He explores

"Traveling at the Speed of Life"

Author: HeExplores (page 1 of 3)

After the Accident: The 3 Stages on the Journey to Mental Recovery

CRASH!! Suddenly I was lying on the ground, face covered in blood. I’d fallen off my bike, face first, my mouth and teeth literally kissing the road. Everything went so damn fast, that for a moment the world turned pitch black before my eyes. I forgot where I was or what had happened. Coming to my senses, the foul taste of blood, which was oozing in a constant, flowing stream from my mouth onto the street, creating a red, shiny pool bathed in moonlight, was the first cue that this was no ordinary accident. Something was terribly wrong! Second cue came when I felt my upper lip going numb, gently touching it with my fingers, realizing that it had been ripped apart. The last and 3rd cue came along with an eager, desperate, but fruitless, attempt to rid my mouth of all blood, sticking out my tongue, finding that several of my front teeth were missing. Knocked out. Root and everything. That’s when I started crying. Not because of the apparent, excruciating pain, which, for the time being, was delayed by adrenaline rushing through my veins at the speed of light, but because the worst things to lose in life are the things we can’t replace. I wasn’t expecting to lose the core of my smile at such an early stage of life.

Right next to me was a girl holding my hand, at first tenderly, then more firmly, as she gradually started to perceive the extent of injuries, wiping a mix of tears and blood from my face, while fighting to hide the fear painted in her eyes. A girl I’d only known for a little while but for whom I’d developed a lot of affection for within a short amount of time. We’d met about a month before the accident and was on our way home to her place when it happened. In a heartbeat, without a cloud of doubt in her mind, she jumped with me in the ambulance and kept holding my hand all the way to the hospital and didn’t stop when I was lying in a bed, waiting for a doctor to arrive. Needless to say that her comforting, caring, angelic presence made all the difference in the world to me during a night where she witnessed the same paradox over and over again; the boy next to her cursing a God he didn’t believe in to begin with.

In the days that followed, looking back on the accident and observing my reactions, thoughts and feelings, I learned that I went through 3 stages on my journey to mental recovery.

“The tragic event of being faced with our own mortality is so unexpected, that in the moments after a serious accident, we keep on living in denial. It takes a while for our mind to adjust to whatever our eyes are seeing.”

Stage 1: “Self-victimization”
The initial stage was overshadowed by self-victimization and anger: Why me? Why am I so unlucky? It’s not fair! It’s ironic how we never expect severe misfortunes to come our way until bad luck actually does rain upon us. Bad accidents only happen in movies and to the boy or girl next door, right? You just don’t let yourself believe it will happen to you. The younger we are, the more present the self-deceit. Being young the thought of dying is as unthinkable as hitting the jackpot. Our body has not yet shown any obvious signs of decay and death is a foreign, abstract concept. You feel immortal. You feel unbreakable. You feel forever young. The tragic event of being faced with our own mortality is so unexpected, that in the moments after a serious accident, we keep on living in denial. It takes a while for our mind to adjust to whatever our eyes are seeing. We become detached from the object of our vision, our injured body, because it doesn’t quite fit with the concepts of our mind. Did I really lose or break something that can’t be fixed?! That’s impossible, I must be dreaming! And then, as reality slowly sinks in, you ask yourself, why? Why me? Not very different from when Jesus was hanging on the cross at the end of his rope. Indeed, I did curse God several times during the night, but I’m not a religious person, so who or what was I cursing? In hindsight the answer seems clear; my naive, young and restless idea of immortality. My immortality, my immortality, why have you forsaken me?! The last piece of the idea shattered when the doctor told me I should consider myself lucky. Had my head taken the fall instead of my mouth things could’ve been a lot worse. A lot. In that moment my mind seemed to readjust, to mold a new concept of the vessel that it was kept in. A vision of the body as immortal and unbreakable was replaced by a vision of the body as mortal and fragile. Life itself became fragile. Suddenly I became the boy next door.

“You wish more than anything in the world that you’d be able to turn back time. You close your eyes, doze off to sleep and expect to wake up, realizing that none of it ever happened. That it was all a bad dream.”

Stage 2: “Self-blame”
Next came a stage where I was being overpowered by self-blame and regret. Why am I so senseless to have done this? Only someone like myself can make such a foolish mistake! There must have been at least a million things I could’ve done differently to avoid the accident! My blurry mind wasn’t able to grasp every single detail of the incident, however, everything I did recall kept playing like an old movie in my head. Including every single conversation, action and decision leading up to the crucial moment. Why did I call my friend to meet up that day? Why didn’t I just stay at home? Why did I have to take my bike in the first place, when I could have enjoyed the comfort of public transport? At this stage you keep knocking your head against a brick wall. It appears that everything you did and said that day naturally caused the accident to happen and if you’d only done one single thing differently, you would’ve been just fine. You wish more than anything in the world that you’d be able to turn back time. You close your eyes, doze off to sleep and expect to wake up, realizing that none of it ever happened. That it was all a bad dream. I used to believe that all things happen for a reason. But everything we encounter in our lives are mere coincidences. Simple chains of cause and effect with unforeseen consequences. A boy might have been walking on the street I was driving on hours before the accident and by impulse, kicking a small stone, causing it to land on the road at the exact same spot I lost control of my bike. At some point you open your eyes, look around and realize that the accident DID happen. You wake up to reality. The reality that time is irreversible. You are at a crossroads. You can choose to either drown in self-blame and pity, a sure way slipping into a depression, or letting go of your frustrations by coping with your emotions constructively.

“I started to accept life as it comes. We might not be able to control what happens to us, which is often influenced by outer circumstances, however, we can control how we react to it.”

Stage 3: “Acceptance”
Fortunately, I came to the conclusion that there’s no point in playing with “what if-scenarios”. After all, I’m still here. I kept reminding myself that things could’ve been a lot worse and that I by no means was the only person in the world experiencing what I felt. Somewhere out there someone else was being faced with an unfortunate turn of events in their life and was fighting to move on. Becoming aware that you’re not alone in your struggle helps you regain some perspective. I had reached the 3rd and final stage on the journey to mental recovery. I started to accept life as it comes. We might not be able to control what happens to us, which is often influenced by outer circumstances, however, we can control how we react to it. This attitude opens a world of possibilities while tearing down obstacles. I realized that being frustrated about what happened would only make matters worse. I shifted focus from what should have been done then to what could be done now. Sure, it’s impossible to change the past but you might just learn from it. Life is a journey of learning and growth. Through my accident I’ve learned that, even though I’m still young, my body is fragile. That life is fragile. I know that the outcome of my accident wasn’t fatal but it could’ve left me in a wheelchair, had gravity taken my head on a different course. It’s bad enough to make me think. To make me understand that accidents are a part of life and that they DO happen to all of us, not just the boy or girl next door. To make me more grateful towards life and to take better care of myself. I might have lost several of my teeth for good but I still got a beautiful, untouched mind. I got hands to write. Feet to walk. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. With ever-changing, random chains of cause and effect shaping the world and time as they unfold, none of us can be sure if we’ll live to see another sunrise. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Nothing is. We only got one chance to make it right and that should be an integral part of our mindset, the very foundation of our actions, throughout our limited time here. Not to live in fear. But to live to our fullest.

And the angel watching over me that night? Well, she never left my side in the days following the accident. There’s not a trace of doubt in my mind that the unconditional, sacrificial love and care we receive from people in our lives in times of hardship will make us heal faster. They are truly the most precious thing in life. They are the greatest gift of all. An accident shouldn’t be necessary for us to realize that. These people deserve our appreciation and devotion every single day, regardless.

Have you gone through hard times recently? What have you learned from the experience? Leave a comment below.

Photo of the Week

Glacier lake at the end of the Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand with amazing views of Aoraki/Mount Cook on a bright, sunshiny day.

The Homecoming Blues

All good things come to an end. As much as I love life on the road, there comes a time, when you need a break. Constantly being on the move is exciting, but tiring, constantly saying goodbye to people you’ve just gotten close to never gets easy and constantly packing and unpacking sucks. At some point you just wanna throw that backpack of yours down, unpack it and leave it unpacked! I made the decision to go home when the time was right. After nearly 2 years on the road I felt ready. I felt that I needed stability in my life again. But what happens after you get home?

“Getting on that familiar train ride you’ve been on a thousand times before or driving through the countryside suddenly feels like a whole new journey on its own”.

Initially you enter “the honeymoon phase”. You fall madly, deeply in love with your native Land all over again. You’re able to see your home country with sparkling new eyes. Getting on that familiar train ride you’ve been on a thousand times before or driving through the countryside suddenly feels like a whole new journey on its own. You start to feel a profound appreciation for everything you see, most of which you took for granted before you set out on your adventure in the big, wild world. Same thing applies when you meet up with your loved ones. You fall in love with the people in your life all over again. You got so much to catch up on. So many stories to tell. You’re bouncing off the walls and all of your energy is focused on this highly anticipated part of your homecoming. But the joy and excitement of seeing family and friends quickly subsides. What happens then?

“You’re greeted as the long forgotten son, but before you know it, your friends have gone back to their normal lives”.

You enter phase 2: “The homecoming blues”! The place you’ve so dearly missed loses its news appeal. The train ride becomes yet another ordinary train ride. 1001. 1002. 1003. Then you lose count. In its sudden alienation the countryside seems unwelcoming and threatening like a huge tsunami just waiting to wash over you. You, yourself, lose your news appeal as well. You’re greeted as the long forgotten son, but before you know it, your friends have gone back to their normal lives. Naturally, they’re starting to settle down and haven’t got much time left for you. But that isn’t the real issue here. Because the truth is that you’re happy for them. Happy to see them making a life. Happy to see them succeed. The real issue is that you’re totally lost. You feel like a stranger in your own country. You feel like you don’t fit in anymore. Kind of like an elephant in Antarctica! That’s the price you pay for traveling the world. The more and longer you do it, the harder it becomes settling back into a “normal” life. And at some point you just know it. Deep inside you hear a voice whispering: “You will forever feel different”. 

“For such is the law of a conventional life. In that particular reality change is limited and generic. It’s predictable”.

The road has done something to you which cannot be undone. You’ve changed. The thing is that you’re not quite sure in which way. No words can describe it. You just know it. You feel it. Why now, all of a sudden? When traveling the transformation you go through is a dynamic process which is so subtle that you barely feel it. But coming home alters your perception of what’s going on inside of you. The change is being amplified by the confrontation with all the things and people around you that have stagnated. For such is the law of a conventional life. In that particular reality change is limited and generic. It’s predictable. The transformation that happens when you travel, on the other hand, is a lot more complex and intense. It’s unpredictable. You soon realize that the only “thing” that has really been moving since you left is you. With that awareness you start to become socially inept and people will most likely perceive you as a bit awkward. As a bit off-beat. And even though you’re surrounded by hundreds of people, you get struck by loneliness. You feel like no one really understands, like you’re not speaking the same language as your friends anymore. You feel like a jigsaw piece in the wrong puzzle

“The remedy to your post-travel blues is to implement that which have inspired you on your journey into your day-to-day life back home”.

So, what can be done to get out of the black hole of post-travel blues? In the end what you’re facing coming home after a long journey is an internal conflict between who you were and who you’ve become, between the responsibilities and limits that comes with a conventional life and the carefree and limitless lifestyle of a wanderer. Your aim must be to build a bridge between the 2 poles, which is necessary if you want to feel whole and at peace with yourself once again. The remedy to your post-travel blues is to implement that which have inspired you on your journey into your day-to-day life back home. Be it your newly found joy doing yoga, eating healthy food, playing that instrument you picked up while traveling or maybe you’ve been inspired to making a difference in your local community or setting up your own business. People always say that they’re the best they can possibly be while traveling. Well, I say: “That’s the easy part. The hardest part is keeping up the good spirit when you get home. Be the best you can be, not only while you’re on the road. Be the best you can be today. Tomorrow. Everyday”.

“In that moment, remind yourself that it’s okay to go home. To rebalance yourself. To reenergize”.

Confronting your ambiguous feelings in the wake of your homecoming is all about accepting the now as it is, not holding on to what is lost. Because nothing is constant. The world changes. Life changes. People change. Focus on respecting the past and cherish all the beautiful memories and wisdom that lies within it, focus on imagining a future as bright as an evening star, focus on appreciating the present, just the way it is. However, at some point the inevitable will fall upon you. You’ll be missing the road and feel that it’s the only place you really belong. In that moment, remind yourself that it’s okay to go home. To rebalance yourself. To reenergize. What’s important is that you keep entertaining your mind, keep expanding your horizon and keep exploring everything your own backyard has to offer. Then you’ll find that in some sense you’re still traveling, still moving. And eventually you’ll know if you’ll be able to make a happy life in the place you used to call home, but now seems so foreign. Or if you are meant to aimlessly roam the world forever. A wanderer at heart.

Photo of the Week

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – The  best one day hike in New Zealand!

Oamaru: A Parallel Universe

Are you fascinated by the mysterious, quirky and out-of-the-ordinary?! Then you won’t be disappointed by a visit to Oamaru on the eastern coast of the South Island in New Zealand. Arriving with no expectations whatsoever, it turned out to be one of the greatest surprises, I’ve stumbled upon on my journey through the beautiful country. Usually cities in New Zealand aren’t that interesting. With thousands of years of well preserved history, Europe has a lot more to offer in regards to culture, architecture and museums. However, Oamaru has X-factor! A walk through the charismatic town’s Victorian Precinct, a busy hub filled with strange shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants, museums, a brewery and a steam train, is like stepping into a parallel universe.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” 

Albert Einstein

Let me take you on a journey back in time.

Alternative seaside restaurant.

The coolest playground in the world!

Street art adds an edgy characteristic to the town.

Walking down this street is like stepping into a parallel universe.

Talented, quirky street musicians in the zone!

Shit is about to get really weird in the Grainstore Gallery.

Strange, but awesome!
Oamaru Gallery

Faces watching you everywhere.

Monkey business!

Mexican inspired masks and x-mas tree.

Follow the white rabbit…

The wings of time.

What caught your eye first? The skull in the foreground or the cleavage in the background? (:

All eyes on you!

And when you thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, you step into this room. 

Next stop: Steampunk Museum.

Creatures of Darkness.

A statement?


This is what steampunk is all about! 

Nature and science blending together.

Anyone getting associations to Dr. Who?

Steampunk is so awesome!

The most trippy experience in Oamaru was stepping into this room.

“We’re actually living in a million parallel realities every single minute.”

Marina Abramovic




The Lost Gypsy Gallery

All children have an insatiable, inquisitive appetite and are naturally curious. But growing up, it’s one of those things that most of us, sadly, start to suppress. The ability gets lost in translation, drowning in school systems and formal education revolving around giving you the right answers, instead of making you ask the right questions. However, it’s one of the most important, pure qualities to cultivate throughout your life, even when you’re sitting in a rocking chair, grey and old – it’ll keep you rocking for a long time still! Why? Because it’s the powerful drive inside of you that keeps you in motion. It keeps you motivated to learn and discover new paths. It ignites your creativity, seeking out answers and solutions to all the questions life and the universe brings forth and is basically the foundation of all innovation.

Luckily artist Blair Sommerville never lost his curiosity growing up.  Hidden in the heart of the Catlins in the far south of New Zealand he has created a major magnet for the curious, a hidden gem, an anomaly like no other: the Lost Gypsy Gallery. I’ve always been fascinated by out-of-the-ordinary, odd and quirky attractions around the world and stepping inside Blair’s gypsy bus is like tumbling down the rabbit hole. With imagination, humor and creativity he has made the world’s largest collection of rustic automata. In his own words:

“My aim here is to reward the curious, to offer a creative place of wonder, beauty, gadgets and gizmos, made mostly from natural or recycled materials that will warm the heart of even the most cynical. An antidote to consumerism.”

The 1st object that catches your attention, coming in from the main road.

The 2nd one brings a smile upon your face. 3

The 3rd one sets the tone.  

Walking into the front yard, things start to get really weird. 

The entrance to the Gypsy Bus.

Can you guess what happens when pressing the button?

Blair’s sense of humor, with a twist of truth, clearly shines through on this sign.

Inside the bus you can’t help feeling nostalgic seeing an old, classic game like this.

And this one is even more old school.

Penguins on Parade.

Humor is a big part of the gallery.

And Blair obviously has a thing for clocks. 

There’s so much to look at in the bus, that you easily lose track of time.

If you don’t find the right speed to turn the LP around, people will think you’re communicating with extraterrestrial life!

Music is what makes the world go round.

Even looking up at the ceiling, you’ll find things that you thought were extinct.

And morbid discoveries like this baby, that can turn its head 360 degrees!

Interactive and fun. Press a button and they will perform!

The front of the bus.

If you’re still curious after exploring the bus, you can head on to the backyard.

In case you were wondering…

Nothing is sacred here. But what can you expect from Darth Vader?

However, compared to this man, Darth Vader is a Good Samaritan.

Most of the pieces of art in the backyard are interactive.

At the end of another flight of stairs, you encounter a small gallery,

Where Blair’s sense of humor shines through again.

A prime example: Pinocchio’s awkward adolescence.

The 3rd best way to end your visit to the Lost Gypsy Gallery is a jam session on the piano here.

The 2nd best is to enjoy a coffee made with love.

However, the absolute best way to finish your visit at the Lost Gypsy Gallery is a game of Table Soccer.

How to get there?
Get on what is called the “Southern Scenic Route” on New Zealand’s South Island, which you can start either from Dunedin or Invercargill. This beautiful drive takes you through the wild Catlin Coast with amazing waterfalls, lush forests, lonely beaches with windswept trees and loads of marine mammals. At some point you’ll reach a small rural town called Papatowai and BOOM!! There you got it, the Lost Gypsy Gallery. Now, what are you waiting for?

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Albert Einstein

Photo of the Week

Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island.

Dunedin After Dark

Have you ever been wandering up and down the streets of a city in the dead of night, alone, with no specific purpose or destination, getting wonderfully lost and feeling utterly at peace? If you haven’t, you should! There’s something about the dark, something mysterious and enchanting, that lulls you into a dreamy state of mind. With nothing but streetlights guiding you, you seem to float deeper and deeper into the darkness of the night and the corners of your mind until, at last, you become one with it. And that’s when it happens: You’re in a blissful flow where time seizes to exist.

That’s how I felt walking the streets of Dunedin after dark for hours and hours to the sound of silence and fleeting thoughts, realizing the obvious, that when night falls the city changes its temper with empty streets, squares and buildings, vibrating during the daytime, suddenly radiating peace and tranquility. Everything around you looks and feels different. It’s amazing what you’ll discover through new eyes. Who knows? You might just fall in love with the object of your vision all over again.

It can boost your mental wellbeing to do mundane things, like walking through a city, in a different way, than you’re accustomed to.  I’m a strong believer in the importance of adding new twists to your everyday life, as a means to relight the fire in your heart, which I have elaborated on in this previous post: What happens when traveling becomes mundane? Follow me into darkness in the photo essay below, depicting Dunedin by night – one of New Zealand’s most charismatic cities.

The day is slowly starting to fade away, as the bird on this beautiful peace of graffiti.

Stumbling upon this 2nd piece of impressive street art, I made it my mission to find as many as possible.

Sunset at the Railway Station. The last train has left. The crowds are gone.

Lo and behold! There’s one left. But it has joined me in a dreamy, sleepy state of existence. 

And another one goes, another one gives into the darkness. 

The sight and sound of cars and people ebbing out, as the darkness takes over.

As a chocolate enthusiast, this is the one place I wish I had visited during the day.

Even the town square starts to resemble a desert.
DSC02021 ~

If it wasn’t for the Town Hall clock, I would have lost all sense of time, being in flow.

The towers of St. Paul’s Cathedral reaching out for the stars.

I wonder how many people need redemption after a night out in Dunedin Casino?

And I wonder how this shop would look through the eyes of a  child?

I wonder how great the food in this kitsch restaurant would taste?

And I wonder if God is just one of us?

I wonder if banks and capitalism have created a problem in today’s society?

And I wonder how many auction hunters got a good deal here?

I wonder if the hands who created this building were proud of their work?

And I wonder if the penguin got to choose his own tie?

I wonder what inspired the artists to do these amazing works of street art…





And I wonder if the artist behind this piece is as enchanted by the night and stolen kisses as I am.

Last, but not least, I wonder if this post inspired anyone to go wandering through the streets of their own city tonight, embracing the darkness…

Photo of the Week

Stunning Milford Sound in Fiordland, New Zealand.

The Kepler Track: Adventure Above the Clouds

The Kepler Track, situated in Fiordland National Park, is a 67 km. multi-day hike. It’s one of the most scenic and diverse treks in New Zealand, traversing lake edges, beech forest, alpine mountain tops and a U-shaped glacial valley. My travel partner and I spend 3 days in these spectacular surroundings. In order to be able to free camp we carried all the necessary equipment ourselves, which made up a lot of weight on our shoulders, making it a challenging and strenuous walk in certain parts. However, coming out of the forest into the mountains, walking on clouds and accompanied by the rising sun on our 2nd day, there was no doubt: This hike is worth all the blood, sweat and tears – and every single step you take along the way.

Up there, on the mountains, there’s no outside world. No noise-pollution. No light-pollution. No past and future. No ego. All that’s left is the purest, most basic form of existence. And if you listen carefully to the sound of nature, speaking silently, you might just be lucky enough to hear that inner voice of yours, the only true guide in life. Seek comfort in solitude. Because the answers we’re pursuing are all to be found within ourselves. That’s why it feels like a homecoming wandering into high places, it being just as much an inner as well as outer journey.

“When the wind calls, you know, that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.”

Vikram Oberoi

The Route Map
Kepler Track Map

Day 1: Rainbow Reach – Brod Bay

First challenge on the trek; traversing this old school hanging bridge.

Then the trail follows a lush, green forest.

Passing crystal clear rivers on the way. 

And beautiful, little beaches. 

Soon we’ll be walking above the clouds in the distance. 

But before then, the deeper parts of the forest awaits.

Greener than Green.

Brod Bay Campsite.

We decided to walk on from the official campsite, to make our 2nd day easier.

Walking the day away.

At the end of the day, we passed these amazing limestone cliffs.

Finding our own private camp spot in the forest.

Happy Days!

Day 2: Brod Bay – Iris Burn

Waking up on this beautiful spot, to the sound of our little neighbor singing outside. Can you spot him?

The adventure above the clouds has truly begun. 

Coming from the dense forest to these wide, open spaces is such an amazing feeling.

Feeling at home.

The easy way doing the Kepler Track, would be to camp in a hut, but the prize is outrageous!

Breakfast above the clouds at Luxmore Hut.

Not far from Luxmore Hut there’s a small cave to explore.

The track starts climbing up towards Mt. Luxmore.

Panorama from Mt. Luxmore.DSC01022

Mt. Luxmore is the highest point along the Kepler Track.

Kea, New Zealand’s cheeky, curious Mountain Parrot.

The infamous Kea flying on a mountain high.

After contemplating life on the top of Mt. Luxmore, the adventure above the clouds continues.

Green and lush describes the next part of the track.

Walking towards the glaciers.

Walking on a dream.

The trail resembling a ladder to the clouds.

Sunlight kisses the valley beneath.

Back into the forest.

A forest full of mystery and enchantment.

The life force of the valley.

Day 3: Iris Burn – Rainbow Reach

Waking up on Iris Burn Campsite to another amazing day. DSC01141

Having breakie here by this stunning waterfall.

Walking through the Big Slip, a large slip caused by heavy rain.

Back in the gorgeous beech forest.

There’s something really enchanting about the forests on the Kepler Track.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the whole track, is walking through the lush forests.

I wonder if this will make me younger?

Traversing the last part of the forest to the sound of a rushing river.

The shore of beautiful Lake Manapouri.

A lonely beach.

The end is near…

We did it! Back to where we started.

Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”

Anatoli Boukreev 





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