Fabian, before we talk about the trip and your motivation to do it, let´s start with the basic facts. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your education and what you did so far in your life.
I grew up in Detmold, a small and quiet city in Germany, a very rural place near to the Teutoburg Forest. I spent the half of my childhood in the countryside: small forests lakes were my playground, building river dams and carving my own slingshots my favorite activities
Paradoxically, I was also a computer kid, growing up with the Commodore-64 and the Amiga computer of my older brother. When I was twenty I moved to cologne and started to study computer science. To earn a living, I always worked as a web developer for internet startups and other small companies.
On a backpacking trip to Thailand in 2001 I developed a huge interest in traveling to far away places, meeting people from other cultures and learning languages.
In my third year of studies, in 2004, I went to Santiago de Chile to do an internship. It was supposed to be 3 months long, but I loved Chile so much that it became a year.
I returned to Cologne, and very motivated from my experiences in Chile and the desire to see more of the world, I finished the last courses of my studies and went to Madrid to write my thesis and to improve my Spanish.
Again it was supposed to last 3 months, but since I fell in love with a woman from Chile and with Spain´s capital it became a year. Again.
One of my friends whom I met in Thailand had just moved to Berlin and was talking about it in the best ways. My Chilean girlfriend also liked the idea of moving to Berlin and so in 2006 I went from Spain´s capital to Germany´s capital. In Berlin I studied again: A master in the science of “Human Factors”, which opened the world of Psychology to me, which still is, a very interesting area for me.
In the last year of my master and after finishing it, I worked for the Berlin based non-profit organization betterplace.org
What is it that you like about traveling?
To answer that question I will give you an example of something that happened to me during a trip to Morocco, but first a little background: When I lived in Madrid, from several sides I heard bad words about the people from Morocco or Algeria. The Spaniards would call them “Morros”,
and say that I should watch out for the Morros during the night, that they steal and whatnot.
Three years later I went to Morocco the first time. In Tangier I met Monir, a Moroccan guy, who became my friend and whom I visited every time I went there since.
One evening we were sitting on a wall on a viewpoint in the northern part of the city watching the lights of the Spanish city Tarifa, which is only 20 km away, it was there where Monir revealed his incredible story to me.
“Fabian, I am only here with my body, my mind is over there”, Monir pointed to the Spanish side.
“I never no chance to have my own place and have a family here in Morocco. I will not even try it. Since I was nineteen all I do is trying to escape.
At night my friends and me go to the harbor and watch out for the big trucks. If there is a volvo or any other appropriate truck I try to crawl under it and climb on some part of the chassis.
Sometimes you can stay on the tank, sometimes on other parts of the interior of the truck. If the harbor security sees you, you have to run. They are very cruel and will hit you with a stick, so you never come back.
When I am lucky and nobody sees me, I stay there below the truck, sometimes many hours, until the truck drives on a ship which goes to Spain. In Spain you never know where the truck is going, sometimes they don´t stop for hours, but whenever it stops I take my feet into my hands and run. See, I am always prepared to leave”. Monir showed me that he was wearing two trousers. “One trousers will always be dirty when I leave the truck, thats why I always carry a second one. In Spain I take one pair off, then I hit the streets, always aware of the police, and I try to beg to collect some money to buy a bus ticket to go to Barcelona, that is where my girlfriend lives.
Monir escaped to Spain for the first time when he was 19 years old and stayed for three years until the police caught him and sent him back. He met his girlfriend there in Barcelona, they are still together, they are still in love, but they hardly see each other. Monir is now 26 years old, but every time he manages to escape he is send back.
See, this is what I love about traveling, my prejudice about Moroccan people, which was placed in my head by the Spaniards, was replaced by a personal encounter with an actual Moroccan person.
I developed a deep empathy with Monir and his personal story. Whenever I see somebody from Morocco now, my first reaction is not fear or distrust, it is curiosity and interest in their story.
I need to see the world with my own eyes and meet people myself. Reading about politics and immigration issues in the newspapers does not make me feel, it doesn´t touch my heart, it only let me rationally understand things.
On the other hand, if I meet a person whose life is affected by these issues I understand the importance of affairs like that and start to care about them in an emotional way.
After that I can read the newspaper, not before.
Traveling, in a way, makes me see the world from all perspectives: I had the chance to learn about the perspective of a clandestine from morocco, the perspective of a veteran
who lost his leg in the vietnam war, the perspective of a prostitute from Thailand and many more perspectives.
Traveling also lets me see the relativity of luxury and material possessions. Sometimes you meet people who have near to nothing, but still you have the impression that they
are not less happier than people in Germany, I also often think the opposite is the case.
Traveling is dissolving boundaries. Boundaries between countries and boundaries between people. You meet people from all around the world, from all sorts of social backgrounds and you realize that we all want the same: We want a roof above our heads and something to eat, we want to be happy, we want to love and be loved. Some of us are “fortunate” and are able to reach this things without violating
a law, others not. But these others have the same right as we have, no matter if they were born in Morocco, Cuba or Malawi.
By establishing personal connections to all sorts of people from this planet, one includes these people in his moral circle. I think that is what we need, realizing that we are all inhabitants of this planet, that there are no boundaries, that we are one global family.
Why should somebody try to make the world a better place? What is your motivation?
Wow, this is not an easy question, I will first answer it for me personally and later try to give a generalized answer.
First, let me tell you about a dream I had a year ago. It is one of the most impacting dreams I ever had, with a very clear message, I have no idea where it came from. Immediately after waking up I spoke the whole experience onto a tape recorder, that´s why I remember so many details about it. This is my transcript:
I am surrounded by darkness and complete silence. No floor, no ceiling, I am floating in the void.
In the left bottom corner of my visual space a being, which I would describe as from “out of space”, appears, a little alien.
I feel anxious. Alien: “Don´t be afraid, we are your friends, no matter where we take you now, don´t be afraid, you are save, let´s go!”
I find myself underwater, looking at a great coral reef, surrounded by crystal clear water, rainbow colored fishes and
thousands of corals. Alien: “Think of this ocean as the cosmos, the great universe, infinite and eternal with all it´s beauties, like the fishes, the flowers and the mountains, the human brain, the internet, and the never ending cycle of evolution. This ocean is the miracle of life. Do you see these corrals over there? This is you, the human beings”. I watch the corrals and see how they swing from the left to right, back and forth, totally in tune with the waves of the cosmic ocean. Alien: “See how amazing and beautiful this ocean is? See how big it is and how little the corrals are in comparison? Now, look at the one little corral over there!”
The alien points to a particular coral which seems to try to stand against the waves and also to be bigger than the other corals.
I realize how stupid and impossible it is trying to resist the strong waves.
Alien: “Life is about being one with the ocean, accepting what it gives you. Life is about trying to appreciate every moment of existence and take it as a gift that you can be one of these corrals, that you can take part in this crazy project called ‘life’. You are just one of billions and billions of beings in this universe, why should this corral try to be higher than any of the others?”
Alien: “The most noble, the finest way you humans can live on this planet is by using your hands, your feet or your voice to express the miracle of live. No matter if you write poems, dance or sing songs. A great artist is someone who tunes in, into the cosmic waves of the ocean and acts only as a channel to express beautifulness. For this he needs to leave his ego beside, he cannot be this corral who tries to stand out. The mission of the artist is to, through his artwork, help other humans realize how amazing it is to be alive.”
I think to myself: “Not everybody can be an artist”
The alien replies: “Not everybody is an artist and that is ok. No matter what you do, it is good as long as you use your wealth to maximize the moments of awe in front of the miracle of life, for yourself and for others.”
That morning I woke up very, very happy and inspired.
You know, sometimes I can be very selfish and egoistic, like the one corral trying to stand out, but I know, that somewhere inside me the message of this dream is the essence of my values and what I believe in: We all should worship and appreciate what it means being alive and help each other remember this. We all have to awaken and maintain our “divine within”.
Now, in order to be able to look at life this way, I think some basic necessities have to be covered:
Somebody who is struggling for survival, or a mother who has to see her children dying from a malaria infection, which could have been avoided by using a 5$ bed net, is probably not really in the mood to appreciate life.
But theses people have the same right to experience the beauty of life as we have.
My personal, logical conclusion of realizing these things is: I have to do something about it!
This is only my answer to the question and I understand that there are people with different perspectives.
Still I think there is a general answer to the question why somebody should try to make this planet a better place:
In the “west” we live in luxury, but our comfort rides on the back of people who do not have the same privileges as we have.
Nowadays, we have the technology to lift up the people in extreme poverty among us to at least an acceptable level of comfort and freedom, we though have a moral obligation to act, we have to take action!
How did you discover your way “to act” and what can you suggest to others about finding ways “to take action”?
I can´t remember who said it, but somewhere I heard the phrase: “Ask yourself the question: Which passion or interest of mine could contribute to the great project of creating a better living on this planet?” I also like this phrase which I noted down at a ted conference: “Do what makes your heart sing, to make a better world for all”. Steve Jobs, in his Commencement Speech at Stanford, put it this way: “You’ve got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. [..] If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”
That´s what it´s about: Think of your passions, your interests, the stuff that you love and makes your heart sing, and then see how you can use these things to make something good out of it and convert it into your daily work. In my case, I love traveling and meeting all sorts of people. I am also fanatic about the internet and social media.
I like shooting and editing videos and don´t feel uncomfortable speaking in front of a camera. I also like playing the guitar and singing songs. So my way “to act” for the following year is combining all these things: Travel the world, raising money for people in need of support using the power of social media, making it entertaining by singing songs together with many people and hoping that we also inspire others with our actions.
For me this is a dream coming true. There is nothing else I want to do more.
I have no idea what happens after the trip and how I will make a living when I am back in Germany, but to use Alejandro Jodorowsky´s words: “I believe in miracles, or rather in the existence of a law that if my intentions are pure and I do what I must do, the money will follow, in some way or another”.