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happiness

m’hamid under water

Three weeks ago, I thought I would simply fly to Agadir, take a night bus to Zagora and a Taxi to M’Hamid to visit my friend Yahya and walk for one week through Sahara’s heat. I ended up in the rain at the Atlantik coast, in a surfers hot spot, in an overfull minibus in Sahara, at a river where no river is, freezing in the desert, out of five nights in a row three in a bus or a plane.

How did that happen? As I wrote on one of my previous posts, southern Morocco was pretty much under water and all the streets going further south were closed. So I ended up working some days in a small surfers hot spot called Taghazout. Since I had enough work to be finished, I enjoyed the Wifi I found at any café and my hostel.
When the weather settled down and the sun was shining the second day in row some roads toward Ouarzazate and Zagora were cleared and I took the nightbus there. Although traveling in the night I could tell that bridges were damaged and the street at some places went over dirttracks. I was really surprised that obviously the buses in Morocco not only drive without Airconditioning in the summer but also without heating in the winter. I pretty much froze my butt off. In Zagora I tried to pick the „Grand Taxi“ to Zagora which are special enough. But since the two bridges between Zagora and Taghonite were destroyed it looked at first if I couldn’t find a way to get there… Two Moroccan tried to sell me a 4×4 trip right away, but I thought, that if a 4×4 can find a route there will be others who drive there with their normal cars. I was right and found a minibus. These are the normal Mercedes transporter with seats, plastic chairs and wooden benches in it. That way 22 people fit in one car and tons of stuff on the roof. Off we went for 2,80€ three hours mostly off road to M’Hamid.
There I was and as unbelievable as it seemed to me M’Hamid was now divided by a large and three meter deep river. Unfortunately local officials decided to rebuilt the bridge over that river. It was without water for years now. A day after the old one was torn down, it started raining and the river came back. Since the normal desert inhabitant can’t swim and boats are normally not built in the desert there was no way to go from the one side to the other. To help the other side with food army trucks were going a 150KM detour route to find the next bridge.
Outside the little town the desert was covered with greens and rocks seemed to be covered by velvet greens. Even the highest dunes were completely wet as soon as you dig more than three cm. As soon as I was in the shade, clouds covered the sun or it was becoming night I started freezing a lot. I wore everything I had with me and was so happy I had my 0°C down sleeping bag with me.
My friends’ desert camp was flooded, destroyed and swam away just days earlier. He showed me the video of the helicopter coming to rescue the Swiss guest who called the Swiss Ambassador to rescue them, sitting in a tent on top of the dunes… leaving the Moroccan back. They just waited another day and walked back to M’Hamid. Obviously the Swiss had an appointment they needed to make.
We discussed until late in the night, what needs to be done before new year. They have bookings but no camp and Dec/Jan is the most important season for the desert camp.
I once again learnt to put things into perspective. What is an appointment you have to make compared to your whole existence? Especially if you consider the costs of the evacuation (Switzerland has to pay) being more expensive than the rebuilding of the whole camp will be.
And still… all my friends had to say about it: I’m neither happy nor sad, it is the way it is and we just figure out how to proceed. For sure, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow…

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happiness

due to the current situation

 

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happiness

other than expected

Sometimes I make plans and everything turns out to different.

I left Germany yesterday and expected to be in Sahara today. Well, what I did not expect was so much rain. All routes going south are closed. No busses are driving at the moment. I met some Germans that were lost. Helped them to find their Hotel. Over closed roads and broken bridges, went to a small surfers village north of Agadir, met somebody whom I will help with his website for his hostel and therefor can stay free of charge. I will proceed to the desert when the road are open again. My lesson once again: take it easy and it will turn out good.

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happiness

how you put giraffe in fridge – 3 steps

I am on my way into the desert again. After the heaviest rainfall in southern Morocco that people can remember it seems as if the desert is not only green, but as if I will be able to go for swim. The situation will be something absolutely new and I am excited what I will learn out of this trip.

Traveling by foot in Sahara is an act of meditation and focus on the easiness of life. When waking up, you can neither go to the kitchen nor to the next bakery. If you want a coffee you have to make fire first.
When you walk, there is no distraction. Landscape changes only as fast as you walk. That will be about the fastest movement you will see during the whole trip, unless you try to catch a wild donkey, which I tried last time. I tell you. They are way faster than you expect.
All you do in the evenings is stare in the fire or to the stars. And you can tell or listen to stories. Last time we heard the following question one night: How do you put a giraffe into fridge in three steps? Do you have an idea? Write the answer in the comments.
As this trip is relying so much on simplicity I tried to to realize the most simple packing list I ever travelled with. I am carrying the following with me:

  • trekking backpack
  • runners backpack
  • thin mattress
  • sleeping bag
  • soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, towel, scissors, razor blades
  • sewing kit
  • Ducktape
  • one pair Chala-Sandals
  • one pair of socks
  • two undershorts
  • two T-shirts
  • one short pair of pants
  • one long pair of pants
  • one longsleeve
  • one hoodie
  • one hardshelljacked
  • one blue tuaregturban
  • two buffs
  • one short runners tights
  • stove
  • gasbottle
  • multitool
  • headlamp
  • onepan
  • one pot
  • one mug
  • salt
  • spoon
  • fork
  • water bottle
  • drinking bag 10l
  • paper tissue
  • MacBook Air
  • USB Internet Stick
  • cellphone
  • Gopro Hero
  • one writing blog
  • one pen

My plan is to fly directly to Tansania after the Saharatour and travel through east Africa for two week. After that I will stay on the Islands of Sansibar for Christmas, New Years and my birthday. I want to live simple, run a lot and find my time for writing. All of that under the African sky and in front of the Indian Ocean. It is a test I will write about…

Keep in mind: next edition will be April 16th to 23rd 2015

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happiness

no digital nomads

Do you want to know what the sahara experience is like? I read a blog post the other day.

It is about the „analog nomads“. Katharina & Henryk used to be both Berlin based and are now traveling the world to collect memories. Having digital jobs they try to keep working while on the road and therefor write about the digital nomads. In this article nevertheless they put down their memories being unplugged, living by the rise and the dawn of the sun in the Moroccon Sahara. I  immediately thought about me (and maybe soon our) time in the desert.

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happiness

why EMMA?

Why oh why did we choose Emma? We had two good paying jobs in Berlin. A really nice apartment in Kreuzberg that was not only good situated but also calm, with a southside balcony, a view over Schlesischer Busch and Treptower Park. We were able to combine all good sides of city live. Everything in walking distance with an idyllic view. Organic and regional supermarkets with international restaurants. Friends with lots of activity possibilities. Why would somebody give that up?

Well, I can tell you at least why we gave that up almost a year ago. Both of us love traveling and we have already seen a bit of the world. We like Berlin and we enjoyed our life there. But we had one feeling in common. The more we saw of the world, the more we had the feeling that most of it remained unseen. It became obvious to us that we wanted more. Life is so extraordinary and has so many variations around the world that sticking to one place for rest of our lifes felt like a limitation.
Life is a journey. It’s about travelling, it’s about moving forward. Time doesn’t stand still. Time is always now, but a twink of an eye later it is past and the future lies ahead and everything is changing. The thought to preserve a status quo is an illusion. Time moves on. The moment that you truly don’t move on anymore as a person you are dead. We are not yet and want to decide about our life, not fitting into a system because others may think that it should be like that.
This massive wish for personal freedom made us want to break free and enjoy as much freedom as possible. Freedom means to be as less dependent on others as possible. Most people I know (including me) are dependent on certain financial situations. Made commitments in the past and have to deliver nowadays. Having ongoing contracts, be it with your landlord, your telephone company, your employer is also limiting your personal free choice.

Therefore we took four decisions:
1. Quit ongoing contracts (apartment, telephone, internet) and switched to an RV and prepaid contracts
2. Quit our jobs respectively changed to a halftime
3. bought a historic (analog) car without IT systems, so we could repair everything independently
4. We started travelling and worked on the road

It was incredible to experience how much time I had after leaving my comfort zone. So much of the stuff we do during a day was dominated by routines. Although I thought that I was even quite flexible before it but found it amazing how much you win when you have less stuff to care about.
With a lack of distraction it becomes obvious to me what I dislike. Much of that I left behind. With little left to disagree with my mind focused more and more on what I really love, really value.

  • Running
  • Nature
  • Writing
  • Teaching
  • Silence
  • Peace
  • Tranquility
  • Smoothness

Having this in mind I keep thinking about to achieve more of this for myself in the future.

The more I see, the more I know how little I know.

Life is a journey. I am traveling.

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happiness

the little things in life

If you believe that the big things matter most go on a long journey with an old car. I believe that the little things define the quality of our life. When we bought our car to go live on the road and travel a lot, we thought a lot about what car to buy, but once on the road, other things became important to us.

Looking back I have to admit that I had absolutely no clue about cars when we bought Emma. I could test whether it is running or not. Once we were on the road much more mattered.

  • How fast does it go?.
  • How much gas does it use at which speed?
  • How loud is it inside at which speed?

It did not only matter anymore if everything was running when we started. Now it mattered:

  • How often do they have to be replaced?
  • How easy is it to buy spare parts?
  • How easy are they to change on the road?

We wanted to have water in our RV to be more independent, but on the road it was important:

  • How much water do we use per day?
  • How much water fits in the car?
  • How do we get new water when traveling?
  • How easy is it to fill up the water?

You see, that list can go on for ever. More important than these question concerning our car and our travel became the details. The big decisions in our life mark the direction we move, but as written before the details define the quality. I use these questions over and over in my coachings. Often it is not so important what you do but how you do it. What are the things you love doing. If you like conversation, does it mean in person, in meetings, in presentations, on the phone, written? Do you prefer that people come towards you or do you want to start the conversation? Do you prefer to listen more or talk?
Similar to these questions you can try to find out the details about every aspect in your life, private and professional. It might help you to examine why exactly you like some situations and others not.

When you try to remember a situation that you want to examine, try to rebuild it in your memory and then focus on the details. You rebuild it with remembering and paying attention all your 6 senses.

  • What do you see? Anything else? Black/white or color? Which color? Bright or soft? Anything else…?
  • What do you hear? Anything else? Loud or soft? Continuing or repeating? Anything else?
  • What do you smell? Anything else? Sweet? Fruity? Anything else?
  • What do you taste? Bitter? Sour? Anything else?
  • What do you feel? Where do you feel it? Warm or cold? Pulsating or steady? Anything else?

Now you, have everything at hand to change the details for future situation. Pay attention to it. It is not only important what job you have or what vacation you do. It is always about HOW you do it

Categories
happiness

a european dirtbag’s eight-month road-trip

A while ago I wrote an article for dirtbagrunners a pretty cool American site of easy going sandal wearing ultra runners. Have a look yourself:

It took me a while to get where I am now.

Living in an RV, running ultra distances, working remote while sitting at the beach in board shorts, organizing adventure seminars, writing my blogs. Most of all: not putting too much focus into the expectations of others. When I started my long journey (and I am not even halfway there), I remembered what I used to love about being a kid: Running in the woods, playing in the mud, and not caring much about anything else.

One of the first things I did to change my life from being a suit wearing, business doing arrogant piece of… myself… was doing sports again. Little by little, first in the gym, then outside, then with minimal shoes (I read about vibrams fivefingers before), then travel & sports, then longer distances, then sandals, then solo in Sahara, then barefoot, …then ultra.
The more time I spent running outside the more free I felt. I did not want to go back home.

Home… what is that supposed to mean anyway? When all you strive for is to see more of the things you haven’t seen so far?

After having rearranged almost all aspects of my old life, I knew, I didn’t want to stay at one place anymore. I am the best version of myself when I am free and traveling. Judy, who loves that idea, has lived in different southern African countries for three year during her studies and was bored by her life as a surgeon in a Berlin based hospital. She quit her job for half a year, we gave our apartment in Berlin to friends, bought a small 1971 Mercedes truck that was converted into an RV in 1981, our EMMA and off we went. Quite old-school and slow but that became the way of our travel.

We couldn’t go fast anywhere, but time didn’t matter anyway. All we owned was with us. I worked internet based because gas still wanted to be paid for. It was still winter in Europe and our first destination was Africa and the Sahara. On our way there, we travelled through Switzerland, went snowboarding, left for France and then Spain. If spring didn’t come towards us, we would search and find it somewhere else. The Almond trees were flowering and were coloring the valleys pink. While snow was covering the peaks of Sierra Nevada we slowly moved through a colored scenery.
It’s funny how your perspective changes when you change the circumstances of your life.

With most of Europe being populated quite densely it is not easy to find a place to stay for the night. “Camping” is only allowed in “camping places”, and if you rest anywhere else somebody will notice and might want to argue with you about that not being allowed. Living in anything else than a house is officially illegal in most of Europe. In Berlin, being a tolerant city, you will find places with several other historic campers while in the rest of Germany and even more so in Switzerland this is causing quite some excitement.

Southern France along the mediteranean sea is used to thousands of RVs and mobile homes in the summer (all being tourists for a week or two). As a result even entering the cities or villages with an RV is often prohibited.

Completely different in Spain. With these huge landscapes and very few inhabitants, it seems as if nobody cares if you stay somewhere in the mountains or even in abandoned places right next to the rough sea. What is new to us though, is being absolutely alone. When you think that every noise you hear outside shouldn’t  be there. But nobody cares about us, not the dogs we hear in the distance nor the very few cars passing us seldomly. Soon, we leave Spain for Morocco where two friends of ours accompany us for three weeks. That is so perfect about traveling, well… living in an RV. If somebody wants to join us we always find a place for them to stay. No worries about booking or organizing a vacation. Just pick them up and drive somewhere nice.

The North African country of Morocco is just on the other side of the Mediterranean sea at the street of Gibraltar. I seems as if you could swim there. Although being near to Europe, Morocco is a different story. When it is getting dark there, it is getting dark. Mostly no streetlights and if you are not in a bigger city almost no lights at all. Nevertheless people will appear from somewhere. You think you are alone. No city, no village near and night appearing, but people show up from somewhere. They try to talk to you, sell you something or trade something for weed. If we don’t want anything it happens that the frustrated seller, tries to unscrew something from the car.

Or… police show up at three in the night threatening to arrest us and then guiding us to the next camping place, which I am sure belongs to a cousin. So we just drive of to another place. Talking almost no Arabic and no Berber language doesn’t make communication easier unless the Moroccon speaks french what many do. This combination makes us uneasy, so most of the time we pay someone a Euro per night or day to “watch” us. As long as you “belong” to a Moroccon, all the others don’t even dare to talk to you.

As I find out soon, running is not that easy in Morocco. Because… I’m white. White people are thought to be rich. White people are also thought to be lazy and to loose their orientation without any car navigation. In Morocco you run only if you are poor. Nobody runs for the fun of it.
Now those Moroccons see this white guy running alone. That can only mean:
A) he is lost,
B) in danger or
C) stupid,
…or maybe all together.

In any case, these are reasons enough to stop the person from running and offer to help them (for money) or try to sell them something. Or, send them in the wrong direction so they can later ask for help to find the way back (for money).

Remarkably, the further we leave the touristic regions and the poorer the inhabitants become, the friendlier, nicer and more helpful the people are. It seems to me as if money consumption and the full shelves of the supermarkets corrupt the people.

Meet someone in the middle in the desert and I guarantee you they will be friendly. The nicest people we therefore met lived in very remote areas. The scarier it might appear to a western city person, the more safe you are and the deeper and better the experience becomes. The most peaceful nights we have, are deep n the Sahara dunes. More than a day trip away from the next place of civilization.

We stop and run in the Riff mountains, in the windy city of Essaouira, chaotic colorful Marrakesch, the high Atlas mountains, the perfect surf spots near Agadir (staying directly at the breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean), the Sahara desert near the Algerian border, the middle Atlas, the 1500 year old historic town of Fes, Chefchoun all the way up in the mountains in the worlds largest weed-growing region and all the way through Spain and France and Belgium and Germany back to Berlin.

Berlin is easy again. It is summer and it seems as if Berlin becomes the nicest place to be as long as the sun is shining. Pretty much in the center of Berlin you  find a former airport (Tempelhof) which is now a huge park, about 3 by 3 kilometers. And you can stay near it with your RV. Perfect for running, chilling, landkiting, sitting in a coffee bar with free wifi and some time for writing.

Judy already starts her new position as a surgeon in a Swiss hospital in Thun in August. Unfortunately the legal circumstances in Switzerland make it quite necessary to have an apartment for her. End of September Judy rents an apartment just outside the city, five kilometers up the mountain with a view on Thuner lake and several snow-covered mountains. The scenery seems to be a gigantic adventure park for grown up kids.

Eight month lie behind us. We lost most of our conventions somewhere on the road. Life seems to be everthing that happens outside your office. The most beautiful moments are outside by foot and preferably on single trails. We are focusing a new challenge at the moment. Two full-time jobs in Western Europe and two hearts striving for freedom. As long as there are alpine trails to be discovered this might work.

Floh is a do it yourself, whatever it is you wanna do guy. While earning his money as the ‘Glücklichtrainer’ which means happiness coach in German he finds true bliss when running ultra trails. Having put this desire away for most of his twenties he is up and running since his 30st birthday increasing quantity and quality ever since and decreasing equipment needed to do so. Since January 2014 he lives in his 1971 Mercedes-Benz RV and is traveling Europe and North Africa with his girlfriend Judy in search for running adventures & the meaning of life.
Living the motto: Minimize the stuff you need and maximize the happiness you experience!
He writes (mostly in German) about running at nativerunners.com and about mnimalist life at simplicity-of-happiness.com

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happiness

malawi see

Wenn du dir vorstellen möchtest, wie eine Roadtrip durch Tansania aussieht, solltest du dir ein riesiges Land vorstellen, das zu grossen Teilen unbewohnt und fast überall ländlich geprägt ist. 80% der Strassen in Tansania sind nicht geteert und so kann es sein, dass eine „normale“ Überlandstrasse einige 100km bestenfalls aus Schotter bestehen kann.

Sind die Strassen geteert, dann bedeutet das noch lange nicht, dass sie es auch durchgehend sind. Manchmal fehlen Abschnitte, nahezu immer gibt es scheinbar aus dem nichts auftauchend grosse Speedbumps oder einfach andere Hindernisse auf der Strasse. Ausser anderen Autos, LKW’s und natürlich Bussen (Transportmittel Nummer 1 in Afrika) wirst du auch alles erdenklich andere auf den Strassen entdecken. Angefangen bei Fussgängern, Kindern, Ziegen, Kühen, Karren und Hühnern wirst du allerorts Polizeikontrollen und manchmal auch das eine der andere Zebra auf der Strasse entdecken.

Auf einer solchen Teerstrasse sind wir vor einigen Tagen von Daressalam Richtung Südwesten aufgebrochen. Obwohl geteert kamen wir nicht wirklich schnell voran, da unglaublich viele LKW’s auf den Strassen unterwegs waren. Als eine der wenigen geteerten Strassen befanden wir uns auf der Hauptroute von Daressalam, also dem indischen Ozean nach Sambia und Malawi, die beide über keinen eigenen Zugang zum Meer verfügen. Dementsprechend hoch war sowohl das Verkehrsaufkommen als auch die Dichte an Polizeikontrollen. Gleichzeitig wurde die Strasse auf einer Länge von ca 300km erneuert und vorerst einmal die neue Abflüsse unter der Strasse verlegt. Das führte zu einem 1m breiten mit Sand aufgefüllten Loch quer über die Strasse alle 500 bis 1000m. Es dauerte schlichtweg Ewigkeiten um das südliche Hochland zu erreichen und die letzten 40km Dirtroad verdienen sehr wohl die direkte deutsche Übersetzung Dreckstrasse. Doch dann umrundet von bis zu fast 3.000m hohen Bergen, stehen wir an einem See der so seit über 1 Millionen Jahren besteht. Der Malawisee, in Tansania auch Nyassasee genannt, der die grösste Artenvielfalt an Fischen aufweist, über 500km lang ist und fast 1km tief ist.

Atemberaubend diesen gigantischen See das Erste mal zu sehen. Der grosse Sandstrand, und dann das glasklare Süßwasser bis zum Horizont. Hier endet Tansania und der Blick geht Richtung Malawi zur Rechten und Moçambique zur Linken. Der See offenbart die unglaubliche Grösse und Schönheit von scheinbar unberührter Natur. Wenn du 5 Minuten zu Fuss zum nächsten Fluss gehst, kannst du Hippos und eventuell sogar Krokodile im Wasser entdecken. Wenn du über den See blickst, siehst du weder Gebäude, noch Schiffe, noch Strassen oder Autos. Wenn es ruhig wird, hörst du nur das sanfte Plätschern der Wellen, wenn es dunkel wird, wird es dunkel. So einfach kann glücklich sein.

Wie sieht es bei dir aus? Wann bist du das letzte mal der Reizüberflutung entronnen?

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happiness

auszeit

Seit ein paar Tagen sind wir im Busch unterwegs. Nachdem wir seit Oktober in Sansibar sind und zuerst richtig Gas gegeben haben um die Lodge für die Weihnachtssaison fertig zu bekommen ging es dann noch einmal hoch her um unseren Gästen das bestmögliche Erlebnis zu bieten. Jetzt haben wir uns zum Anfang des Jahres eine kleine Auszeit mit Freunden gegönnt und sind mit einem Offroader 14 Tage im südlichen Tansania unterwegs.
Die Lodge ist genau das, was ich diesen Winter machen möchte. Ein volles Haus haben ebenfalls und trotzdem kann es ganz schön schlauchen, immer für etwas verantwortlich zu sein. Vor allem fällt es mir schwer mich still auf eine Sache zu konzentrieren und an einer Website, einem Blogbeitrag, einem neuen Webinar oder einer neuen Podcastfolge zu arbeiten.

Jetzt überlasse ich die Tourenplanung anderen, manchmal fahre ich das Auto, muss mir die Route aber nicht selber aussuchen. Die Landschaft wechselt, zieht vorüber, Gedanken kommen und gehen und ich habe unzählige neue Eindrücke, die ich verarbeiten darf. Meinen englischsprachigen Podcast sende ich 100 Tage lang täglich und die Eindrücke der Reise dürfen dort ebenfalls mit einfliessen.

Von Daressalam geht unsere Reise in Tansanias Süden. Durch den Mikumi Nationalpark, den Malawi See, den Tanganyika See eventuell den Katawi Nationalpark, den Ruha Nationalpark und quer zurück durchs ganze Land nach Daressalam.

Ob man es nun verlassen der Komfortzone, Urlaub, Auszeit, Abwechslung oder wie auch immer nennt sei einmal dahin gestellt. Es ist was ich brauche um hoch kreativ und produktiv zu sein und zu bleiben.

Wie ist es bei dir? Was brauchst du?