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Chapter 15: Advanced Homelessness

Mosul to Akre. April 20.


A journey like mine is incomplete in its nature, as is any, really. There will always be locations left unexplored, tips not followed up, views yet to be seen, people never met. With the target set to Sweden, to home, any progress in that direction would be in line with my vision. But for Iraq I had other plans.


Compared to the other countries on my cycling route, this is the furthest away from home, and least accessible in terms of ease and cost of getting there. I also happened to be there in spring, the best season for Kurdistan nature. The further my journey goes, the more straightforward I expect it to be, with fewer detours. But for Iraq, there was a "While I'm here, might as well..." sense in the air. And so, from Mosul I made a turn back east, to Akre, Soran and Choman, before setting aim for Türkiye and my way back home. I am very glad I did.


Since most people I know have no clue of how Iraqi Kurdistan can look, a fun game to play with oneself is the game of "where would they think I am?". For Akre, specifically the old town and surrounding hills, I believe that my friends and family would place the imagery in Italy. I know I would, and coming from me, that is high praise.


The city is built on the mountain, crawling up the ever steeper walls. The low vegetation and garden houses give a small town feel, and just outside Kurdish families have their typical picnic in the green slopes. This would be a hotspot for international tourists. Sooner or later, I am sure it will be. Kurdistan is full of gems that will not remain unnoticed, or rather forgotten, forever. The absence of the exploitation that follows makes it even more special right now.



Often, to make progress on the road and not to get too overwhelmed, I have to activate a social protection when in remote locales, especially in Iraq. Everyone is curious about me, most show it openly and the shouts and honks are constant. I've gotten used to it. That also means that when I want company or help, such as in the form of shelter for a night, I don't have to look for it, l just have to take off my armor for a while, and say yes when, not if, the invitation comes. Sometimes patience is needed, but time and again, the people provide. In Akre, I shared picnic with two different families before receiving an invitation to stay from Yassin who approached me in town. From there, like in any home in Kurdistan, I was looked after like a prince and left the next morning with yet another place to call home, or two including Yassin's place in London where he mostly resides.


Here, you might call me a beggar. Someone living off the generosity of others, asking for their support to sustain himself. In response, I would say that I also do pay for accomodation - the following three nights I did so. I would say that I, too, have hosted travelers... six years ago. I would say that the meetings and the hospitality is what make good stories. Lastly, I would say that yes, in essence, you are completely right. My friends jokingly call my lifestyle "advanced homelessness". Like most jokes, it is funny because it is true.


We are used to measure our value, to quantify it in currency. We trade our time, our knowledge and our crafts for money, that we in turn can trade for what we need and want. Like any person making their way in this world, I too must ask myself: do I have anything of value to provide? If so, what is it worth?


Lately, I have had a habit of visiting people. Friends around Sweden or by train around Europe. Tea invitations to neighbourhoods around India or, like now, from strangers when I bike across Iraq. I pay attention to how people react and behave in my presence; what they say, how they say it, the look in their eyes and the tone in their voice. From their aura when we say goodbye - or in case of Iraq, ask to stay longer - I feel that I do provide something valuable. In fact, I know it, the deep kind of knowing that has no proof, and doesn't need any. But how do I measure it? Or more importantly, should I?


I do not criticise the concept of money, and I don't feel rebellic or revolutionary against capitalism and the world order. I do not mean to oppose a system, our institutions or the leaderships that govern them. But, to my fellow "co-humans" as we say in my tongue, I wish to encourage self-reflection. My guess is that you who read this would openly agree that materialism do not give meaning to life, so what does?


Obviously, I am not one to answer that the quintessential question of philosophy, noone is. But I might be in a good position to inspire. To show that there is more to life than what our routines give room for, and that the feeling of meaning, of purpose, is for each of us to search and to sense. That journey may not be all comfortable and pretty, but it has its own reward. I try to inspire by practicing what I preach. Not just to say, but to embody, to be. To let life's wonders, big and small, guide my every step. Perhaps that is my value to provide, my gift to give.


And if I can be a light of hope, be it a little candle or a brightly burning star, I'll take the titles of homeless and beggar any day.

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