Requiem for the United States

FRANÇAIS PAGE 2 : Requiem pour les États-Unis

6 min read

We can all agree that 2020 is a crazy year. No matter where you look at or where you look from. Many lives have been changed this year.

It is one of the reasons I decided to open this website. I did it right before the pandemic and I already wanted to uplift you by showing you what the world has to offer.

In my last article, I said this week’s article would be about our series on the mind-body connection and specifically about our scientifically proven bodies’ healing powers.

Considering some recent events, I decided to change my plans and to write an article I had on my heart to write for many months now. 

Today, we will take an imaginary plane together to one of the best trips I had in my life. This trip happened on July 2019 where life led me to the state of Oregon, United States of America.

This will be our way of sending love, hope and rainy vibrations to this country, that is suffering from severe wildfires as you read this. As a matter of fact, 3 states in the country are currently burning

A requiem is originally a religious tradition, we’re taking it today to remember all the lives and lands that have been destroyed. All the pictures you’ll see in this article come from my trip to the States. Some of you might even recognise some of them from previous article of mine.

4 million acres have been burnt according to the New York Times that entitled their article « ‘It Is Apocalyptic’: Fear and Destruction Grip the West Coast ». For further informations, I invite you to look at their article or find the information available online as this article will only be centered on positive facts.

Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, United States

Let’s remember today what makes Oregon a magical state

Wishes

The story begins 25 years ago when I first dreamt about travelling to the states. I always had this idea that it would be an amazing country to visit and that is welcoming anyone who step foot in their home.

Since then, I grasped every opportunities I could find for knowing more about the states, seeing if this country would be a good fit for me and asking all the questions I could think of.

Every time someone told me about the States, believe me when I say that my eyes were glowing in hope for a trip that would send me to this dream world. 

« You won’t believe what I just heard about the States » would I say to a friend on the phone after having one of those amazing conversations. They were enough for me to believe that a trip to the states would change my entire view of the world.

I had to wait but I didn’t know how much I was right by then.

Of course, some people would say to me that it is a great country but that it is not original to go there and certainly not safe since « everyone has gun there ».

I don’t like prejudices. I didn’t then and I don’t like them now.

I actually believe that those people are the ones that would benefit the most from travelling. Especially since they don’t like opening their eyes and mind.

The Cove Palisades State Park, Oregon, United States

The chance of a lifetime

For 25 years I wanted to visit the United States of America. I never stopped dreaming about it. I never stopped hoping that one day I would have the perfect opportunity to go there, especially since I never found the money to go visit the country properly.

One day, as I was working in a middle school, I received a call from a friend of mine. I remember that day perfectly. She called me thrice in a row and even if I was at work I took time to understand why.

« Oh good, you called me back Ben! You won’t believe what I just found for you!! You can have the opportunity to travel to the States, all expenses paid ; your only job will be to take care of 16 teenagers during their flight! During your stay, you will be hosted by a host family and the children will too, you’ll just have to call them twice a week to be sure everyone is doing well, otherwise you’ll be free to enjoy your stay! »

1 week later, I was flying to Portland, Oregon for the first time in my life.

Greenland seen from the plane

Entering the dream

When I say that I have been wanting to go to the States for a long time, I mean it. So much that I decided to learn English by myself – I explain how in my article Tips for Learning a Language – to know more about the American culture, I even organised many Thanksgiving dinner at home and another one at church with 110 people!

When I stepped foot in the States, even when I entered the plane, I couldn’t realise that I was actually flying there.

Indeed I was, and that is when I understood fully what “all things come to the ones who wait” mean.

Because I believed it for so many years and because I never stopped believing in it, I was finally able to enter my dream. Furthermore, I didn’t have the money to go but life just decided to answer my prayer.

Here I was, landing in Portland and spending one night in a hotel with 16 teenagers that were looking up to me for guidance.

On our way to our host families, we were all amazed by the landscapes we had in front of us. The 3 hour bus ride felt like minutes. That time allowed us all to realise exactly where we were.

Somewhere on the way from Portland to Bend, Oregon

I realised the chance I had to be there. And I wasn’t finished to be grateful.

Living life as an American

What they say is true. Americans aren’t that easy to be close to. But trust me, once they open their door to you, they also open their heart.

Waiting for us with balloons and welcoming signs with our name on it, it was heartwarming to see them welcoming us like this and jumping on the arms of some students of mine made me realised that some must have been coming for several years in the same family.

Imagining all those people having to stay indoor right now because of all the smoke due to the fires just breaks my heart.

My dream didn’t stop there! It was only the beginning. I couldn’t have wished for a better family than the one I had. I will never be able to thank them enough for the way they welcomed me and how they cared for me. They were a perfect fit, vegan, loving yoga and meditation, out of the box and open to new adventures. They opened their home, their heart and family to me. I can now say without a doubt that I am part of their family and that they are part of mine.

They knew I loved going to festivals and organised a visit to a near festival the day after my arrival. That’s when I realised once more that what they say is true. Americans are “full of themselves” (in a good way), you come as you are and you’re free to enjoy your time wherever you are.

Festival in Bend, Oregon

And since the life there is quite similar from the life in the movies. (in some extent), it’s not that much difficult to  acclimate yourself to the country. 

Visiting Central Oregon

When I was living in Paris, I loved talking to every American I could meet. My favourite question to ask them was “What do you think about Paris?” They often answer “We loved it! But everything is tiny here, the streets, the roads, the hotel rooms!…”

Now I understand why they said that. Everything in the States is big. The way they fully embrace who they are, their view of the world, their trust in you when they adopted you, their shops, their roads, their landscapes, the dangers they can face (we won’t be face to face with a puma or a bear if we walk by ourselves in the countryside in France but they will if they do it in Oregon or California).

Smith Rock State Park

When you’re an European, you’re not really aware of all that the United States can offer you. You mostly know of New York City, California, Las Vegas, Miami and let’s say, Texas. Oregon wasn’t on my list because I didn’t really know about it. I’m grateful that life led me there.

Central Oregon is the perfect place for discovering the countryside. Be sure to have about a month to visit everything.

You can be driving from a warm place in Bend where you can Kayak to a cold place next the 3 sisters and maybe hike on them since they are volcanos.

When you take the road, you’re able to visit many things and encounter many different beautiful places.

Such as water falls.

McKenzie Bridge, Central Oregon, United States

Beautiful people.

Drake Park, Bend, Oregon, United States

And amazing events.

Outdoor event in Smith Rocks, Oregon

This one was actually a classical music concert, Hunter Noack had this amazing idea to bring people outdoor and play them music. I like classical music since this day and thanks to him. It was a precious moment. And I thank you again my family from another country for giving me the opportunity to attend.

I advise anyone who’d love to visit the courntyside, anyone who wants to get off the beaten track or want to be breathless by what they see to try and visit Oregon. If you like hiking and wandering in nature as well as visiting some beautiful cities, this is the place to be.

And again, people will be warmly welcoming you.

Somewhere in Central Oregon

Of course not everyone will be welcoming. I remember taking this picture telling myself « even this dog can see I’m French » because you can see some old republicans (mostly) not being really happy you’re stepping foot in their little town. But apart from that, you have so much to discover, share and receive that it is truly a part of this country I’m going to visit again soon.

And you can be sure of that, United States of America, once this crazy pandemic is over, once you have recovered from the worst fire season you have faced and once you have reopened your frontiers ; I’ll be ready to come back and live as an American once again.

I’d like to thank everyone who welcomed me there again. All those memories – be sure that I didn’t have enough space to share them all with you here – will stay in my heart forever, you changed my view of the world.

Thanks to everyone of you, I finally decided to step into my power and to be an example for everyone around me and for myself as well. They will recognize themselves when they read this. Thank you for your trust, love and kindness.

I hope this article gave you a clear idea of what Oregon has to offer. Let me know in the comments if you already have visited or what you would do there if you go.

Next week we will continue our series on the mind-body connection so be sure to stay tune and if you haven’t alreay, register to the newsletter at the end of the article to receive all the news from the website on your mailbox.

Until then,

« Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before »

Dalaï – Lama

Want to keep reading?

Here’s my article about my visit to Amsterdam, Netherlands : I AMsterdam

You also have my articles about a travel documentary project of mine, the last one is On Being Childlike

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I AMSTERDAM

FRANÇAIS PAGE 2

4 minutes reading

Today I’m writing from Amsterdam, Netherlands. The end of another lucky travel for me. Quick but so much fun. Days felt like minutes here! There’s always something going on at any hour of the day. It’s a city like no other where you feel transported in the past at the same time as pushed forward into the future.

For me, travels forge intelligence. By seeing what others do, one is more able to make your choices and therefore to see if your country does things according to your own value. In short, to see who’s right. But not right according to something the society might be saying but right according to your own view of the system you’re in. We’re all in a system, we live in our little worlds connected to one another.

We have to be thankful for the place we live in but then again, as we say : “Grass is always greener next door”. We will always want to see what others do and that curiosity is actually what makes us grow. Always wanting to learn new things, never do the same thing in a row. Curiosity can be a good thing if you try to play with it.

We usually hear that we should all go to a new place, meet new people, do something new and so on every months. And by being always curious, you certainly can be thankful for what you have, it’s more easier. Sometimes you have to make it your own way to make it work and that’s exactly how it’s going to work. If one is curious enough, one dare listen to its heart and let it drive.

It’s crazy to see how things are different here. I’m vegetarian and being vegetarian in France can be quite difficult, sometimes I even have to take the food I can’t eat off my meals. In the last countries I went to, things were so easy for a vegan, just like in Amsterdam, there’s a vegan option in almost every place you go. More convenient when you’re not necessarily eating with vegan people.

Furthermore, I always wondered why we hear that there is too much plastic in our oceans and then see a single cookie packed in another box full of other single packed cookies. That’s just an example but it’s crazy sometimes. Even in our organic main shops in France we see those things. They tell you to eat well for the planet and then make you buy a little more plastic to let spread into the oceans. In other countries, here in the Netherlands for instance, you can find the first plastic free shop! Which is saying a lot. You’re advised not to buy plastic and always have another option, wood, cardboard, reusable plastic etc… Even on our way here, we had coffees served with compostable cups in the flight! I wonder why we don’t choose the right solution when there is one, we know there’s plenty of things available if we really want to change things quickly. That is actually an idea I’m going to develop in a few articles, how we should always be aware of what comes into our bodies.

You can find a lot of structures built for people working on their own, where they can come and work in an open space with other workers. A good way to share idea and connect, therefore, expand. It feels like everything is thought differently here.

The mood isn’t the same, as many of you know, you can smell weed anywhere so it might explain what I’m saying…

Joke aside, the city is really quiet, everyone drives a bike or take the public transports so you can’t hear a multitude of cars. But I have to say it, there’s A LOT of bikes! Too many, I heard there’s more bikes than there is Amsterdamers. I sure know there’s too many, I almost got hit by a bike and a tram ! But I think part of this respectful mood comes from the fact that you can have a €90 fine if you drink alcohol outside and a €140 one in case of littering, another good I idea if you ask me.

Everyone is welcomed, everyone cohabit. Even though we hear about all the crazy things that happen here, they also have a lot religious people from very different background. In front of Centraal Station, one of the buildings that welcomes you has « JESUS LOVES YOU » written on its wall. You might even find an Hindu temple near you.

And also guys, it might come has a shock for you but you can’t actually smoke weed in Amsterdam. Well at least it’s not legal to, it’s just tolerated. It’s crazy to see what happens when the people decide and not the government. Coffee shops have a right to sell coffee yes but for the rest, “it’s not declared”. The people are respectful and mature enough to decide on their own so that the government make it « tolerated ». It might actually be declared and everyone gets a little something. And that’s why this society works, at the beginning the city was built for its canals, anyone could pass by to sell things in the commercial port. So I’m here in a place where everyone gets its part on the deal ; as long as everyone is happy, things go well. 

Nevertheless, everything here is expensive. Coffee is €3, a metro ticket is €3,20 (in Paris it’s still €1,90 to compare). But if you’re curious enough to look online why so, you find that the Netherlands have one of Europe’s highest minimum wage. That should explain why so many people want to come live here.

I wouldn’t though.. cause this place is too cold for me. I stayed for 5 days and I didn’t see ANY sun – maybe a little bit of blue sky – and I am one of those who need to actually feel the sun. Maybe going there on the winter wasn’t helpful I know. What could make me live here though is that this city is cosmopolitan. I met wonderful Brazileros and Australian people for instance. 

And it’s also a romantic place where you can wonder on a cruise on the canals, loose yourself in the narrow streets, even loose yourself in the past by going in an old movie place or in the museums (Anne Frank’s home or Van Gogh museum to cite only two). Maybe you want to watch a play in the City Theatre or enjoy a nice pubcrawl … Almost too many choices don’t you think?

I’m happy that I was able to visit this wonderful city. Even though I wouldn’t go everywhere in the city with my children – no need to explain what is happening in Amsterdam Red Quarter – we can find many things to take as an example, a lot of them are working there and some of the ideas are worth considering.

If you’re looking for a quiet place where you can enjoy yourself, have a good time, discover the culture and come back home rested, then Amsterdam is definitely a place you should visit, you’ll be more than welcomed almost everywhere… But don’t forget to have some cash on you, in case you need to go to the toilets, you might have to spend €0,50 every time. And they won’t let you even if you show them you don’t have any cash left trust me! But it’s ok, you’ll find an ATM hidden in the next corner shop, you will spend that money.

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Love

Ben

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