Ann Kathrin: To Travel Alone is to Trust People
Young explorer Ann Kathrin travels to different countries from Germany; she does odd jobs, meets people and learns about their lives. By MUHAMMED NOUSHAD.
Each place offers something interesting to learn, believes Ann Kathrin Keppke, a solo traveler. That may be the reason she doesn’t plan her trips. From Wayanad, while heading to Calicut, she took a wrong bus and midway realized that it would not take her to the place where we waited. But it was not new for Ann. She had missed two flights before. The paths teach you deep lessons on time, space, timelessness, people’s orientations towards it. “What day is it”, was one of the first things Ann asked me, after landing in Calicut, in that early March evening. Like all people who belong to the path, for the time being or forever, she had also lost count on dates and days. Good travelers lose their sense of calendar. Perhaps, two things they get rid of are calendar and mirror – and thus they somehow outgrow the inevitable process of ageing. Before meeting our small art community called Kamura, in Calicut, Ann had stayed with our friends Shyam and Geethi in Wayanad. She went there from Kochi; Delhi and Utharakhand were her other stops in India. Before reaching India, she had been traveling to many other countries – Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Hungary and small stopovers at places like Saudi Arabia. On April 7th, an airplane carried Ann and her friend from Chennai to Bangkok. From there she would go to China, then Australia and return to Germany, her home country. Ann is a solo traveler who explores the world on her own. Unplanned, she relies heavily on intuition; she trusts people and places. She is naturally inquisitive, articulate and graceful. And most important, she is 19.
‘Unplanned’ and ‘trust’ would be two inseparably connected words that define Ann’s travel attitudes and philosophy. She is unorganized. Adventure and curiosity, mixed with strong intuitions and immense trust on people, is at the heart of her journey. You can’t move without such trust in a strange land as with those people you have nothing to share except your humanity. The wholesome of your being human; but that is the point and that is enough. In a land where nobody knows you, what counts first is your attitude, courage, love for life, a cleanly visible enthusiasm and unbiased curiosity for the world out here. Money doesn’t often really matter. And yes, she does enjoy the privileges of being a white woman, its occasional disadvantages too.
Ann Kathrin has her family, “very supportive” parents and a cozy home miles and miles away, in Gevelsberg, a small German town. She has a fun-loving sister and brother – younger to her. There is a flute, piano and guitar that she sometimes misses, among other comforts of the home. She has recently completed her high schools and found a compelling inner quest to throw herself out to the world and meet people of faraway places. Why? It is so natural. Her interest, or rather focus, of this trip is, to find out what she should actually pursue as a subject to study for higher studies. An intellectual, cultural pursuit. She wants to see the world, and know by herself, what she could take up to study at the university. She booked the cheapest air tickets to places where she can afford to live on cheap costs, applied for visas of the respective countries, started doing odd jobs for survival and payment of tickets. And on the way, she hitchhikes, too. Actually, her wanderlust has its deep inspiration in one of the cross-border hitchhiking contests she attended back in Europe. “In India and many third world countries, it is very cheap for a German to travel and live as we get comparatively higher salaries in Europe”, says Ann. Whenever necessary, Ann works at the places she reaches. She has done carpet selling in Turkey, fishing assistance in India (just for accommodation) and lot more. Despite the occasional homesickness, she makes homes on the way, she gets many families on the path.
Her backpack is full of clothes. No laptop, camera, other gadgets. She mostly avoids reading while traveling; “when you read, I think you are not in the present”, says Ann. “But I do read. After experiencing something, I read about it if it interests me”. She allows things and people and places to happen and unroll before her. It was March second week when she reached Calicut and yet her backpack had winter clothes that she planned to hand over to a German friend she would be meeting in Goa. A sleeping bag she keeps.
Ann was concerned that India is currently ruled by right wing politicians. While singing the German national anthem, as somebody asked for it in Kamura Listening Circle at Calicut beach, she remembered it was full of jingoistic ideas earlier: “stupid things like Germany is the best of all nations and other things. After Hitler, they changed it.” Ann was also vocal about the way her fellow citizens are worried about the presence of migrants in Germany. “Everybody says the migrants are taking away our culture. What is our culture? We don’t have a traditional German culture any longer.”
Ann is not a very religious person, but the travels have kept her quite mystic and spiritual, in deeper ways. Also, she finds herself close to Zen and Sufi paths. In Calicut, she stayed with our friend Fabiya and her family. While we saw her off at Calicut railway station, in an evening train bound for Goa, her next destination, we realised how she makes homes and families on the way.