I loved my experience with Helpx. One of the reasons I loved it was my hosts were away for 99% of my last two weeks here, leaving me free to dance along to my favorite songs in the kitchen while I cooked mushroom omelette. Then I played Assassin's Creed II on the Xbox, or went to hold the chicken while staring at her feathers, feeling the sun dance on my skin. There was no one to explain myself to, no one to force myself to smile at. My least favorite time was my first week here where I socialized with my hosts during every meal and in-between. Sometimes I got bored but wanted to be polite so I forced myself to listen and converse. After four days listening to people, including a child, tell me about things and how to do things, my mind was screaming for solitude the way waterlogged lungs scream for air.
Socializing in groups for more than two days nonstop is hard. A fact in the life of Đinh Hòai-Trâm. I love people (sometimes) and find them fascinating (occasionally), for certain amounts at a time. Then after my social battery is dead it doesn't matter if you are the Dalai Lama or want to give me a million dollars, I'm done. Well, you can give me the million dollars first.
My reflection as I explore affordable methods of travel are that I enjoy my right to solitude. Hostels are good because I can still leave whenever I want to get my alone time at a secluded park or church. I'm not obligated to talk to anybody or stay within anyone's space. Whereas work-for-travel methods such as farmstays are okay but not ideal. I mean, I can do it, but I don't enjoy being at someone's constant beck-and-call. I might as well be back in California working for actual money. At least then I have my nights and weekends off from people.
I'm lucky I had an unconventional Helpx experience where I was basically just house sitting and left alone. I loved biking in the countryside while listening to my favorite music, eating choux puff pastries and all the French cheeses, and drinking red wine. I loved talking to myself and the dog and the chickens and the goat and horses about my experiences. I felt some loneliness, but ironically a few days after my hosts left the house I started enjoying my solitude more. This makes me wonder if loneliness is really a case of missing people being around. Or is loneliness a state of disconnect to one's surroundings? When my hosts were here, I felt lonelier. When I am browsing social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram aimlessly, I also feel lonelier. Maybe loneliness is less about who's around, and more about feeling disconnected. I've been off Facebook for a day now and it feels great. Two more days of my social media fast. This post will automatically share to Facebook, but it'll be nice not to check who views it or comments on it.
Maybe house sitting is something to explore. Hostels are confirmed good on my list, whereas work-to-stay situations like Helpx, WWOOF, and working at hostels are now last on my list. House sitting is a gray zone yet to be explored. I loved it this time.
I've been spending the past two weeks in the French countryside near Bordeaux. Through a website called Helpx.net, I contacted hosts on a farm and negotiated to trade work on the farm for room and board and food. I feed and scoop poop for two horses, a goat, and of course, chickens. One of the chickens lets me pet her. I felt cooped up this evening so I went for a bike ride. Right now, I'm writing this on my phone. This is my view.
There are too many mosquitoes and they should all die a fiery, torturous death. Anyway, I often get lonely during my travels. Right now is another of those phases. I had an amazing strawberry shortcake in the morning at the Saturday outdoors market in Mussidan, but this underlying loneliness remains. Yesternight I realized that I was far away from Mayfair Skatepark and if all went well I wouldn't be back there in a long time. And the skaters there I had come to know and love would move on too. I felt sad but webcammed with a friend who told me to get some rest, so I did.
Well, the loneliness is still here. Why am I here? Why do I keep feeling this urge to fly to new places and experiences, far away from everyone who loves me? The answer is I don't know. It feels lonely and beautiful at the same time. I just know that if I don't, I die. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. I've seen the Dali Museum in Figueres, and I've seen grand churches in Barcelona and Bordeaux and they're beautiful, but I'm looking for something beyond snapping pictures. I'm looking for a life where I am free, where I don't have to choose one career, one spouse, one house, one rat race life of school-career-die. Is freedom too much to ask for? Freedom in love and life? Am I Icarus who flew too close to the sun so that his wings of wax melted and he fell into the sea and drowned? Well, I don't mind trying. I hope this post reminds me that I'm brave, I'm strong, and I'm not afraid to face uncertainty. The story of Daedalus seems to say that we should stay humble and close to the ground. But what if he didn't use wax? What if there's something else, and if we find it, we can fly to the sun and beyond?