THE PEACEFUL TRAVELLER, ‘WHO AM I?’ – Jesse Gerwien
‘Who Am I? (What’s My Name)’ was a smash hit single for West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg and as I begin to write this entry I hum this song and I recall my time at uni. I went through a whole gangsta rap phase with my multiple pairs of ‘26 Red’ baggy pants and a collection of bright coloured caps. I was ‘slim with the tilted brim’. With Doggystyle already on cassette tape it had to be the first CD album I purchased. I smile as I recall these memories. I’ve come a long way and a lot has changed since then.
I don’t recall leaving my birth country of the Philippines; I was almost four. I grew up in a small, wheatbelt town in Western Australia, Northam, approximately 100 km east of Perth, the state capital. We lived near the Avon River on a hobby farm and grew up with chickens, rabbits, geese, horses and a camel named Jeffrey. I remember when the Avon River almost flooded our house, the plague of locusts, the revelry of the Avon Descent and me desperately wanting to leave Northam. Luckily I got accepted into the University of Western Australia in Perth.
I graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and worked in Perth for a couple of years until finally the urge to travel (I used to stare at a laminated, world-map coffee table we had on our farm as a child and dream) won over my instilled sense of duty. It began as a two year UK working holiday visa living in London and honestly I planned only to stay for two years; who would be crazy enough to put up with those horrible winters? I stayed for six years! Eventually I was tempted out of London to the colder climes of Canada and lived at first in Calgary and then Toronto. During this time I spent six months away on assignment in Abu Dhabi. Was it time to settle down yet? I thought so and left Canada for Perth but eventually dissatisfied with life in general I quit my job and spent the last year as an unemployed traveller. Fifteen years later, since I had left for London the first time, I am now moving back arriving for the beginning of 2016. Who would have guessed I would be living in London again?
A lot has changed: even in the way I travel. I seek out more meaningful encounters, I engage more with local people, I want to hear their stories and I’m genuinely interested in how they live. But I also want to celebrate and embrace their culture through food, sport, dance or whatever they want to share. Occasionally when I have the urge to criticise I remind myself that being different is not meant to be a bad thing; a lesson I know all too well growing up in Northam. As I travel I learn more about my surroundings and myself and one day I reckon I may just figure out ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What makes me happy?’
Through my blog posts hopefully you’ll learn a little bit more about me. In the words of Snoop Dogg, ‘Follow me, follow me, follow me, follow me, but don’t lose your grip,’ ‘I ain’t holdin nuttin back.’ Hope you like my ‘doggystyle’.