Not all those who wander…

2006 shipyard briefing

Surrounded by turquoise oceans teeming with life, I often pondered one of my favorite quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” I had sometimes been lost before I had wandered. Ever since I had started exploring the world and myself in the process, I was definitely far from lost.

Enough

1988 teenager on school trip

Adolescence was difficult to say the least. I tried to fit in. But I wasn’t girl enough to be able to connect with other girls and I wasn’t boy enough to be accepted by other boys. So I decided early on to try and find virtue in being a loner. I immersed myself in books, wrote poems and short stories, pondered about Schopenhauer and Kant, and ordered books from Native American reservations, at one time even learning a Lakota dialect. My favorite pastime on weekends was helping frogs across the street or rescuing falcons from Arab sheiks. I was lonely as hell, friendly, smiling.
Kill them with kindness, I thought. Be yourself. Eventually, you will find your way and they will accept you. In these early days, it never occurred to me that I was already well on my way, just many years away from understanding an important truth: being me is enough.

Significant

i'm significant

As an adolescent, I was convinced that everything is important. Every move I made, every decision I pondered, every breath I took had to count for something and be a positive or at least a very profound statement. Naturally, I also expected the same from everyone else. Looking back, I can’t help but chuckle and feel slightly sorry for all of those whose path I have crossed. I am sure, I wasn’t horrible to be with, but my expectations were so high, they could never be reached.

Maybe my quest was so intense because, in the first twenty years of my life, nothing seemed to work out. My body wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Life had a way of throwing challenges at me faster than I could blink. Giving up wasn’t an option so I analyzed and anticipated each twist and turn in my life like a general, ready to dispatch his troops but needing to find out where to send them, for best results. I was on constant alert, trying to spot problems and conflicts before they arose, so I could take preventive measures and come out victorious.

I still take things way too seriously. I still care. Most likely, I still care way too much about everything, but I have also learned to sit back and relax. I have learned to laugh about myself. I am smiling right now, chuckling about how important it seems to compose these three little paragraphs. And yet, I am happy to write them and would want to do nothing else at this moment. I am smiling about my use of the word “victorious”. I can do my very best, and I will continue to do so, but who knows what will happen. And what’s a victory anyway? It’s a big planet, a gigantic universe, an unpredictable, beautiful life. I trust more now. I trust those around me. Most of all, I trust myself to be able to deal with whatever may come. Sometimes not accomplishing something is exactly what we need, even if it breaks our heart. Sometimes, losing something proves to be the best thing that could ever have happened to us. I don’t worry about failure anymore. If I have my heart in the right place, then nothing will be a failure. It will all be part of my odyssey, every experience to be treasured.

This little dust speck is waving to the universe, happy to be a part of it for a little while.

The Quintessential Meaning of Life

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Home is all about the people you meet on your journey. It’s the quintessential meaning of life.
Additionally to relationships and friendships lasting a lifetime, I am humbled and awed by many encounters along my way.
I remember a friend from Bangladesh who still works on the same island in the Maldives he has worked on for the last twenty-five years. Like many, he is far away from his home and family, allowed only one vacation per year. After all this time, he is still living in staff quarters with more than twenty men to one room. He has one of the kindest souls I have ever known.
I remember meeting new workers from Bangladesh on their way to the Maldives, terrified on the flight, breaking the bathroom doors on the airplane because they couldn’t read pictures or symbols to figure out how to open these doors they had never seen before. Lining up at immigration, they held on to each other for dear life.
Or I remember an eighty-year old man in Macau, working in a parking garage, who stopped me every time to ask if I could teach him a bit of English. One time he pointed to a dirty shopping bag and looked at me with curious, smiling eyes, wanting me to teach him the slogan printed on the bag: “I am a plastic bag, treat me responsibly!”
I remember so many encounters in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa, the humblest people often teaching me the greatest lessons, reminding me how precious life is and how little we truly need, to live a good life and make a difference.

Towards Uncertainty

last family pic

I am very happy to announce I just finished the 3rd draft of my book! Just in time too, since today my bags are packed and I am moving back to Europe. Germany and Switzerland at first, then who knows…
September will be spent working very hard on the 4th draft. In October, the search for an agent/publisher will begin in earnest.
The last weeks and days have been fabulous in so many ways. My partner and I have said goodbye to our friends in Macau and Hong Kong. I am humbled by all the love and kindness given us. Thanks so much my friends. I am so lucky to have you in my life. We will meet again!
As of now, there is no way of knowing where we will find a home and work, and when. It could be anywhere and it could take a while. A hard blow was when we had to give away our beloved dogs. To make sure they will be safe and well taken care of, we found our boys a new family. Buzzy and Ricky have been with them for two weeks now and are very happy. For my partner and me it was a heartbreaking experience. We felt as if we had to give away our own children and missed our clumsy boys so much. During the first few days of our separation, our home felt horribly cold and lifeless. We couldn’t stop crying and were ready to storm into our boys’ new home to kidnap them right back. Now, seeing how content they are with their new pack, we still miss them painfully, always will, but we rest assured in the knowledge that they are happy and loved.
Today we are leaving. Writing and living on Lamma Island was amazing. It was an intense, hard, magnificently creative year, and most likely one of the happiest years of my life.

And off we go towards uncertainty!

Eleven Months

2014 liam writing

Beginning of October 2013 I took a chance, left a very unsatisfying job in Hong Kong and decided to go after the dream of a lifetime: writing my memoirs.
It’s been a very tough year. Against all odds – no luck with jobs and no income – my partner and I decided to stick it out on Hong Kong’s idyllic Lamma Island. Underneath the jungle-like foliage, with no cars and only few noises of civilization to distract me, it was the perfect place to focus on a creative project of this magnitude. I spent a good thirty to forty hours each week writing.
Now I am nearing the end of my 3rd draft and will push on one more time to finish a 4th draft by the end of September. Currently I am looking at a good three hundred pages of inspiration, passion, humor, and suspense.
It was the gamble of a lifetime. Finally, after having invested it all, my partner and I have come to the end of the line here in Hong Kong. I am the luckiest man alive to have found a partner with a sense of adventure who also has boundless faith in my abilities. She has never given up supporting my dream of writing this book.
At the end of August, we will finally leave the Asian metropolis and head towards Central Europe for starters. We will try to find a new home, jobs for us both, and hopefully an agent and publisher who will believe in my book as much as I do.
As tough as it has been, it has been amazing to creatively work on a personal project I care about with all my heart. This time of facing all my memories, shortcomings and fears, without a doubt constituted eleven of the most intense and happiest months of my life.
I deeply believe my book has the potential to inspire and change the world just a microscopic little bit. Hopefully for the better.
Thank you so much for all your support so far my friends! Please keep spreading the word. I will, of course, keep you posted and hope you will be one of my readers. I promise you will not regret the wait.

Pinocchio

2005 frogfish and me on thila

Frogfish. They are amazing: camouflaging themselves as sponges, striking at lightning speed by extending their jaws with one of the fastest muscle reflexes in nature, and last but not least, they are breathing through gills in their legs.
We named this little man Pinocchio. He was a clumsy little fellow. Needing a base to hold on to and blend in with, he picked the one sponge on top of the reef that grew in the middle of the strongest current. He held on for dear life, getting whipped around for months, before he got the message and went in search for a less stressful home.
On one dive, I enjoyed the luxury of staying with little Pinocchio for an entire hour. I just hovered in front of him, enjoying his otherworldly handsomeness. He never moved, just blinked at me every now and then. One of the many magic moments in my big blue home that I will never forget!