Vulnerability and the art of asking

Yesterday two things happened that, on the surface, seemed completely unrelated but turned out to be more connected than one would think.

I love music! I have been known to spend nights on the net searching for new or unknown artists. My favourite genres are, on the one hand, House & Trance and, on the other hand, singer-songwriter Indie & Folk music. For the former I mainly use SoundCloud and, for the latter NoiseTrade.

Cartoon by Thibaut Soulcié

Cartoon by Thibaut Soulcié

Recently I found a Tom & Collins remix of Hanging Tree that I just cannot stop listening to! As I was raving about my new find to a friend, the topic of artist compensation came up. A topic dear to my heart as I, as a photographer, am all too familiar with the expectation of delivering free services and products.

I mentioned a video clip I saw quite some time ago on trusting your audience to pay for the music you make and, although it might not be true for SoundCloud, it is the whole premise on which NoiseTrade operates. He, quite rightly, judged is as quite risky. Of course it is but considering how little compensation artists get from sites like iTunes, it may not be such a difficult choice for an artist to make, especially as platforms like NoiseTrade offer a better opportunity for artist to promote themselves.

One of the stories that made it to my Facebook news feed yesterday was Amy Pence-Brown who took a stand for self love.

As I always try to dig a little deeper, her video led me to Jea West’s public experiment in Piccadilly Circus attributed by Amy as the inspiration for hers.

In turn, Jea mentioned in her blog post that she was inspired by the TED talk of Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking. The same video that made such an impression on me when I watched it a couple of years ago that, although I may not have remembered her name or even that it was a TED talk, the message definitely stayed with me.

In her video, Amanda mentions CouchSurfing a couple of times. As a seasoned CouchSurfer who have been hosted by a multitude of CouchSurfing hosts on 5 continents, I am often asked how I can stay in a total stranger’s house or how I trust total strangers enough to invite them into my home – sometimes even when I am not there. It is a very valid question and a question once again brought to the forefront by the recent killing of Dahlia Yehia in Nepal.

My go-to joke – before I get to the sound advice – is that people don’t travel all the way to Africa to come and steal your furniture. Jokes aside though, it does take courage to trust. It does take courage to step out of your comfort zone. It does take courage to make yourself vulnerable. It does take courage to ask.

What I have learned (and I believe Amanda and Jae and Amy have learned) is that it takes grace, and humility, to receive. To put yourself, your well-being, and even your future in the hands of people who don’t know you and who don’t care about you and trust, blindly, that they will handle it with care.

What we may have learned is that making yourself vulnerable and practicing the art of asking may just be the most amazing gift you can give yourself.

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Boots of Spanish Leather

Song number three definitely falls more in the category of reminding me of a place, a person or a moment that touched me.

In 2007 Amanda and I did a wonderful road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.

From Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

From Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

It was a magical day! Nothing prepared me for the majesty of the canyon, or the wind, or a restaurant that had farm raised catfish on the menu!!!

Catfish on the menu

Catfish on the menu

This was my introduction to the joys of an iPod (keep in mind that Apple products was then almost unheard of in South Africa), artist like Dar Williams (we’ll have something of hers later), and Nanci Griffith’s version of Boots of Spanish Leather.

Sometimes the people we love go on an adventure we have no part in, sometimes love is not enough, sometimes we just have to move on and sometimes all we have to show is boots of Spanish leather.

 

An awesome day!

An awesome day!

Last year, when Rose sailed the seven seas and needed to come home, I found this lovely version by Trevor Willmott and Juliana Richer Daily.

In fear of not living

I finished high school in a time when South Africa still suffered from international sanctions against us. South Africa was still very isolated, the world wasn’t nearly as small and young people who took a gap year were few and far between.

I knew I wanted to do and “live an adventure” but our options were very limited. There were basically two choices – either you could go to a kibbutz in Israel or you could go and work as an au pair in one of 5 countries: Holland, Germany, Belgium, France or Italy. Although I did contemplate a kibbutz for a while, my love of children and my (then) fascination with everything French, prompted me to choose the Au Pair route. I didn’t make it to France but at least I ended up in the French part of Belgium.

I think if there was one song that inspired my generation to at least dream of driving through Paris, in a sports car, with the warm wind in our hair, Marianne Faithfull succeeded brilliantly.

We’ve got a long way to run

I’ve met many travellers in my life and we are a special lot. Often philosophers, often philanthropists, often adrenalin junkies, we all have something in common – we all battle the ennui of the modern consumerism world.

Sonrotse touches on that a bit but who says it better than Collective Soul with Run?

Are these times contagious
I’ve never been this bored before
Is this the prize I’ve waited for
Now as the hours passing
There’s nothing left here to mature
I long to find a messenger

Is there a cure among us
From this processed sanity
I weaken with each voice that sings
In this world of purchase
I’m going to buy back memories
To awaken some old qualities

Snippets of home when you’re on the road

Like Afrikaans literature, good Afrikaans music is, in my opinion, few and far between.

During my Round the World trip, I was on my way from Europe to New York when Bernard shared Klein Tambotieboom, by Die Heuwels Fantasties, on Facebook and I was immediately smitten. Afrikaans music that I could actually listen to. Intelligent and eloquent with an extraordinary gift for wordplay.

I was met at the airport by fellow South African and CouchSurfing host extraodinaire, Dean. Except for the fact that his unique South African hospitality blew me away, I was able to get excited and share new music in my mother tongue with someone just as intelligent, who loves language just as much as I do.

Song number four is about the need to escape a life that brought no satisfaction, when even familiar faces start to look like strangers.

Our bonfire hearts

If there is one thing travelling made me appreciate above all, it is the random encounters we have. There is no rhyme and reason to them, they just happen, and sometimes, just sometimes they have a profound impact on our lives.

Last year I was in India for a week. One short, crazy, dismal little week. If not for the incredible wedding of Srikant and Anastasia, who would travel to a foreign country for a week?

Incredible India

Incredible India

There was magic in that trip though. From the taxi drivers to the train journeys, the servers to the shop assistants, everything was just perfect.

There was the hospitality and love from Uma and Subash that completely floored me, the unexpectedness of midnight encounters with Dalton, reconnecting with old and very precious friends, the gorgeous Verônica, the glorious Kitty, picture perfect Anya, and then there was Nikita.

Start a spark in a bonfire heart...

Start a spark in a bonfire heart…

If I have to think back on that week, not a single thing that comes to mind has anything to do with anything I have seen but every single memory involves a person.

In the end people like us, we don’t need that much. Just someone that starts, starts a spark in our bonfire hearts…

The Ultimate Wanderlust Playlist

Recently two friends asked for playlist suggestions on Facebook and. while contemplating music I love, I thought of all those songs that inspire me to pack my backpack and hit the road again, those songs that make me (want to) go and conquer the world, those songs that instantly transport me to the side of someone I love or reminds me of a place, a person or a moment that touched me.

Travel till your shoes fall off your feet and then travel some more!

Lets face a it, music is magical and has the power to move us. It was really difficult to choose the first third song as there are so many strong contenders.

I had to choose George Ezra’s Budapest though.

I definitely would still like to see this city, or cities to be more correct. I fell in love with Prague during my Round the World trip in 2010 and Flavio highly recommended that I travel to Budapest too. It came down to a choice between staying in Gius’s empty apartment in Groningen or embarking on yet another adventure and, at that stage, the choice was easy!

More than that however, it also has something to do with watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adrien Brody (did you know his mom was born in Budapest) and a boy I met one morning when he woke up over coffee.

Thus Stefan will always be intrinsically part of Budapest and, like the song, thinking of him always makes my heart sing…

People who make your soul sing!

People who make your soul sing!

While I do like the original song too, I have to admit that the A2A remix is a personal favourite!