’ve all experienced that. Many people just drop their plans or dreams from fear of the unknown, because they are listening to that little voice in their head. We resist change!
So what should we do to make these little voices shut up? Easy! Prove them wrong!

Very often, our doubts and fears are based on preconceived ideas and beliefs. Since childhood, we are conditioned to believe in “facts” that slow us down and prevent us from straying out of the path society or families impose us. The World is dangerous out there! Take recent examples: “Crisis”, the “Swine Flu”, Terrorist attacks… Scary! It’s a bad idea to leave your job, even though you hate it because you’ll probably stay unemployed and starve to death. It’s also a bad idea to travel in some countries because of the diseases and attacks!

There is always a risk in everything you do. As there is a risk when you cross the street in your hometown or have a heart attack while working in your cubicle.
We often use these beliefs and project ourselves in the future. Negative thoughts end up creating doubt and fear settles in.

So what is the solution? Analyze your doubts!

It is easy to just dismiss them trying to convince yourself that they are false reasons. It could work for a while, but that little pesky voice will keep on coming back again and again. It’s just like a “snooze” button. You might be able to get away with it for a while, but dismissing the thoughts without really analyzing them will keep them at the back of your head, and become an emotional baggage that would end up slowing you down. Just like pushing the dust under the carpet! You might know they are wrong but you have to prove it to yourself!

For every doubt you have, listen to it and try to come up with a solution that would prove it wrong, or a plan that would make it seem pointless.

I often am afraid I would be left alone with no income. But if I really think about it, why should I be left alone? I am traveling!! I WILL be meeting amazing people everyday probably. So many opportunities to make new friends! Plus, communicating is easy today with so many options to keep contact with my loved ones. I just can’t be alone! Why be afraid?
And in case I run out of money, I have so many opportunities to find a job. Sure I might not be able to have a great job with a great income (who knows) but enough to be able to continue traveling and develop my photography is all I need. And in the worst case? I just put all my traveling on hold and come back to find a better job and come up with better plans. In all cases, I will have learned a lot from traveling and my mistakes would have made me stronger, wiser and more confident.

It’s just logic thinking. Take the doubt, analyze it, come up with solutions and there you go! Those little voices won’t have any arguments against you anymore! They might come up with new ones, but you’ll just repeat the same process.

Finally, the best solution is to avoid projecting yourself in the future with negative thoughts. Live NOW, think NOW. Nobody knows for sure what tomorrow is made of. You might fail, or you might succeed even better than you thought! Keep your thoughts positive and don’t always be on a defensive mode. The world is not a dangerous place. If you advance hidden behind your huge shield, you won’t see the opportunities that present themselves before you.

Have Faith, keep positive and carry on with your dreams! :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So what do I feel exactly?

I have been asked a few times what I felt about the trip. Was I excited? Scared? Impatient?

I have - and still do - gone through a wide variety of emotions. Every day!
So what do I feel exactly?

-Excitement / Joy:
Of course I am excited and happy! It is a dream coming true for me! I always wanted to travel around the world and discover new places and culture. Share knowledge with new people. It IS exciting to embark on an unknown journey leaving everything behind. Change is exciting, just as moving to a new city or country.
I also know that this journey will help me become a better person, stronger, more confident and with much to share. It will also help me become a better photographer and follow my passion. So yes, I AM excited and happy!

To be honest, yes and no. I am impatient to finish with this job I have as I am not motivated anymore and never liked it anyway. I want to get over with it and be free to start my journey. But I am not really impatient to leave yet! I know it is arriving, slowly but surely. I have many things to do prior to leaving. I do not want to burn the steps and feel I am running away from my old Life. I want it to be a smooth transition. Not much left anyway… less than 2 months!

-Doubt and Fear:
Aha! I would be lying if I said I am sure about my decision and am not afraid of what is going to happen. Yes, almost every day I have a moment of weakness. I doubt, I ask too many questions… Am I doing the right thing? Was this really what I wanted to do? Is leaving the comfort of my Life to jump into the unknown a sane decision?
For years I have been used to living in a very comfortable environment, where everything is easily accessible and available. I do have a well-paid job compared to foreign countries. I also do have most of my friends and my family here close to me.
So obviously, a sudden change just feels weird. In a world in “crisis”, is it a clever thing to do? While people are losing their jobs and struggling to find a new one, is it a stupid decision to deliberately quit and go on an adventure?
I sometimes feel I have rushed things. We all are afraid of failure and of the unknown, especially when we are used to our comfort bubble. But in my case, I guess it’s the “risk” that is making me feel alive, giving a meaning to what I am doing and what I intend to be in my Life. Besides, I neither loved my job nor this country I live in. What is considered more insane: Taking the risk on an unknown journey? Or staying in a place where you will find no pleasure, no peace and no personal fulfillment? I do feel like a flower in a golden vase, but soon enough I’ll just wither. I prefer wild flowers in open fields on a mountain!
I have found a way to overcome my fears and will talk about it later in another post.

I always lived surrounded with family and friends. And just thinking about my next step, I do sometimes feel lonely. I always counted on my friends and family to support me, and when in doubt, I’d look behind to search for a comforting smile. This time I will be alone. I will have to take my own decisions alone. Familiar faces will just become pixels across the screen. I guess this is the perfect time to learn that I will always have my best friend with me wherever I go: Myself.

Ever since I went trekking in Iceland, and after I came from the Camino in Spain, I tasted the joy of a “simple” Life with no clutter. We are too used to live in a material world. “I own therefore I am”. One of the most beautiful moments I shared with my friend on the Camino is a simple sunset over the distant mountains. I guess we take those simple things for granted and search for complexity to give a meaning to our lives. So wrong…

This is the most important feeling I have within me. Faith is what drives me forward, It destroys doubt and fear. It’s the fuel that makes the machine run. I have faith in my capacities and believe in myself. I have faith that I will succeed as a great photographer, even though I have no artistic education or background.
My passion and my faith are paving my way through the unknown. I sometimes walk blindfolded but I know that a hand is guiding me through my journey. Even if I make mistakes, which I will certainly do, they will help me rise stronger, wiser and I will be able to correct my path to always move forward and reach my destination.

And as I said it once to my close friend: In a few years from now, I would like to be able to stand up, and sing “My Way” from Sinatra, and meaning every single word of it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh Lucky me...

Traveling around the world has always been one of my secret dreams. When I finally decided to make it a reality, and started talking about it to people around me, the most common answer I got was either : “Are you sure you want to do this?” …. (YES I WANT TO!) Or :“Go for it while you still can!” , “You are young you can do it! Lucky you!” .

………………….. Riiiight ……………………………..…..

1- Are you sure about this?

I know it does sound crazy. I have a comfortable Life in this country (UAE), I can have a good career in my field and all I need is to find a partner to have a family and a “bright future”, right?

That’s not what I want. YES I am sure of what I’m doing. I have been wanting to travel and leave this country for years now, and yet every time I just fall back in my old little routine and postpone my dreams of “freedom”.

It is not an easy decision to take; we humans tend to resist change. And change is what we need to keep our life exciting, and filled with surprises.

So yes, although it still is a bit unclear in my mind concerning the plans I have, I know I want to jump in and be lead by my Faith. Passion drives me in photography, I know I’ll be able to fulfill it. The World is not as harsh as it is shown; it’s actually a beautiful place with amazing people!
And let’s forget about the World Crisis, Swine Flu and other apocalyptic events for a while…

2- Go for it!, You are Young! Lucky You!

Sorry to say this but… That’s bullshit.

Why should I feel luckier than others? It has nothing to do with luck and age!

A friend once told me: “You are lucky to have seen the northern lights”
I replied: “No. I just bought a ticket and went to see it”. Easy.

When I ask “Why don’t you do it?”, I get always the same answers: Responsibility, and money.

Well, let me start with money. I have enough savings to be able to live less than 6 months in Europe without income.. Is that much? We are talking about my savings, all I have!
So, NO, I do not have more money than anyone else, I am just going to try to live a very simple Life, I don’t need 5 star hotels, I don’t need a 3 course meal every day. A couch/sleeping bag and a sandwich are enough. It’s a choice. Not everyone likes to live like that.
I have a few plans to try to make some minimum income while I’m on the move, and try to sustain with that until I am able to live out of my photos and projects.

Concerning responsibility? True, I am single, no loans, no children. I have a job but I can quit. All these are false excuses too. I have met many families travelling around the world with their children.. That’s an amazing experience for their kids!

I have seen a couple doing an 800km (500mile) pilgrimage with their 14 months old daughter, and I have never seen a baby smile as much as she did! How do these people cope? They just accept to do some sacrifices. It’s not easy, nobody said it was.

What about age? I met on the same pilgrimage path, a 72 year old mother, and 70 year old American man, a 70 year old hospitalero that goes surfing and skiing every week, and an 85 year old couple that were doing it for the 12th time.. How’s that for an answer? ;)

So what drives those people to go on a long trip? It’s not luck, not lack of responsibility, not age.


I have the guts to do it and I have the will to do it. I am afraid of what awaits for me in a few months, but I use it to fuel my passion. I have Faith!

So next time, when you feel I am lucky to be able to do this, stop and ask yourself: Do you REALLY want to do the same thing or are you happy with your comfort? Do you REALLY have responsibilities that tie you down and prevent you from travelling? I hope not! And I wish we could meet somewhere in a random country and talk about our exciting adventures together!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Preparing the Trip... Part I

Preparing a Big Trip needs to be done many months before, a huge preparation. Choosing to leave everything behind and traveling with the most basic stuff is actually a pretty overwhelming challenge!

I have two months left an I feel a bit lost. Where should I start? Between canceling memberships, following up with the banks, insurances, calculating budgets... Many things to do and think about and so little time.

Also, for years.. I have always been the "collector" kind of guy. The guy who would never throw anything, thinking it could be useful again in the future. You can imagine the mess in my room he he. And now, I have to clean up and throw most of my stuff, give them away, and even better, sell them so I could have extra cash for my travels!

In fact, to start completing what has to be done, it is quite simple:

- First, make a clear list of plans, goals and to-do lists for the next 2 months with, if possible, a deadline for each item on the list.
-Once the list is done, start immediately by taking steps towards clearing it. Every day. Even the smallest step is better than sitting and wondering where to start.
-Self-discipline is the key to achieve those goals. Nobody could really force you to do these things unless YOU decide to do it. Motivate yourself, keep a clear track of your goals and how they advance and get excited about where you are heading. It's always the first few steps that are the hardest.
- Try to start with the biggest and most boring tasks. When time becomes short, you will not be able to clear up those items and panic will strike! Get it done and enjoy the last month without rushing yourself.

I guess it's about time I stop procrastinating and kick myself to start doing what I definitely need to do. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It all begins...

Every once in a while, we all have our life changing experiences. Something, like an event, or an encounter can trigger a transformation within us that would draw a new path towards new horizons.

I had this trigger last month, after I came back from the fantastic pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

For the past 5 years, I am having a comfortable life, with a stable job, a nice salary, a home, my family and many friends around me in the UAE. I enjoyed it as much as I could.

But I still find it a very limiting life experience. I feel like a bird in a golden cage. I am not satisfied with the job I do, even though it pays my bills well. I am not satisfied with the “posh” lifestyle of the country and the extra comfort provided to us which tends to turn people into lazy beings.

I dream of freedom, of wide open spaces and discovery. I seek knowledge, new cultures. I seek Nature, the beauty of a majestic mountain, or the richness of a forest. I just seek Simplicity.

To get straight to the point, I have finally decided to take a step towards this freedom and follow the dreams and passion I have been cultivating for the past 2 years. In exactly 2 months, I will be leaving my comfort and going on an adventure of a lifetime.

Travelling around the world, with my backpack containing just what I need, and my Camera on my side. I dream to be a renowned travel and nature photographer, able to send a message to Humanity concerning the environment issues, and sharing different cultures with the World.

Big dreams I know, but I am confident and trust my capacity. I have Faith and Passion!

This blog will be my “travel journal” that I’d share with friends, family, and the whole world. I hope you’ll follow me through my journey, share the good (and bad) moments with me and always encourage me whenever doubt hits.

Thank you!