Dag 252; Göteborg

So. I’m home.

It’s been two weeks since I arrived in Gothenburg, my home town, after one hell of a plane ride from New York City: due to massive thunderstorms, we were the last plane to be granted lift-off - two hours late, which fucked up my connecting flight in London, which, in turn fucked up my connecting flight to Gothenburg. In Stockholm they lost my luggage, so I once again missed the rescheduled flight to Gothenburg having to report it.

The thunderstorms were beautiful from above, though.

So, it’s been two weeks. What feels strange is that strange is what it feels not at all; it’s just a continuation. Still travelling.

This will be the last travel diary, though. Actually, I haven’t written any real travel diary in over a month; it’s yet another of those weird things that keep happening to me - I had just decided never to write again, when I recieved that literary prize. A nudge, but in what direction?

I’ve decided to send this diary to quite a lot of people, not only the ones that has recieved the old ones. Fear not, you will recieve no more.

For those intrigued, the old ones are available at


Some are in english, some in swedish. I’ll get around to adding photos any day now, promise.

So, it’s been 238 days travelling. Exactly 34 weeks. A little more than 8 months. Two thirds of a year.

What lessons have I learnt?

In Kashmir I understood what I’ve been grappling with for a long time, something bugging me about these contemporary processes of liberalization, dissolving personal morals, radicalism, forwarding of minority interests and equalization of rights. To travel geographically can sometimes be to travel in time - in Kashmir people live by codes that were ours say a hundred years ago. The family is the core, the patriarch has the theoretical last say and control over the economy, there exists a clear division of labour between men and women. I thought I could see why it had to be like that, if a family of six or eight were to be able to sustain themselves on what one or two individuals consume in the west. It’s about resources, how much each individual has influence over in order to realize themselves, and then how much influence each family as a pool has in its society, and then again; how much resources the group, society, as a whole can influence. That is what I’ve realized; we have lost track of this, how much of what we call ’right’ and take for granted is actually about efficient and systematic administration and allocation of resources.

On the road from Kashmir to Ladakh I learned that the western man or woman has become risk-avoiding ad absurdum. We’re simply allocating massive amounts of infrastructural resources onto each individual, in order to ensure that any potential risk is close to zero. The flip side of it being, at first paradoxically but then not really, that we become risk-prone.

Just take a look at our highways; in India the highways are one and a half car wide and mostly made out of gravel. There’s no actual speed limit, but you never travel faster than 40-50 km/hour. Every pass, every overtake is carefully measured from both sides. Sometimes it goes a bit wrong, and it’s both parties obligation to negotiate, honking, flashing, breaking, in order to sort the situation out. Interaction in the interest of mutual self-preservation. Sometimes the same road is four or five lanes, if there’s only pedestrians and motorbikes, sometimes two or three, if we’re talking cars: god forbid you should meet two trucks - then it’s down the ditch.

Here, we allocate massive resources to construct and maintain four-lane paved highways with clear white stripes marking marginals; and as long as everybody keeps within that allocated space we never have to doubt, we’ve actually forgotten how to doubt, we rely on right of way, no matter if we get killed in the process. We never have to interact, everything is systematic and clear. Here, we have the margins and the system to utilize them. Here, nobody would ever have to fear.

So, what do we do? We expect to be able to do at least 110 km/hour, most of us actually doing the illegal 20 extra, stressed out by miscalculated procrastination, talking on our mobile phones, pushing the bugger in front of us into the slower lane by driving recklessly close to his back bumper.

And still, we feel 200 people killed in traffic per year is much.

Look: I’m not saying less people get killed in India. Hell no, it’s probably a factor 10 on accidents and roadkill. I’m just saying I think I have an idea of where and to what these extra resources of ours go, resources we to some extent have wrestled out of the hands of these other countries. And if it’s worth it or not is up to each and everyone.

For me, I think it’s a no. I think, now, I understand the people that get upset over what they percieve of as western resource waste, that most around them never see. I’m probably one of them now.

In Ladakh, I started to realize that I was not going to be able to be that super-traveller that made lots of interesting friends with the locals and slept on a rug in the barn. It’s just not me.

And fuck them stupas. That’s where I realized that I’m not very interested in spiritual places, beautiful temples, friendly people or even spectacular natural scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the mountain roads around Manali were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, I found peace on the stairs of the five-storey temple, Ankhor Wat was mind-blowing, and Great Ocean Road just beyond words, but - I’m about small things. Small situations. Moments.

Coming to Agra, I had to face the fact that no matter what I do, no matter what I say, I will always be the rich white tourist first and foremost, there is no possibility of any kind of equal interaction with any of the locals, because, obviously, we’re so unequal. I can never be rid of the possibility of ulterior motives, because, on some level, there always IS an ulterior motive. Or, so it seemed at the time.

But then again, why this idealistic notion of every interaction having to be on equal terms? That is yet another of the things I’ve learnt; that we have that ideal of universal equality in the west, or in Sweden at least, that it’s embedded deep within us, and that it’s utterly false. There can never be any equal relationships and you’re paradoxically an agent of inequality not to recognize it. Better then to acknowledge and accept the diversity and inequality and then concentrate on working thru or around it, if so desired.

I’ve travelled in a lot of different configurations; two, three or more, staying for a long time, moving on, meeting up again, separating. Always returning to the state of going solo.

And that’s yet another revelation; I am self-content. I did know that to some extent before, but now, coming home, it’s set in deeper. I think, maybe, you know, a relationship gets stronger when you experience, or should I say ’endure’, situations together; you bond. It kind of makes sense that you would do that with yourself as well if you had those experiences on your own.

I’ve met more nice and interesting people than I’ve been able to keep track of. In the beginning you keep exchanging e-mails with every person you connect to, then, you just can’t be bothered - there are just so many nice people out there, you will always meet new ones, and the chances of ever meeting up with the old ones again are slim. But then again...

And of course, I’ve met good women; now I know they actually exist, and that they’re out there. But I’ve realized also that I’m rather alone than separated, so right now I’m quite content sitting here waiting for one of them to cross my path. I think my skirt-chasing days, to some extent, are over. But then again...

In Goa, I had my first taste of what tourism does to a place. God knows I parked my butt in one of the least developed places, Mandrem/Arambol, but maybe that was just what made me see the workings of the foreign capital; if I had chosen a more touristy place there would have been no local culture to contrast the tourism.

The thing is, as I see it, money is influence, a tool of coersion comparable to violence. The difference between the strenghts of two currencies is based on a import-export imbalance, which in turn is based upon an agreement on what goods are seen as desirable, which in turn is rooted in trade policies, indoctrination and marketing. If I want to get as much as possible from you for my stuff, I’ll make damn sure I’ve convinced you that your stuff is worthless and my stuff is the stuff that make people happy. That, incidentally, will be easier for me to do if I already have quite a lot of resources to spend on convincing you.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that tourism, as a product, is not about exchange, but change; it is about paying somebody to change. The money that goes into a country in the form of tourism lands primary in the hands of the people that has changed themselves and their surrounding to accomodate a new and strange culture, which will entice more people to do the same, by accepting behaviours that was earlier objectionable, acquiring certain sets of skills and building infrastructure of a certain kind.

And when the tourism is gone, when it has grown tired of you, found a new lover, then what will you do with your skills and your infrastructure?

The money you gain, especially from tight-fisted backpackers who expect and strive to live just as cheap as the locals, is often just enough to sustain you, not to develop you. And the development is directed, solely, to accomodate more tourism. In our direction, on our terms, not on yours.

So yes, I see a problem with travelling tourism in general, and, again paradoxically, ’cultural’ backpacking in particular.

South East Asia definitively got me to question my held beliefs about male-female relations, the ideology of love, and again, tourism and its implications. I picked a book up in Bangkok, ’Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia’ by Lousie Brown. The book was provoking in that the author never hid her emotional engagement, the text comes across as bordering on crypto-racist as she makes her point; it wasn’t the westerners that brought trafficking, prostitution and paedophilia to Asia; it was already flourishing as integral parts of male Asian culture - we only made it visible, inflated it and gave it a face, a scapegoat face.


I just realized that there is no way I can summarize all the ways this travel have, if not changed, so at least, influenced me. I’m just gonna stop right here, but lastly I want to thank you all, you people I have met out there, you people back at home, the people I’ve written stories about and the people that read them.

Thank you all.

Love, Stefan