My journey in Bordeaux started when i took a bus from Paris to Bordeaux. It was 8 hours bus. I chose bus simply because its cheaper than train. Indeed, it was a good decision. I met my first stranger here. Let’s call him Paul.
He said “Hi” to me in French, then I asked if he spoke English. He did. He was Canadian who live in Quebec – a city that spoke Quebec French in Canada. I knew about Quebec because I met 2 Vietnamese Canadian brothers during my trip in New Zealand. He was not travelling to Bordeaux for sightseeing, but to pursue his PhD in Neuroscience. It sounded very cool.
When he asked me why I travelled to Bordeaux, I told him that I was going to Plum Village for 2 weeks meditation retreat. That’s when things got interesting. We discussed about our perspectives on Atheism, Buddhism, economy, brain capability, his research in neuroscience, and many more. I always interested on human brain and mind. Brain plasticity intrigued me the most; theoretically it proved that we can expand our limitation beyond imagination. I ended up spending the morning exploring Bordeaux city centre with him before I catched the train in St Jane Gare. And that was the first time we beat McDonalds’ hour. We went to McDonalds because it always opens 24 hours everywhere, but that was not in Bordeaux that day.
Then, I went to Plum Village for 2 weeks. I mentioned before that i met an Indonesian family back in Plum Village. At this point of time, they have became my own family; mother, father, and sister. I usually address them as my foster family.
At first, they might saw me as an alien; so strange to meet a small Indonesian girl who was travelling alone. During our 2 weeks together, they started to wonder how i was doing it and asking questions. By the end of those 2 weeks, they asked if they could join me in my travel after Plum Village. After a few discussions, we decided that they better joined me in Bordeaux for a few days.
The challenge was to find their accommodation. I already booked one room for two people via Airbnb. I need to find a accommodation that close to my accommodation, or i need to change my booking. In the same day, luckily Paul told me that he found a house in Bordeaux and had two spare bedrooms; enough for all of us. I know, live in a stranger’s house seems crazy. But, this was the basic concept of AirBnb and Couchsurfing. So, we decided to take Paul’s offer.
I told Paul that the main reason I agreed to take my foster family traveling with me was to encourage them to travel by themselves. To be foreigners in foreign places. To get lost and find way back home. To just simply enjoy the essence of traveling without fear. He understood and helped me in this. Most of the time, I became translator between Paul and them. It was funny when Papa and Mama tried to speak with him with broken English. And, at the same time, it was amazing to see them understand each other by very limited language. Understanding starts from an open heart, language is a tool.
I couldn’t help to feel responsible for them when they were in Bordeaux. If you are a parent, you must know the feeling when your children learn to walk. There are times when you observe them from far and see them fall. But you need to let them fall because thats how we learn to walk. All we can do is make sure they don’t get hurt. In this case, before they went out by their own, Paul gave them direction to city centre and i gave them “tips” if they lost. “Don’t panic” was the first thing, followed with “common sense thinking”.
Of course, there were times when I was worried because they haven’t came home on agreed time. It happened twice for good reasons. They enjoyed it so much and forgot about the time. In fact, I never saw father’s eye this bright and happy; happier than the past 2 weeks i spent with him. I was even concerned that he was so happy that he might die because of it. Silly me. :’)
Bordeaux itself was a great place. It was not too crowded as Paris, but not that quiet as Dieudivol. Public transportation was great. It had the cool “cordless” tram. People was friendlier than Parisian. Sometimes, we – mostly Paul – spoke with strangers in the bus or tram. If I travelled alone, I sometimes exchanged smile with people I met on the road. This was when I wished I could speak French. We went to the Place de la Bourse, took photos in Water Mirror (Paul thought i was joking when i told him that the family love to take picture a lot, i was not), walked across Le Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, breathed in the air of Celtic Sea, and enjoyed “almost” super moon in Bassins d’Archachon.
These few days gave me opportunity to know Paul a bit more. I found out that he intentionally went to France because he wanted to go out from Canada, from his life there. He was really passionate about his research; a groundbreaking way to map brain connection which I believed would help medicine community in the future. I was sure i would have a big smile when I heard his research implemented and saved a lot of life.
We discussed our ideas of life even more, such as “why we exist”, “what is love”, “what is home”, intention behind everything, gender stereotyping, and about inter being or connectedness. We also asked ourselves why we kept asking these questions when the others didn’t; what did ignite us at the first place?
We challenged ourselves in various topics, our perception and perspective. Sometimes we were lost in words. Part of it was because these topics were hard to explain, another part of it was because we lost in translation; English was not our mother language. I was intrigued when i heard “I don’t agree” on things i said. Its not like i like confrontation, but it opened the door for us to discuss further and deeper. I am not scientist like him, but i think that’s the essence of science, to always question and discover things. I was glad to find someone similar who dare enough to think and try to find answers.
If someone said that things started by a simple hello, for me, this was started by our simple intention to look beyond ourselves. If we didn’t decide to step aside from our comfort zone in our home (both Canada and Indonesia), we wouldn’t ever met. If we didn’t start our personal journey beforehand, we wouldn’t understand ourselves. And, if we met two years ago, we might not be able to talk about the “hard topic about life”. I knew for sure i was not ready for that kind of topics. The timing and place were just perfect.
Its always a beautiful story to meet a stranger in a crossroad; in the mysterious mist of life. As if we met for a reason. We met without knowing when will be our next encounter or without knowing if there will be a next one. What we knew for sure was how unexpectedly beautiful this experience for us. He was one of amazing strangers I met on this long journey. And, there will be more.
For travellers out there, be courageous. Talk with someone, get to know them, and you will be surprised with what you find. For inspiration, you can follow Steinar Skipsnes (IG: @dailyhello) who made this as his New Year’s resolution in 2016. Have a nice day!