Here they were, Sara and Charlotte, sitting on their sleeping bags in an empty room in Freiburg. They had had a few glasses of wine to tone down the anxiety they felt about the approaching morning. They were to embark on a mad endeavor. It was like when Royal Robbins decided to climb the Half Dome in Yosemite national park, and he was halfway up and couldn’t climb back down: the only way out was over the summit.
On March 19th, Charlotte and Sara would hike the Camino. Possibly, all the way to Santiago de Compostela, possibly ending up in an eco-village, working on the fields, possibly ending up somewhere else entirely, but definitely heading out into the unknown.
And like Royal Robbins, they could not back down. They had already said goodbye to their friends, their families. They quit their jobs, dropped out of their studies, and moved out of their flats. Charlotte’s belongings had been stored in a cellar in Schallstatt the day before. Now their lives had been broken down to what could be fit in two backpacks.
Charlotte: It’s been a crazy six months. Just a month after I got to Freiburg I was ready to leave again. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t happy here. But because I was in the spirit of moving around. I met so many people who are brave enough to explore alternative lifestyles where you’re not just tied to one place. And there was also a feeling of envy there, you know? I think envy can be quite powerful. Cause I had these people come into my life and vanish again to have all sorts of adventures. And I thought like: do I wanna fuck them or be them? And I think envy has always been a motivator for me. Because, essentially, it tells you what you want. So there’s no need to really be mad at someone you think has an awesome life. Instead I’m really happy about all the people I met who opened up new ways of thinking for me. And I guess this journey didn’t start now, it started in February last year when I decided to pull myself out of another stretch of depression, and when I adopted a strict policy of overcoming fears. I feel like ever since I pushed myself to do the things I’ve been dreaming of, and to let go of what does not work for me, I have been rewarded like crazy. It’s like: the more I let go, the more I trust that everything will go right or at least that everything will work itself out in some way, the more it does. And I feel like that has become a truth. And sometimes a plan does not work out, but then retrospectively I realize it wasn’t supposed to work out, so that something else could happen instead. I was really disappointed about the flats I didn’t get in Freiburg, that I could only ever get a place for three months. But now I know it was because I wasn’t supposed to stay here.
Sara: Being so afraid of this journey I found myself longing for the safety and comfort of my life so far, I found myself longing for long evenings on a sofa watching Netflix, eating snacks and sleeping in – and firm structure and rules – basically, for all the things I’m trying to escape. And I had to remind myself of a few things. First: Safety is an illusion. You’re never truly safe no matter where you are or what you do. And secondly: You might submit to the fear and the longing for safety and establish walls around yourself, and you might be able to feel a sense of relief for a second but then the walls will start closing in on you again. So really what you want is to feel safe within yourself. And to break down all the walls around you and still feel at home in this world, I guess. At least that’s what I’m looking for. For a way to unlearn my fears, or rather to learn a different way of approaching them, to not view them as fences but rather as guide posts. I want to be a person who says “I am fucking scared of this so I will do it.” and in order to be this person I will have to do this. I am fucking scared of it. But I will do it.
Charlotte: Yeah, I can’t follow up on this.
Sara: I mean, you have already been brave. You burned your old life down in Hamburg. You came here with nothing, I guess, but a feeling that there might be something here for you. And you were right, you found something. You built a life from scratch here and started something new and it’s a fucking wonderful life that’s full of adventure. It’s like you have two boyfriends, and you hitchhike and you have the whole climate activist scene. You have a lot here that makes a comfortable life. And maybe that’s why you have to leave again so you don’t end up taking it for granted, but so that you throw yourself in a new and scary situation and you can come back and continue building the life you have here, because the thing is – you don’t have to have just either the one or the other – either a somewhat stable, comfortable life, or an adventurous scary life – you can have both. And maybe it’s important to have both. Maybe you have to have both so you can value each of them. When you come back, you will be able to value what you have here so much more. Not saying you’re not grateful now. But when you come back, you will notice just how much you have, but also, just how much is out there.
Charlotte: Thank you, for knowing me so well and sometimes saying what I can’t find the words for. But the same goes for you. I mean, I’m incredibly impressed by how you took this idea that I had and you ran with it. You made it your own. And I could see how when you went through one of the roughest periods of your life, this trip became something to hold on to. Your way out, and a sliver of hope. This mountain that you realized you wanted to climb more than any of the artificial bureaucratic mountains life had put in front of you. I think you started to pick your own battles and it has made you so much more powerful. And when I look at the decisions you made and the fears you’re overcoming and this illusion of safety you’re leaving behind I feel nothing but admiration and love. I’m really happy we’re doing this together. I wouldn’t want to do this particular journey with anyone else.
And to everyone I’ve met in Freiburg, all the inspirational people, everyone who shared their life and their heart with me: Thank you. I will not forget you. I will come back.
In memory of John Bachar (July 5th, 2009), Dean Potter (May 16th, 2015), Royal Robbins (March 14th, 2017)