“The power, I came to understand, was in the stories that people chose to share…I came to see that I did not give voice to others, but that my role was to amplify voices that lacked only access to the means to spread their messages. “ ~ Raul Ramirez in his final words.
The Rum Diary is not about me, it’s about the people I meet. I won’t be a storyteller, I won’t tell you their stories, it’s about giving a voice to interesting people, I only aim to be an amplifier to the beautiful melodies of their incredible stories, because I’ve found out that inspiring stories have a way of making people move to action.
The power of human stories can change the perceptions of the masses and sometimes, to influence even the most powerful.
In this issue we give a voice to Lina Edvinsson.
LETTING GO OF THE FEAR
Adil: Good morning, Lina! Our first question is, "What can you tell us about the differences you've found between living in Sweden and living in South America?
Lina: The differences? I think it’s much more relaxed here in South America than back home in Sweden, in Sweden we seem to live our life in the “calendar”, planning every second, as opposed to Latin America where people seem to take the day as it comes and just go with the flow. People also seem to be more happy here and they seem to be grateful about their life. Maybe it’s because they focus more on the right things.
Adil: I know what you mean. In Brazil as well, you see the same thing, when you go to the favelas, people who have nothing seem to be very happy…A very, very small part of the population would be able to be happy with a similar income back in Europe, as you said, they focus on the right things, that could be it.
Adil: I lived in Sweden a few years ago, and to me everybody seemed to have some sort of a set schedule for socializing, trying to ask a friend to go for a brew on a Tuesday afternoon is virtually mission impossible, forget about it! There are only a couple of days (Friday and Saturday) that they perceive are acceptable for them to go out for a drink. You have to wait until Friday!
Lina: It’s not even always the closest Friday, most of the times it’s even the next one (because you already have plans for the coming weekend)! That’s what I love about here, life occurs more spontaneously.
“If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.” ~ Bill Hicks
Adil: Do you feel like, despite all the airline services, and technology that were blessed with in our times, people back in Europe are still afraid to make a change?
Lina: Yes, for sure I think that some people are afraid of changes. They want to be on the safe side and have 100% control over the situation. I have always been like that by myself earlier.
Adil: It’s true, Jeff Berwick sometimes reminds people that folks who immigrated to America, particularly to Ellis Island, had only about 90 of today’s dollars in their pockets.
Lina: That’s the meaning of letting go of the fear for me, I just came to South America, with a mentality of “Go where the winds takes you”. I’m not planning for now, I’m trying to learn to live without fear and take everything as it comes without controlling. But I’m trying to live a healthy life as well, I swim in the mornings, walk and hike a lot, I get the vitamins from the sun, there are plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables available here. I have plenty of time to just reflect and connect with myself and the nature without stress. I’m just enjoying my life 100%, it’s not like I’m escaping from something.
Adil: I know, not running from something awful, but running towards something beautiful.
Adil: Did people warn you against going to South America? Of course that’s just silly, people keep falling for all the hype in TV…
Lina: A lot of people! They kept saying: “Why are you going there by yourself?” “Are you crazy?","It’s so dangerous to travel in South America by yourself as a woman!”… But you have to take some risks in life to find amazing things, because if you keep being afraid of everything, you lose your life. But of course, I’m not walking around by myself at night either.
Adil: Lina, what do you think about Latin America so far? And what things do you especially like about living here?
Lina: I love it! And it’s a lot of things, you meet a lot of wonderful people from here and all over the world. You learn a lot all the time, both about yourself and the rest of the world. And there's the lifestyle, the contrast with Europe is that we focus on problems instead of what we have, people should be more grateful. Being rich isn’t only about money.
Adil: Haha, in fact they say that travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.
Lina: It’s true, the main reason I didn’t do this trip before, is that I thought I didn’t have either time nor money, so I took the time and pretended I had the money.
Scary as hell, but a very nice feeling when you take the last steps into your dream!
Adil: Awesome, it seems to be working out for you so far.
Lina: I decided that I couldn’t keep waiting the rest of my life. Sometimes you have to create and take the opportunities instead of waiting for them.
Adil: So I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of the always popular: “This is how you should live your life!” The M.O gives it away: One-size-fits-all.
Lina: I don’t like it of course, but also it's important to understand that this is my dream and truth. If some other people want to live their life in another way and then they should do that. I don’t like when people are trying to convince me or other people to live exactly the same life they live. We are all different. But unfortunately a lot of people are stuck in what society wants from them in my opinion. I’m soon turning 36 years old, and I guess that some people think that you should focus on your career and have a family, a nice house and that kind of stuff at my age.
When you want something, you just have to go and do it, you don’t need to wait for the approval of other people. You just do it. When I left my last job, I didn’t even have another job lined up. If you want something in life, you must take action. When you just go and do it, you feel satisfaction, it gives you a lot of good energy. And I really believe that if you follow your heart and dreams everything will always be solved at the end.
Adil: It’s true, good energy. When you’re succeeding you feel that energy around you, you create the momentum, it’s something beautiful, but if you never take the first step, you never get there, but that’s what makes you different Lina, you haven’t choked and gotten paralysed by worrying about not having time nor money, you just went and achieved what you desired.
Lina: Instead of seeing it as a problem, I see it as a challenge. It’s not always a walk in the park. But for me this is the best challenge ever!
Adil: Your original plan was to visit just for time first, right?
Lina: My first plan was to stay in Peru three and half weeks. That’s four month ago. And as I’m freelancing I didn’t have to go back to any work in Sweden.
Adil: And you have been here so long! John Lennon said once: “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”
Lina: Suddenly, it became the best feeling for me, when you never know[what's next]…Now I don’t plan too much, before I used to want to know everything about everything. I think I was trying too much. Sometimes you just have to relax and open your eyes. You miss a lot of stuff when you are too focused on a certain goal in your life. You have to be open and understand that sometimes life has better plans for you you can't imagine.
Adil: What’s strange about those people who try to control everything, is that they never take steps to protect themselves when the economy is crashing for example, all they want to do is know everything, making small plans about every insignificant little thing, sucking out the spontaneity from every aspect of life, and spending their entire lives in worry. Sometimes I think that people have everything backwards. Life should be backwards.
Lina: It’s like what you told me yesterday, life should be backwards.
Adil: That was the genius George Carlin, actually.
Adil: Talking about Sweden, well this is not only about Sweden, people everywhere seem to not take risks anymore, as it wasn’t part of life anymore! We fall, we stand up, we try to learn from it sometimes, and we try to surround ourselves with beauty, these things are part of life in my book.
The other day I was having dinner with a Swedish girl, and she told me that nobody has ever walked up to her in the street and asked her out on a date, to go out for dinner, ever! She was very attractive, so I was surprised, and I asked her why not, and she said that in Sweden people just become boyfriends and girlfriends after they meet in some friend’s party, or after they meet through someone, that generally very few people take the first step and engage the other person, she told me that very few couples meet in the supermarket for example.
Lina: It’s all about the fears again. When you're afraid of rejection and too afraid to fail, it's often easy to forget that failure is part of life.
Adil: I never understood that fear of failure thing, like that girl? Go and ask her out, maybe she'll say no, maybe she’ll accept, but if you sit in a corner afraid of rejection, the only thing you’ve done is ensuring that the answer is inevitably a “NO”.
They say there’s a thin line between: “Shit, I should’ve talked to that girl!” and “They lived happily ever after”. Same with everything in life, if you take a chance and try, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t, but if you don’t try because you’re afraid to fail, well, how can you expect to get anywhere?
Lina: Människor (Swedish word for people) generally are driven by fear of failure instead of desire to succeed, which gives a lot of energy.
Adil: I agree, it’s funny that you bring energies up, they say there are two types of people, those who are driven by fear, and those who are driven by passion and love, and generally fear is represented by dark and love by light, immediately it becomes clear that you can take a small candle to a dark room, and it brightens the whole place, but what you can’t do is to take a container of darkness to a big park in a sunny day, and expect it to darken up the whole place. Anyways, I’m digressing here, what do you think is the most important thing you learned since you took this adventure and came to South America?
Lina: That the biggest failure is not to not do what you want because you’re too afraid to fail.
Comments or questions? Visit our Facebook page at: TDV Latin America – TDVLA
Adil Elias is The Dollar Vigilante’s Rio de Janeiro group moderator and TDV Latin America (TDVLA) Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org). After living in several different countries, he finally based himself in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil seeking a relaxed environment away from all the large numbers of increasingly stressed people in Europe, without missing on the happy vibe and the laidback beach culture the city of Rio de Janeiro has to offer.
In September of 2009, I took the trip from San Diego to Los Angeles International Airport and flew south to Mexico City, then to Brazil, near Florianopolis. To this day, I am not sure what prompted me to make this decision. I had graduated college a few months before, and perhaps an anxiousness had set in. By this point I realized I had been loansharked, and the recent end to college seemed like a new beginning as well. With $1,000 I journeyed to Brazil. I had no plans, no contacts. Over the next three months, as I drained my savings ever so carefully, I would meet new people and see new places.
Still today I am confused by the sudden urge to embark on a journey to a strange land by myself. Looking back on it, it seems like I had stepped outside of my old self and into a new one, before stepping back into the old me in my old life in the US. The memories from that unexpected trip still inform me today.
Whenever things get to a point where they seem overwhelming here in my life in the US, I think back to the courage it must've taken younger me, and realize I can make it through today. Travel fills us out as people. It helps us become who we want to be: ourselves. That's why I believe in what The Dollar Vigilante has to offer. Between the newsletter and the initiative Galt's Gulch Chile, we're hoping people can learn to step outside themselves and towards something beautiful.