To live or to collect? That is the question…

New country, new continent, new people, new job. Three months have already passed by, so fast that I can hardly believe it.
I clearly remember my first weekend here, invited to crash   birthday beach party by an Italian girl that I had met the day before (national solidarity rules). I arrived too early  (only around 10.30pm…) and did not know anybody there. I began to introduce myself to the people around me, following a well-established set of questions that rarely move away from “whatisyourname, whereareyoufrom, whatdoyoudohere (clearly referring to which UN agency or NGO the person is working for), howlonghaveyoubeenhere, howlongareyougoingtostayhere”. Questions that rarely imply a real interest in the answers, mostly a longer version of “hi, I am X, nice to meet you”. This actually reminds me of the loooong greetings in the Dogon country in Mali… Those of you have been there will understand, for the others Wikipedia is there for more 🙂 .
Suddenly, several greetings later, I felt a strong need to take a break and went walking on the shore (beautiful sea and sky by the way). How many times more will I have to start all over again? For how long will I enjoy the feelings that new adventures and encounters give me? I arrived here after my last one-year-contract, a one-month trip to Central America, and a few months break in Europe. Many encounters, same number of goodbyes/hope to see you again… And now… Here we go again! New people and memories will become part of the mosaic of my life.
I do not want to niggle. I clearly recognize how lucky I am to have all this. I also, most of the time, really appreciate this life, and,  in general, living in the present, the “moment” and not thinking to much about the future and “stability”. However, sometimes, like that first Saturday night, I cannot but ask myself what this is all about. I was recently talking to a girl who made a comparison between our generation of travelers and the ones of our parents. One thing that struck my attention was when she said that, while our parents have spent most of their life collecting “things”, often souvenirs of a few days’ trip to some exotic countries, we have the possibility of actually “living” these experiences and making them part of ourselves. However, I wondered, is that difference so clear? I do not think so. Sometimes I believe that some relations, from one-night stands to longer relationships to friendships, resemble more objects to be collected and eventually displayed, as in a souvenir cabinet in a living room. And there they stay, waiting for an improbable (see you) “next time”.
I still believe that it is not always like this, that some encounters and experiences will not end at the airport check-in on the way back home. And I do appreciate the life I have, after all, chosen. However, I keep asking myself for how long will I be able to do this, starting and closing one chapter or another, while trying to maintain some of them open and alive. I also keep telling myself that the nuance between living and collecting is a subtle one and that it requires a special effort not to fall on the wrong side of the uncertain line separating the two. Not that I am always capable of following even my own “advice” to go beyond the surface of this frantic life… But I do try and will continue to! 
So thanks to all the special people I have met, wherever they are, that forced me to be more than a collector of fixed-term experiences… And may the force be with you to fully enjoy the life the had the chance to choose.

ps: Sorry for the dorky title and ending… :).


1 thought on “To live or to collect? That is the question…

  1. Right. To live is better than to collect and it seem to me that such question is not as rethorical to you as it may seem from the title. You explained things really good and it wouldn’t take a genius to understand that YOU understood in the first place.
    You consider yourself lucky but… Will you do it again when you realize that all you’ve done with your job didn’t change the speed the world is spinning to? And how old are you? Do you think you’ll just go back to your place and find a “home” (someone who loves you, someone who you love, etc.) which is indeed the condition built thanks to a LIFETIME of efforts?
    I wish you the best, but beware: your “stability” reality may have the look of another of your trips. You will say a lot of “hello” and “goodbye”, “i love you” and “please don’t go” before you really find a land which you can put your feet on and be sure it doesn’t crumble under yourself.

    … And then you’ll find yourself 40 and STILL alone. Eventually craving for a baby, eventually sticking to the wrong person, having no long-term friends you shared more than bits of life with.

    People will deceive and let you down, relatives will die and yet you’re there. Alone.

    All that time thinking that your job didn’t even start to change things. So what’s this sacrifice about?

    Run from all this and LIVE.

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