I have found my happy place. It‘s called Paul da Serra and is found right in the middle of nowhere. Not that I mind. Quite the opposite, in fact: Everything else would be a distraction! On my travels, I seek calmness, silence and solitude. And here, on a desolate plateau 1,800 metres above the sunny beaches of Madeira, I have it all laid out before me. Secluded and abandoned, the street up here is cutting a bolt upright streak through this dreamlike landscape of old, wind-swept olive trees. They crawl towards me in forms most grotesque, seem to either greet me or warn me. Everything up here is buried under a thick blanket of fog. That’s highly unlikely for everyone who set out for this trip down at the coast, winding up the steep slopes, leaving the summer climate down below. I, however, am instantly falling in love with this place. The fog mutes even the last sounds and limits my visual field. Suddenly, I come across a pack of cows staring at me. The branches are reaching towards me. Everything is mythical, magical, not of this world.
Once I have been a very healthy man. Until, all of a sudden, I got sick. And I didn’t recover to this very day. I have been bitten by a mean little creature called travel bug. And I will never be the same again. The wanderlust, it has been with me ever since. I can’t even recall when exactly it all began. It did, though, and I couldn’t be more happy than when I’m packing my bags and start to travel. And by travel I mean travel: I don’t chill at the pool in some holiday resort, I don’t roam the concrete jungle of a city. No, I get into my car and just drive. It almost doesn’t matter where I go, to be honest, as long as it is straight to the middle of nowhere. Off the beaten path, that’s where you will find me. That’s my definition of travelling. Of freedom.
I don’t need much to be happy. Basically that’s just another lesson I learned while travelling. Dead weight is simply dragging you down. Let go of things and you will walk lighter, breathe freer. One thing I carry with me at all times, though, is my iPhone. It’s the device I use for taking pictures. When I am roaming the mountains, which I do often and with gusto, I find it rather a nuisance to carry around one of those heavy and expensive cameras. That unique ray of light is long gone until I have one of those devices at hand – photography being the art to catch just the right moment. You also need a certain dose of luck, very true. Patience, dexterity and a certain eye for the world don’t harm, too, but you have to be naturally curious as well.
Well, curiosity is my middle name, but I had to learn the hard way that sometimes, being curious can get you into a lot of trouble. As I told you, I prefer hiking in the mountains. Mountains fascinate me, but they also frighten me. This one does, too: It’s name is Kellenspitze and it’s touching the skies in Tannheimer Tal, Austria. 2,238 metres high and steep. Very steep. After an exhausting ascent of three demanding hours we reach the via ferrata that’ll bring us right up to the peak. The weather’s far from stable, but we set out anyway. Up, up, always up. Two hours of laborious climbing make our legs shake and our breath rattle. We persevere, though. And reach the peak the moment a mean fog arises.
Heavy rain sets in, too. It’s as if the two were just waiting to give us a, well, “warm” welcome. The problem is, we don’t know where to go or what to do. We don’t find a path that leads us down the mountain. Rubble, steep cliffs and debris everywhere we look. Due to the fog, we must have missed a turn-off and fight our way down a way too deep slope drenched to the bone. It’s in these moments that you realize what you’re dealing with here. As much as mountains give me, as much as they calm me down and move me: they are still merciless giants not to be messed with. For even if this story may have found a more or less happy ending, I have experienced countless moments in which nature has given me a glimpse of her sheer power. And every time I am on a via ferrata far up in the mountains, clinging to the ropes for dear life, and feeling my legs shake like a sewing machine, I am painfully aware where my place is.
Continue breathing, that’s the key in moments like these. Not always easy, I know, but worthy to be everyone’s top priority. Remaining calm, that’s also what my pictures speak about. I want to express a certain calmness with them – maybe to find that very calmness within me. To breathe freely again, that’s why I am embarking on my travels. And so far, I have found it on all my journeys. On the peak of a solitary mountain as well as on a plateau high above a popular tourist destination. And, ideally, also in everyday life while talking a stroll through the woods at dawn.
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