March 17, 2015

Everyone says I'm running away

It started as a conversation with my mum, on a night I was feeling insecure.
« I feel like I can't really talk to anyone about my travels. It feels like they don't get it. »
She asked me why, in that kind worried tone that makes me feel deeply loved and slightly restless.
« Because they say I'm running away ».

Don't worry, people – this is not a reproach, and I still love you dearly. But your words sparked a train of thoughts and I had to write it down.

What do you mean when you say that I'm running away ? Here's how I hear it : « You traveling is a geographic metaphor for distancing yourself from everything that happened to you, every decision you made and still has to make. You're waving away all the responsabilities that we're dealing with everyday. ». Also, you say : « But one day, you're coming back, right ? ». You're calling it a parenthesis. You're calling it my « other life ». What other life is there but my own ? You and I only have one. I understand the reasons behind the feint concern : I did leave behind a home, a country, a job for this. I did forfeit comfort and money. It may seem incoherent to some people. Someone wrote a line that often comfort me : « I am under no obligation to make sense to anyone. Not even myself. »

I'm not dismissing the words. At least one of them is true – I am running. Mileage and speed are two essential facets of my travels. I am going fast, and I am going far. People used to say before I left : why can't you travel in France ? It's beautiful as well ! And they're right of course, but I knew I had to go further. I'll admit that I am addicted to speed and movement. I love nothing more than to wake up in the morning and know that at the end of the day, I'll be hundred, thousands of miles away. Sometimes my pace slows down for a while, but never for long. I am always, always leaving.

It's the « away » I'm having troubles with. As hard as I try to find a truth in your words, it feels like everything I could be running from, I am dealing with on a daily basis. You know full well that it takes more than a flight or a new country to forget pain or grief. A holiday won't cure your broken heart. I think travel is addictive because it puts you face to face with who you really are, and you can't run away from that. It is challenging, but fascinating. I am constantly in a state of remembering and healing and making decisions for what is to come. I have to find shelter, food, ways to go where I want to go, I plan, I budget. I am in a state of responsability for my own trajectory, my own safety, my own life, to an extent I have never known before.

As a photographer I resent the idea that I travel to avoid looking at things that upset me.
I believe we travel to tear down the veil. We travel to see clearly. We travel to witness. And I saw things way harder to look at than anything in my own life. Things I'd rather not look at, because they pain me and I can't change them. Violence. Poverty. Destruction of ressources and people, often by our own hands. But I force myself to look and keep looking, because someday I'll be able to make other people see them and together we'll be strong enough to change things.

So here we are. I am running, but not away. I am running towards. Towards a world that keeps on evolving and transforming every second. Towards places that will probably be infinitely changed, perhaps destroyed, in ten years time. Towards faces that will grow old and turn to dust. I'm running to every part of the world I don't know, before I myself leave this world. I want to be am active part of our memory. I want to remember what most people forget. Sometimes, in the movement and chaos around me, it almost feels like the world is running to meet me. And you can't run away from the world. You can only open your arms and crash into it, wholeheartedly.

These pictures were taken in Sulawesi.

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