Gaga is the name of a man I met in Buna, Bosnia & Herzegovina. I don’t think it’s the name his parents gave him, but he probably chose it for a good reason. I liked it, because it was finally a name I could pronounce.

After a very long, incredible hot day on the bike, I arrived in Buna. Somewhere on the internet I read a good review about a Riverside Camp close to Mostar. The people I asked on the streets had no idea and they were pointing me back to the city. How is this possible, I thought. Is it that hard to make a proper sign, so people who have been cycling for twelve hours can at least fínd your lovely campsite?! My stubbornness, fatigue and fear of dogs that surely would start to chase me since they’re more active when it’s getting dark, kept me searching. Luckily. What I found was not only a lovely campsite next to the remarkably cold Buna river, but there was also a remarkable man who gave me an intense warm welcome. Impressed and surprised by the fact that I was on a bike and I was a female – alone, he proudly showed me around. All I could think of was a shower and a cold beer, so I didn’t pay attention to his story about why he calls himself Gaga, I’m sorry for that.

I stayed an extra day and I could have spent a week just hanging around at that quiet, peaceful camp, if I wasn’t about to meet a friend in Cetinje, Montenegro. Honestly, if you’re making a road, bike or what kind of trip you’re usually making, and you’re planning to see Mostar,  go to River Camp “Half Island”! It might be a struggle to find, but once you actually know what kind of signs you should be looking for… And if you’re able to ignore your thoughts that that road will lead you nowhere, even when you’re following the signs. Then keep on going and you’ll be surprised by the beauty and pure goodness of this place right in the middle of nowhere!

But about Gaga. The last night on Half Island, I spend talking to him, or I was listening and he did the talking, but I was thankful for that. Somehow I was impressed by him. By his kindness, but most of all by his positive state of mind. Optimistic, dedicated en passionate. He seemed to be an indestructible optimist, something I wish I was or could be.

Today, I finally replied Gaga’s email. He was joking that my answer took painfully long, we could have talked sooner if I got on my bike and cycled from Amsterdam to Buna! He was absolutely right.

It tells me that what’s really important in life, is connection. To show each other that we care, tell each other how we feel. Be honest and vulnerable. And be curious about each other.

Gaga asked me “Because I’m fascinated with your lifestyle. Can u try to explain what is so interesting for u that u are biking (and in this case walking) alone such a big distance.”

Well, I can try to explain. It’s not like I’ve never heard this question before, but now I don’t want to reply with an automatic, easy answer. So, where to start?

First of all, I’m very comfortable being along. Being on my own. Maybe even more comfortable than with being together or being a group(!).

Being among others, even when it is just one person can sometimes be too stimulating for me. Of course being stimulated can also be a good thing. Being inspired, feeling connected and just enjoy the feeling the arousal can create. As long as I still have enough time to sit down and be quiet for a while.

But I don’t know if I prefer it while I’m travelling.

My second thought is that I often feel very lonely when I’m among others, too many others, in a group or a crowded place.

My life is full of people, I appreciate that. Friends and friendships are by far the most important thing for me. They keep me going and inspire me as well. It also means responsibilities and expectations. Normally I can deal with that, but sometimes, I need a break. At those moments I’m really looking forward to spending some time on my own.

Another reason for travelling alone is that it’s an intense experience. Or the experience is more intense. Everything – all the things I see, smell, hear – everything touches me much deeper when I’m alone. I love those really feel the feeling moments. And quietly enjoy, let it grow even bigger inside.

It is easier to make contact with other people when you’re on your own. Part of me indeed needs that contact, needs to connect. When you’re travelling alone, you’re more open to connect with strangers. You meet the locals and have wonderful conversations, even when you don’t speak the same language.

Sometimes I’m wondering if it is just a test, that maybe I’m trying to prove something? But that is not my intension. Although it can be a challenge to get yourself out of that comfort zone, away from the safety of being together, I don’t think that is a motive for me. But it does make me feel strong to know that I’m able to be alone. When I have to make decisions, all on my own, it gives me confidence and a strong sense of worthiness to know that I can do that by myself.  I can take the responsibility. And believe that I will do all right. Funny that these are feelings and believes I easily lose, once I’m back home.

Second to last, I just love to think, fantasize, dream and sing out loud when nobody’s around and nobody will disturb me! I can get rid of my shame when I’m travelling alone. And that doesn’t mean that I stop shaving my legs, I’m still a girl and I have my pride!

Finally, I admit that it’s also a bit selfish. It is much easier when you only have to think about yourself. You only have to do the things you like to do.

So, is it freedom I’m looking for by travelling alone? Or do I just need a break? Am I hooked to this intensely feeling your feelings- state? It doesn’t matter to me. I like it, so that’s why.

Oh, and why the big distance? Because it will take time. I need time to acclimatize, to de-stress, to think and feel. Time gives me the opportunity to truly see, simply because only then I’ll have enough time to take some time. When a journey takes time, there will be ups and downs, it will be real. And I want the real thing 😉

Feeling Free!

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Hiking & Biking the Balkans

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