I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, but for many different reasons, some practical, some just a lack of certainty in what I want to say, it has just not happened.
But I am forcing myself to start today and even if it takes a while to get it finished, at least I will have a chance to formulate some of my many conflicting feelings about the-walk being ”finished” and how I plan to continue.
I’m sitting in a coffee bar in Berlin as I write this, after having been in Berlin for 3 days of work followed by 2 days of leisure. As part of my new job, I just spent 3 days with my immediate boss planning and structuring a new photography course. A two and a half year full-time vocational college course called Visual Communicator, Photographer. My official title is head teacher, and I will be responsible for planning, structuring and making the whole course work. It involves both planning and teaching and I have to admit that it is an exciting position to be in. Which is sort of the dilemma…
When I walked into Martin Place less than 4 months ago, I was very certain that I would go back to Stockholm only to work, make some money, pay off my debts and save a new pile in order that I would be able to head straight out on the road again. The problem is that my new job calls for at least a 3-year commitment and when I accepted the position, I was more or less promising to stay in Stockholm for at least that period.
I spent a fair bit of time wondering if it was a good idea for me to accept the job (I applied along with many other applicants and had plenty of time to consider before the interviews were over and I was actually officially offered the job) or if I should continue along my planned route. But I have always been a great fan of serendipity, and to arrive back from a 3-year absence just in time to be offered what is the most prestigious and merited position I have ever held at a school seemed almost too good to be true. Just the same, I don’t like to do things by halves, and I had to be sure this was something that I really could get enthusiastic about. As you already know, I accepted and am now in the midst of working as hard as possible to make the new course something special.
The school I work for, Fotoskolan Stockholm, actually has 2 different vocational college courses, the new one called Visual Communicator, Photographer (which replaces an older 2-year course that was called Professional Photographer) and a 2 year Digital Imaging Specialist course. Through a series of coincidences, just as I accepted the job as ”head teacher” (I really do want to find a better translation …) the same position on the other course also became vacant and I was offered that as well. Which means that from the 1st June I will be responsible for both courses!
I have worked for Fotoskolan on and off for more than 14 years and have seen a lot of changes and followed the evolution of the courses on offer. A lot of former students are now my friends and many now work in the photography community in Stockholm and I feel a very high level of ambition in trying to not only get both of these courses to continue working as well as previously, but to make them the best possible courses of their kind in Europe (I actually mean the world but am being a bit modest). Those are pretty high ambitions and as I have been involved in the courses for such a long time I realize that there are a lot of practical, economical and time considerations that will all conspire to make that goal difficult to attain. Nevertheless, that’s where we are going!
So, where does that leave me, the minimalist vagabond?
There is no doubt that I intend to remain a minimalist. In fact, I am working my way through the few remaining possessions I have and trying to minimize and get rid of even more. When I left Sweden 3 years ago I had downsized to almost nothing but there were a few things left. I had not had time to digitize the last 200 rolls of my medium format negatives and slides, and there was a fair bit of paperwork and other mementos that could be sorted through and I have already started working my way through it all. I still intend to become as minimalistic as possible.
As to being a vagabond… Well, I still don’t have my own home and will probably continue to rent a room or part of a house and not tie myself to any one place more than absolutely necessary. While strictly not a vagabond, I will be able to become one very quickly if I desire.
The part I find most difficult to accept is not being able to head out to all the exotic places I still want to visit and experience. You would think that 3 years on the road would be enough but it has only managed to fan the fire of my enthusiasm for travel. Exploring and experiencing new places and cultures is something I doubt that I could ever get enough off.
But everything has its time and it does not feel like a sacrifice to choose working at Fotoskolan Stockholm. It is a very interesting job, working with motivated and creative people who give me as much inspiration as I hope that I can give them. How long that will last and where it will lead remains to be seen.
I naturally hope to continue to travel a fair bit but the trips will by necessity be a bit shorter than the-walk! I am writing this is Berlin and next weekend I will be in Paris so I am not completely stuck in Stockholm all the time. I even get paid leave this summer and am considering all kinds of different trips I could do during that time. High on the list at the moment is a slow road trip through the north of Sweden, possibly as far as Nord Kap. I love road trips, having spent any number of weekends and holidays exploring Australia in an old Holden HR station-wagon with my family when I was young. It sometimes feels like I grew up in a car…
But nothing is decided yet and all my time at the moment is tied up with work, planning a holiday will have to wait for another couple of weeks or so.
Which just leaves what is maybe the biggest question.
How do I fell about the-walk being finished?
I wish I knew!
The one thing that I am reasonably certain about is that I don’t really feel that it is finished, it’s just in hiatus. I have read a fair few accounts of long walks and hikes and the thing that strikes me is that there nearly always seems to be a great outpouring of emotion at the end. People cry, feel empowered, are proud of their achievement and seem to experience a personal growth and certainty about themselves and their place in the world. I can’t say that I feel the same way.
I naturally feel proud to have managed to walk almost 20,000km from Stockholm to Sydney, but I can’t say that I feel that it has changed me in any substantial way. I am pretty much still me, warts and all, and I definitely don’t feel I have accomplished something that most people could not do. The-walk was a great experience, one I would never like to change, but I don’t feel that it defines me. One of the many adventures that make me who I am, but not the only one and not even the major one. Which is strange..
I have always wanted to be part of and complete a big adventure, there has always existed in me a desire for something extreme, something challenging and not ”normal”. Although not always quite as extreme as the-walk, I have done a fair few other things that are far from what most people consider normal and I am starting to think that I don’t have the right points of reference to judge what is extreme and what isn’t. But that is pretty much beside the point, which is that the-walk is not finished. Somehow, before I call it done, I want to be able to say that I walked around the world!
I still have the ”short” stretch between Bangkok and Stockholm to complete before I can truly say that I have walked around the world and the way things are at the moment, it will be a while before I start working my way through those kilometers. Nevertheless, that is what I plan to accomplish, it’s just going to take a while!
So the-walk lives on and updates will continue to appear here on the blog even though they will probably not be very frequent, at least during the coming years.
My ambition for the next year is to try to get started on a book about the-walk so far and as sections get written, I plan to publish them here to get some feedback.
I hope you will all stay tuned and help me polish the eventual book, with the knowledge that the-walk is not finished, it is not dead, it is just in hibernation, waiting for the current ”walking winter” to be over.
More, so much more, to come…..