The demon called restlessness

Sahara hiking Mauritania

The demon called restlessness

Lack of energy day by day…

The last few months I wasn’t very active on my blog. I was never really in the mood for writing. And generally my energy was kinda low. Not that I was unhappy, but just not as energetic as I used to be.
I mean I was still hitchhikig around the world seeing many beautiful places, meeting many wonderful people and having countless heart-stopping experiences. But I just couldn’t appreciate them as much as I would liked to. Travelling became my daily life and it was nothing special anymore.
My trip hitchhiking through Africa became a challenge which was just to be done. I was running after my goal without enjoying the way. Of course I wasn’t fully disliking it. Still I was travelling some amazing countries. Morocco, Mauritania and now Senegal. I was hitchhiking through the Sahara, riding on the wagons of the Iron Ore Train through the desert of Mauritania. But it all was more because I was challenging myself.
I was just too much thinking about everything. I couldn’t fully enjoy the places I found myself in. And just as I reached one place, I was already looking forward to the next place. I became restless.
I came up with some excuses like “I don’t like this place, it’s too big.”, or “too many people for my taste” or “It’s too dangerous.”. And moved on to the next place.

On the road in Western Sahara

On the road in Western Sahara

 

Sleeping in the Sahara

Sleeping in the Sahara

 

Camping in the Sahara

Cold nights in the Sahara (but luckily too cold for snakes and scorpions)

When sincere hospitality becomes too much

In Mauritania then the self-pity of my circumstances struck me. I couldn’t get any money from the ATMs in Nouadhibou (they only take Visa cards). And to really experience the country, and not just rush through with the little cash I was carrying on me, I had to rely on the hospitality of the people – which is amazing in Mauritania anyway! So poor me had to stay with lovely locals. I mean it was nice and everything, but after a while I just wanted my peace.

Mauritania Iron Ore Train

The Mauritanian Iron Ore Train – the longest train in the world with 200 wagons and a length of 2km

 

Mauritania Iron Ore Train

And the best, if you do the 24 hour ride in one of the iron ore waggons it’s for free! 🙂

So it happened in Chinguetti, a peaceful village in the middle of the Mauritanian Sahara, right when I needed it the most that god sent an angel. Gudrun, a lovely and good-hearted person from Austria appeared. She raised me up, fixed my feathers and helped me out with a generous donation for my travels. Thanks to her I gave myself some rest and allowed myself a room in a guest house.

Kids playing in Chinguetti

Kids playing in Chinguetti

And after a few days of rest I set off for the next adventure, hiking 12km through the sand dunes of the Sahara to Lagueila, a small and lonely oasis in the middle of nowhere. After four good hours of hiking and dragging myself up and down the sand dunes in the heat of the Sahara, just when I wouldn’t believe in it anymore suddenly the oasis appeared right in front of me. And as soon as I reached the Oasis, the inhabitants, one lovely family welcomed me with open arms, invited me for chai and to have dinner with them. And at night they even prepared a bed under the stars for me, after I told them that I love sleeping under the stars.
The next day I didn’t head back right away as planned, but decided to spend the day with the villagers and cultivate the date palmerie and the vegetable garden together with them. In the evening then I walked back the long 12km and together with some Nomads (and their sheep and camels) I met on the way in the middle of the Sahara I just made it back to Chinguetti before the night.

Sleeping in the Oasis Lagueila

Sleeping in the Oasis Lagueila

 

The Oasis Lagueila

The Oasis Lagueila

 

The villagers of Lagueila

The villagers of Lagueila

 

With nomads in the Sahara

With nomads in the Sahara

After Chinguetti I was heading to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. From there I was going to head towards the border with Senegal after a few days of rest.
But then I received the unexpected news, that my granny passed away. Rest in peace Omi! And again I found myself in the thinking mode that takes away the joy of life.

And dishonest people create doubt

So after a while, when I finally reached Senegal and found myself in Dakar, my energy was still quite low. I guess for that reason I was easy prey and the false tour guide managed to deceive me. At first he seemed like a nice guy offering me a place to stay and we arranged that I could stay with him and his sister for just 4000 FCFA (around 6 Euro) for two nights. But then he was always asking me to pay for this and give some money for that. So I gave a lot of money to him and his family and he was still asking for more. So after two nights I took off, spending in just two days in Dakar more money than I was expecting to spend in one whole month in Senegal.

At that time I felt quite lost, not knowing where to go and where to find good people in Senegal. Anyway, I headed South towards a place called Saly. Yassim, a friend of mine from Morocco told me that there are some good people and it would be possible to stay with them for little money.
When I left Dakar, it was already late in the evening. And after taking several buses to get out of the city I found myself in a small village on the outskirts of Dakar. I was walking along the dark alleyways as I walked past a small garage store where there was still light coming out. I walked in and found a young Senegalese guy working on a computer. So I asked the guy if I could charge my phone in his shop. And he was, “Sure, why not!”. He pointed at a couch, “Just take a seat.” while he connected my phone for charging. Not that I couldn’t charge my phone with my battery pack, but I was just seeking for some human interaction. And while I was sitting on the couch, waiting for my phone to charge I was struggling to keep my eyes open. So after a little conversation with the guy I asked if I could sleep on his couch tonight. And when he said that he would have to close the rolling shutter and lock the store over night, I told him that it would be fine for me. He then disappeared for a while and when he came back he told me that I could stay with him and his family for the night. He took me in his house where he gave me a nice mattress with a good mosquito net for a calm night.

With kids in Senegal

Staying with a lovely family in Senegal

The fun of hitchhiking in Senegal

After a good night in a peaceful village in Senegal my faith in humanity was restored and I continued hitching to Saly. Hitchhiking in Senegal was fun and easy so far for me! First a truck driver picked me up and took me a bit down the road. He didn’t speak any English, but we got along with my bad French. And after that I waited another 30 minutes until the next car stopped for me. It was a wealthy man working in nuclear research here in Senegal. And when I told him that I’m from Austria, he was so happy because he’s been there many times for some conferences about nuclear power.
So after two rides hitching easily from Dakar and waling another 30 minutes, I reached Saly early in the afternoon. With the good description of my Moroccan friend, Yassim I found the place he mentioned easily. It’s an abandoned hotel called The Beach Club and lies on a beautiful beach filled with coconut palms.

So I came there and asked for Babacar. And the people where like “Ah, you’re a friend of Babacar! Come, he’s here!”. And when I told them that my friend Yassim sent me, they were very happy and asked about his well-being. They have rooms for rent in the abandoned hotel. Very basic, without electricity and the water they bring in buckets. But when I told them that I’m travelling on a budget and I don’t really need my own room, they invited me to stay with them on the ground floor of the building.
So I stayed with them a few days and had a very relaxing time with an amazing view of the beach. One day we got some fresh coconuts from the palm trees and smash them on the ground until the outer green shell broke open and the brown coconut (as we know it from the supermarket) came out.

Saly beach Senegal

The beautiful beach of Saly

 

Friends in Senegal

Babacar (on the left) and his lovely family

And just when my body could rest a while it was giving me the bill. I got sick and had to stay in bed with heavy fever. First I thought I catched Malaria in Dakar, but the doctor assured me that it was just an ordinary flu. So I was sure it was just the aftermath of my general unease.

So how did I get out of my self-created missery?

First of all to get well I had to stay in bed and watch the waves for a week. But I couldn’t have chosen a better place to get sick. Babacar, Sajo and the people from the Beach Club took good care of me.
And then as soon as I was getting well again, I started reflecting and became aware that all my suffering came from a demon called “restlessness”. A demon I gave birth to and raised all by myself. I realised that I was constantly feeding him with the need to go further and further. Until he became a fat and ugly companion, very much attached to me. So I told him, that I’m happy that I had him at my side and that I’ve learned a lot from him, but that I don’t need him anymore, and that I not feed him any longer. He accepted and walked away.

Most illnesses creep in when you are not present in your body. If the master is not in the house, all kind of shady characters will take up residence there.

Two more things helped me a lot to focus more on the moment again and find the joy in what I have, here and now.

First I started writing again. Not for my blog, but I write now every morning at least six pages in my notebook. Not like a diary, but more like whatever is in my head. Whatever is in my head I vomit on the paper, with help of the pen. This way I don’t judge my thoughts, but just accept them as they are. The concept of morning pages is described by Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.

An Secondly I’m reading a book from Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. It was laying on my kindle for long time and for some reason I felt the time has come to read it. And I must say, I can totally recommend it. It really helped me in finding the joy in every moment again.

Are you sometimes feeling restless while travelling? How do you handle the inability of enjoying the moment as it is here and now? Let me know in the comments.

15 Comments

  • marvilleous

    I get this feeling of restlessness on a regular basis. At some point when it gets overwhelming, and I’m doubting my decisions, and start questioning every second choice I make, I have to speak out loud “I’m here, now, because I wanted it and I love it” and funnily it actually helps, I feel much better afterwards, because the thought that follows these words is that I’m always free to move on or do something else if I’m not presently happy (modern luxury of our European passports)
    Although I did notice at some point that I was traveling too fast, and I needed to pace down. After all, it’s not a marathon, you’re gonna get there soon or later, so better enjoy the journey!

    April 17, 2017 at 2:52 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Exactly! You’re totally right. Maybe I try saying it out loud. As I like to say there is no wrong decision. Every decision I make, I make because I believe it’s right. So I’m here because I decided to be here. And I love it! <3 🙂

      April 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm
  • Wong

    I experienced this 2 years ago on a trip in Taiwan and it was really bad, I was lethargic the whole time, like there’s a grey cloud following me all the time. Did not feel any better at the end of the trip 2 weeks later and this feeling only went away months later while I was back at home, somehow (and I forgot how..).

    Nowadays I do not enjoy travelling as much, I could not fully immerse myself in the now. Whether is it travelling solo or with friends, I get restless easily, more than in the past. I guess I got weary (& wary), compared to years ago as a bright-eyed girl fresh out of school.

    After every trip when I reflect, I tell myself I have to adjust my mindset and cut myself and my friend some slack. It’s still a work in progress.. There are still places to go to, but will take them one at a time..

    April 23, 2017 at 9:42 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Hey Wong, thanks for sharing your experience! For me I often have difficulties focusing in what is happening in the current moment, here and now. And I think when we are in our daily life we don’t recognize these problems as much, as we are distracted by the things that keep us busy. But when traveling we are free from all the duties that distract us from looking into ourselves.

      April 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm
  • Ha Truong

    This post is just incredible! I’m amazed by your experience in Sahara. And OMG, you slept there? Just so cool! I got overwhelmed by traveling as well, so I totally understand your feeling. However, after a break, I had my “wanderlust fire” back! Have fun on your travel!

    April 27, 2017 at 1:27 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      You’re right, sometimes we just need to take a rest. 🙂

      April 28, 2017 at 4:21 pm
  • Judy

    what an honest reflection and wow, it’s definitely a life I can’t envision! I’m sorry you had to go through all this and for the times when people weren’t honest. That’s always hard to read and to know you had to go through that. But then when good people make up for all that it makes it all seem worthwhile again. Restlessness won’t last long though as long as you move forward and look for what all this travelling really gives you! On that note that iron journey looks rough but man I’d love to try that out or sleep under the stars!

    April 27, 2017 at 1:59 am
  • therainbowroute

    It can be so hard to know when to keep pushing on and when to sit still and take a break. The older I get and the more I travel, the less I do. Despite your challenges, you got to meet some amazing people and, if nothing else, have a few stories to tell:)

    April 27, 2017 at 2:40 am
  • Melissa

    I can’t even imagine traveling this way. It fascinates and scares me all at the same time. I more so get the feeling of restlessness when I’m home. I find myself not enjoying the here and now because I am looking toward my next adventure. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s definitely thought provoking.

    April 27, 2017 at 3:20 am
  • Nicole Anderson

    There is no doubt that we all have our ups and downs. We all question people and their motives and tend not to trust in human nature when we have a bad experience. I have often found that spending time out in nature helps to ‘reset’ and ‘retune’ your feelings and sharpen your instincts. Writing is also a great way to get your thoughts out and you evaluate things more clearly afterward in reflection. Thank you for expressing your situation so well and hopefully you are feeling much better for sharing.

    April 27, 2017 at 4:17 am
  • Only By Land

    I recently visited Mauritania and Senegal, I remember the border town between the 2, Rosso, that’s one hard border crossing! I actually got stuck on the border between Morocco and Mauritania for 24 hours too when there was a black out. I didn’t make it out to Chinguetti although I wish I had, the whole town is a UNESCO site isn’t. I also had many situation when I was without food in Mauritania but the people would invite me to eat with them which is a blessing when you’re starving. You got lucky with the guy letting you sleep in his property outside of Dakar, looking forward to more stories from Mali or Guinea Bissau or wherever you head next. Be safe there man!

    April 27, 2017 at 4:19 am
  • Deni

    For the past couple of years, I’ve definitely felt restless being stuck in the same city while finishing my studies, and now that I’m done, I feel the same, as I have a lot of student debt to pay off. Although I believe our individual restlessness stems from different places, I always find that writing helps me sort through my thoughts and gets to the root of why I’m feeling a certain way. It sounds like you have an incredible adventure ahead of you (and I love how so many families have taken you under their wing), so I hope you find a way to tackle your restlessness if it comes up again! Also, I can’t wait to read more about your adventures in Africa! It sounds like an incredible journey!

    April 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm
  • Iza (@IzaAbao)

    I was working abroad when my grandmother died last 2015. It was so sad. I wanted to go home but I did not.
    It was nice that you have found some hospitable people throughout your journey. Others take advantage when they you are nice and ask for some pay. Well, that is part of traveling and meeting a lot of people. While I was reading your post, I was thinking if you were eating properly. I guess probably not.
    I like the photo of the beach in Saly.

    Iza c/o Fill My Passport

    April 28, 2017 at 4:08 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Well, eating properly is really a thing I’m struggling with. Especially because when I’m invited to people’s homes, I don’t want to refuse their cooking. So I usually eat what the locals eat. But at least I’m now taking care that I’m drinking good water and getting fruits every day. 🙂

      April 29, 2017 at 11:32 pm
  • Diana Chen

    I can totally relate to your feeling of restlessness. I had it a lot when I was working a job that I hated. I think it usually stems from being discontent with your current situation. Glad you were able to get out of it, and safe travels to you!

    April 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm
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