Anyone can write a book like this. People are full of wisdom.
Earlier this year, through personal circumstances, I found myself with little income and ample time to evaluate the direction my life had taken. Breaking out of my comfort zone, I wanted to get away from how I had been living to see if I could learn something new. I decided to travel Europe, passing through as many countries as possible by bus, train or boat, to paint myself a picture of what Europe’s geography and its people look like.
To fund my trip, I sold most of my belongings, keeping only functional gear, a backpack, clothing, survival tools and cooking equipment, a light-weight hiker’s tent and a sleeping bag. To avoid distraction, I traded my smartphone for a dumbphone and left my computer behind in storage.
Snaking my way up from Athens, Greece, where I started, to my final destination Reykjavik, Iceland, I spent many long walks through various cities and diverse nature, thinking about what it really means to be a human being. I jotted down my thoughts in a notebook, which subsequently became this short book, filled with half-finished ideas, thoughts and aphorisms.
During my trip, I met with many friendly people, both locals and fellow travelers. The experience of relating to so many positive-minded people changed some of the views I held of others, as well as my view of myself.
I want to thank everyone I have met along my way. I cannot list everyone here, but I wish to mention several people. I want to thank Eugenia from Tirana, Albania, for translating the unfolding events to me during an adventurous nightly bus ride to Skopje, Macedonia. I want to thank Oceane from Varna, Bulgaria, for suggestion a better title for this book, “with the word freedom in it, because it’s about freedom.” Stranded in Ungheni, Moldavia, I thankfully met four Russian-speaking women that helped me get a taxi to Iași, Romania, despite our inability to comprehend each other for lack of a common language. I want to thank Odilia, a medical student I met on the train to Cluj-Napoca, Romania, for sharing her insightful thoughts about the world with me. I wish to thank Monica, a woman I met on the shuttle to Budapest, Hungary, for letting me in on an adverse childhood experience, which meant a lot to me. Lastly, I want to thank my brother Martien for always being there for me when I needed someone to listen to me.
About the Author
While this book is not about me, the half-finished ideas contained within it come from deeply emotional thought processes.
Having suffered a difficult life, the simplest emotions most people take for granted have long been luxuries to me. For example, the feeling of looking forward to something fun to do the next day is one I stopped feeling since I was a young child, and did not experience again until I was in my early thirties. Only recently have I been able to permit myself the essential feeling of happiness, namely to be content with life just as it is, to be able to relax and take deep breaths while enjoying one’s immediate surroundings.
For a long time, life to me felt like an imprisonment. From age ten onward, with no possibility of escape, I began to suffer recurring thoughts of suicide. As a teenager, I survived half a dozen suicide attempts, and had planned a dozen more. All this time, no one knew how I much I was suffering. For thirty years, no one cared to ask.
I fought my way out of misery. Today, I am growing, fast and strong. I feel I am not just catching up on life, but my adverse experiences help me excel in certain areas. Having spent so many years questioning my value as a human being, I have become highly aware of what it means to be a human being, perhaps more than most people will.
I intended this short book to be of value to readers open to learning something new about themselves and the world around them.
Mathijs Koenraadt, Hong Kong, October 24th, 2015