Tag Archives: #adventure

So Far… a Little Recap and Overview

It’s time to share a map again, now that the third leg of my journey is done: from Grenoble to Montpellier. It was a mix of hiking and traveling by car, since during the last week I was lucky to be able to catch up – and catch a ride – with a couple old friends.

All-in-all, I have now been on the trails for almost 2 months, hiking from Brugg in Switzerland towards Portugal. So far, I have covered a distance of 500 km. 100 km were trains and cars. 400 km were tackled entirely on foot. Three days ago, I finally reached the Mediterranean Sea at Saintes Maries de la Mer. A real highlight of my journey!

Here some random observations and practical thoughts so far:

Feet: are ok now, but… oh boy. I can recommend to anyone who has spent years living in flip-flops like I did, to do a lot of smaller hikes before embarking on the big one. My feet took ages to acclimate to being in closed shoes again, all day long. Also, the heavier your backpack, the more strain you put on your knees and feet. Knee problems can easily be avoided by using walking sticks. But, the feet feel the heavy load all day long. This is one reason why I am strongly considering leaving behind even more of my stuff. I am at 12 kg now, but would love to bring it down to 7 or 8 kg. Will need to see what to do…

Gravel paths: the worst!!! So many hiking trails have gravel on them. I’ve come to hate those paths. They absolutely kill my feet. No matter how thick the soles of my shoes are, after a few hours I can feel every single sharp rock.

Water: is a real problem when you hike through the Swiss and French Jura regions in summer. I brought a water filter but was never able to use it, because all creek and river beds were completely dry. I ended up depending on the kindness and close proximity of farmers. In Switzerland, where everything is closer together, this wasn’t so much of a problem. In France, the distances between any settlements and farms are much farther apart. Sometimes more than a day’s walk. Additionally, many small restaurants along the way are currently closed due to Covid19. For the first time in my life, I experienced what it feels like to be thirsty and to be afraid, not knowing where the next drop of water will come from… and when. It all got a bit better once I came through the Rhone valley and the Massif de la Chartreuse. But, since it’s a very hot summer, the water situation remained precarious throughout.

Walking alone: overall no problem. Each day seems to just fly by. After a few hours my feet start hurting and I need to take a break. But, ten hours of walking pass by so fast, even with pain. Which is something I need to be consciously aware of. It’s better to pace myself and not do too many hours in one day.
I haven’t listened to any music yet. I love the sounds of the wildlife all around me and of the wind gently, or sometimes not so gently, blowing through the trees and over the meadows. And, I enjoy my own company.
However, what I do struggle with is my homelessness. If I did this hike knowing I have my own little home base to return to somewhere, I would feel more at peace. As it is, I do not know when and where I’ll find my next job. So, I also do not know when I’ll have my own little private space again. I miss having an actual home. That’s why, sometimes, I wonder if I should have bought an old car, so at least I’d have a home on the road. A little mobile space that’s mine. But maybe that’s also something I need to learn: to be ok without that.
In essence, camping has so far never been a problem, but it has been stressful nonetheless. I am the kind of guy who loves to have his little quiet sanctuary somewhere to retreat to after a hard day’s work. And, somehow, a tent in which I always have to anticipate people, deer, cows, wild dogs, etc. disturbing me, just doesn’t quite measure up.

Covid19 considerations: I always have my face mask in my pocket, within easy reach. As soon as I get close to too many people at once, I put it on. For their protection and mine. In Switzerland, social distancing rules were followed in some places and not in others. Some people wore masks, some didn’t. It seemed to be different in every single farm, village, and city I walked through. In France, the preventive measures so far seem to be in place everywhere. Most people seem to be quite disciplined when it comes to wearing a mask as well, even out on the street. I am surprised the numbers in Southern France are going up so much, because everyone I see is being so careful.

Horse flies and tics: I just really hate them. So far, thankfully, I have found every single tic that was crawling around on me before it latched on. Grrr. Tenacious little buggers!

This is all I can think of right now. I’ll stay in Montpellier for a little while. It’s just too beautiful here to leave quickly. And, after so much forest and nature (which I love) it is great to feel so much vibrant city life and culture around me (which I also love). More about the next steps in tomorrow’s blog post!

Here a few heartfelt thanks:

Big thanks to Maggi and Abel for picking me up close to Avignon. Thanks for letting me stay at your place for a few days! It was so peaceful and I loved our conversations! Thanks Lionel for driving so many hours just to come see me. I loved exploring Uzes with you and was glad we had a chance to catch up after so many years. Thank you Ute and Jim for giving me a ride to the Camargue. How awesome that we had a chance to meet and then hike for a couple days together through the beautiful Camargue! From now on, every time I hear someone burp loudly I’ll think of those strange flamingos, of the weird sounds they make, and of our bird watching adventures! Mylena, how awesome to meet you upon my arrival in Montpellier. What a great day! I could have continued forever. And thanks so much to Evelyne at Villa Stella. Thanks for sharing delicious fruits and coffees with me and for inspiring me with great conversations.

And, thanks to all of you who read this, for being there. Writing these posts is as much a means of letting friends and family know how I am, as it is a means for me to not feel so alone on the road and stay connected with the people I care about and with the world in general. Thanks for your support!

A bientot xxx

At Lake Biel

Arrived at my temporary sanctuary in Luescherz at Lake Biel. Thanks so much to an old friend of mine for making it possible for me to stay in this beautiful oasis for a few days!!! I’ve stocked up on anti-inflammatory Voltaren gel and pills before coming to this little village. Next few days will be foot maintenance and writing articles for TheatreArtLife, plus brainstorming a bit more about step4circus, our initiative, which is still in its infant stage…

https://step4circus.com

This area around Lake Biel is so breathtakingly beautiful. The city of Biel itself is just gorgeous. I can’t believe I never made it here in all those years I worked in Zurich… only a couple hours away. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore more now, and am already looking forward to continuing my hike in a few days. I can actually see the Trans Swiss Trail across the lake from my window here… beckoning… 😉

Milky Way

After camping for a few days, we’ve now stopped for a couple days in the beautiful city of Biel. Yesterday was a lovely day of spoiling myself. I took a long, hot bath while listening to Cinemix, had a picnic dinner from Migros (awesome Swiss supermarket!), and went to the pharmacy to get some advice on why the soles of my feet are still hurting like hell…

Turns out, I have an inflammation in my feet. The pharmacist was helpful and seemed super competent. She prescribed some pills and a special ointment. I was a bit relieved to hear that, apparently, I am not especially whimpy, but this happens to rather a lot of hikers whose feet have troubles getting used to carrying the extra weight of the backpack in addition to hiking up and down through the Swiss Jura region. It doesn’t help that there are no cold creeks to hang your feet into in the evening.

Anyhow, the pharmacist recommends that I stop for at least three days to make sure the inflammation is gone, before I continue. I am gutted to be slowed down, but also immensely grateful to finally know why my feet feel like I’ve got half a dozen knives stuck in them.

Dave will continue on with his partner who is due to join us today. I’ll sadly remain behind for now. But I’m planning to continue on the trail by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. Depends on those two rebellious feet. Fingers crossed!

Being here in Biel with time to think brings back memories. I shop in Migros, in awe at all the delicacies and realize that, while I lived in Switzerland, I probably didn’t appreciate all these little luxuries enough. Even after only one and a half weeks on the trail, my perspective is already shifting. It’s a good thing. Being more aware.

I also think back on the last few years. Life, work, travels. There was so much good. Like the best road trip of my life so far, in 2013, from Zurich to Barcelona and back… all the way along the Spanish coastline, through the South of France, through Monaco, to Cinque Terre in Italy. Then we drove straight north, over the alps, back to Zurich. Driving this entire route for the first time was like a dream. As was experiencing the FINA world championships in Barcelona or deciding spontaneously to go to the opera. Or drinking Sangria in Barcelona’s old part of town. Then we drove on, through landscapes that were ever-changing and magnificent.

I get all nostalgic thinking about life experiences like these and think about how lucky I was to be able to share it all with someone who loved it as much as I did. It’s good to hold on to these memories, to treasure them. Life moves on, forever changing, but certain things remain forever good. Like stars in our firmament, lighting the way for us in harder times.

And, every time we have another profound experience, be it on our own or when we share it with someone who matters to us, we widen our horizon a bit further. We end up adding another star to our own personal Milky Way… making it glow just that tiny bit brighter…

Compeeds

Yesterday, we came through beautiful landscapes. However, we gave it a rest after half a day to sort through our baggage to see if we can leave a bit more behind. When that was done we went to a pharmacy and bought some more Compeeds. Good to make use of civilization while we’re still so close to it. Today we’re heading out on the trail again. Seems it’ll be the last sunny day before rain will hit this region…

Shuffle Those Cards and Start a New Game

2008 liam and milo

The other week, when giving a presentation about my life journey, someone asked, “Why did you go and work in, for example, muslim countries, and travel worldwide to places where, as a transgender person, you were often potentially in danger of becoming the victim of a hate crime?”

The answer to this is really quite simple: “Why not?”

First and foremost, I am a human being who loves life and values his freedom. I greatly enjoy traveling all over the globe. I don’t think about being trans all the time. It doesn’t factor into what my next move will be. Rather, I look at a map and ponder which corners of our gorgeous planet I’d like to see next, where the best dive sites, the best wildlife encounters, the most beautiful landscapes are, and which points on my bucket list I want to tackle next.

I love connecting with people along the way, no matter what their background. The more diverse the better. There is so much we can learn from each other. And good people can be found anywhere. Going on an adventure together (like here in Palau with one of my best friends), or enjoying a cold beer with a couple of like-minded souls on a hot summer evening, chatting about our experiences, thoughts and dreams, is as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Nothing and nowhere is ever completely safe for anyone. No matter what we do or who we are. So why should any of us let ourselves be limited by the cards we’ve been given? Why not take charge, shuffle those cards, and start a new game? I’ve always looked ahead and tried to make the best of things. I’ll follow my heart and I’ll give it a go. Depending on where I am, I will exercise a healthy bit of caution as well, but I don’t see any reason why I should put limits to my existence. Author Helen Keller who overcame great adversity spoke straight from my heart: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

On The Road

chris gobine

Ever since Paralian was published, readers have sent me photos of themselves with the book. These pics have come in from all over the world and have always made my day (thanks everyone!). Here just one awesome example from Chris Gobine who is currently taking Paralian on a trip around the world and stopped for one of his reading breaks along the coast of New Zealand (wish I could join him in person instead of just in spirit and featured on the cover.)
What better place to read Paralian than on the road, along one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines?

Wide Open Spaces and Faraway Places

2013-in-alberta-small

Looking out at the snowy and, admittedly, romantic winter scenery in Zurich, I find myself thinking of far away places. All my life I’ve dreamt of living abroad. I’ve dreamt of wide open spaces, of being closer to wild nature. Thankfully, I’ve been there in the past and hopefully will find chances to venture out again in the future.

I still remember staying in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and feeling vibrantly alive.
The air was crystal clear. Walking to work through the crunching snow in the morning, a hot latte in my gloved hands to keep them from freezing, a quick sip here and there, sweet waves of momentary heat, my steaming breath… I loved walking up that mountain, seeing deer on the way, literally tasting the wilderness all around me. So exciting. True quality of life.
Or that day when we kept the fire going, wrapped up snuggly in five layers of clothing, sipping cold beers with the surrounding, icy forest crackling, the nearby river gurgling away, Inuksuks along its banks, sparks igniting within and around us…

Then there was life in the Maldives. Daily immersion in the Indian Ocean. The seafloor invisible, a thousand meters below. Feeling unchartered territory at my fingertips. Removing my mask and taking my regulator out on purpose at thirty meters depth to taste and feel the amazing living entity that we call ocean and absorb a little bit more of its strength…

Bucket List

2016-liam-on-boat-in-egypt

What will the future bring … ? I don’t care much about amassing material wealth but, oh wow, my head is spinning just thinking of all the points on my bucket list…

The seven most important ones have been fulfilled already:
– travel the world and live abroad
– become a professional scuba diver
– spend lots of time underwater
– write a book about my life journey
– find my soul mate
– be truly myself
– be happy

But may I be greedy? There are quite a few more points on that list tickling my consciousness:
– write many books
– travel to all Pacific islands
– travel more of the world
– spend more time underwater
– see Galapagos
– learn to fly a plane
– jump out of a plane (preferably with a parachute)
– find a tiny house somewhere at the ocean
– escape the grind by keeping a low standard of living
– have less instead of more
– give a TED talk
– make a real difference
– never stop living life to the fullest

Lots to do then, looking ahead. And of course to not forget to enjoy the present with all my heart, too!

Salt on my Skin

2016-liam-on-egypt-beach-3

One week since I got back from the Red Sea… I still feel the gentle swaying of the boat under my feet, salt on my lips and skin. Need to get back to the ocean soon!

Bedouin Brothers

evening-chat

I’d never been to Egypt before and wasn’t quite sure what I’d find. One thing was sure though: after thirteen months of working full time while at the same time publishing my book ‘Paralian’ I was more than ready for a bit of adventure as well as relaxation.

Arriving at Lahami Bay resort three weeks ago, I found myself wrapped securely inside a miniature Germany-Switzerland – everything regulated and ordered, with hardly a trace of Egyptian culture detectable. The overall atmosphere was relaxing however and I hooked up with some old dive buddies to boot. Still, I had to almost force myself to ease into resort life and my traveler’s heart caught itself sighing deeply and counting the days. This place lacked authenticity, and the soul of the local people.

So my wife and I escaped the artificial resort world as much as we could and immersed ourselves underwater at the Housereef or dove in several times a day from the boat. The ocean was its deepest, most cerulean blue, with bits of sparkling turquoise twinkling around the edges.

Back on the boat for breaks between dives, I was delighted to discover the good-naturedness and fine sense of humor of our local boat crews. We got to talking and a few days later Hanna and I found ourselves walking along the beach late in the afternoon, sidestepping an armada of large hunting crabs, until we reached the small marina where all boats were anchored for the night. Ali, one of the captains had invited us to come over. As soon as we arrived, he introduced us to everyone and began preparing traditional hot beverages.

From then on we were with our Bedouin friends and brothers at the marina every day. We sat and listened, exchanged stories, cooked dinner together, learned how to roast, grind, and brew the most delicious Bedouin coffee. We marveled at the generosity and good humor of our hosts, even gazed up at the stars together late at night and shared our hopes and dreams.

This is how I like to travel, how I like to be. All that counts is the person. There is no judgment, no prejudice. There are no stereotypes, no boundaries, no labels – just human beings meeting each other with open hearts and minds. Intense eye-contact. Being fully invested in the moment. Individuals enjoying to learn from each other. Laughter, firm handshakes, sincerity, and a strong sense of self. May we meet again my brothers. Inshallah.