This is a question a friend of mine has been asked a lot in the last couple of weeks. We can’t say her name because she wants to keep her privacy so we will call her Alice, but she accepted to talk with me openly about the incredible adventures she had on a recent trip she did to Thailand in a very intimate interview. Love, drugs, people, beautiful landscapes and street food marked her experience as one of the best of her entire life.
* ~ *
“People there is happy, and they give love. People in the street smile at you, they value the person next to them so much, while we are all the time thinking in the future, in the past, and in everything except now”.
This was the first trip fully financed by her, and since when telling her boss at work about her plan he didn’t end her contract but decided to give her vacations, she wouldn’t lose her job, which was great news. 19 years old, living, working and traveling around the world with total independence. She was living the dream.
She went to Thailand with not much prepared. Just a backpack and one reservation in a hostel for the first night. “I can tell you a lot of highlights from the trip, but I think the general feeling I got from Thailand is that I learned a lot about life. I didn’t go there with expectations of any type, I was not trying to discover myself, to deal with some problem or to have a spiritual awakening“. But ironically, she really had quite an enlightenment there. She started traveling from the south, and she says she was so inspired by the stories of the people around her. “People are fully open there (referring to other travelers) because if you travel alone, you can not lock yourself in you, because is not healthy for you and because you will lose a lot of experiences”.
“The moment when I kind of find this awakening was when I traveled to the north, to Pai. Right when I arrived there I met this girl from Mexico (with who Alice ended up spending most of her trip), a boy from France and a Japanese boy” (we won’t say their names). Between Alice and the Japanese guy there was a big connection, he probably was the most important human being she met there. About her thoughts on the trip, she said: “My conclusion is that to live is to not be pending on time, my conclusion is that time doesn’t exist. Time there didn’t matter, if you lose a train, you can pick the next one, if you get lost someone will help you […] The moment I became fully aware of this was the night I tried mushrooms“.
This was the first time Alice tried a hard drug. “It’s being said that police in Thailand have a part of the drug business, so while it’s supposed to be forbidden, everyone knows where to buy drugs […] You can go to a bar called Sunset Beach and ask for a shrooms smoothie. It was like a delicious fruit juice with a carbonara aftertaste. I had tried weed and hash before, but never a psychodelic drug”.
“This Japanese friend had tried more hard drugs before, like LSD […] when you do a trip on a psychedelic trip as strong as the mushrooms one, it’s recommended to have one person to guide the rest of the group” she says talking about this Japanese friend of her that initially offered voluntarily to be the spiritual guide of the group, but then changed his mind and tried the drug, so they didn’t even have a guide. “The mushrooms are like a pit, it’s a free fall where you don’t control where you are, you can feel like the happiest person of the world and then the saddest one”.
After his friend started feeling a bit stomach sick, Alice and he ended up sitting in the middle of the forest, near a road, with the obvious dangers that can carry with. Alice started feeling a bit sick also “it’s because you need to have your stomach empty before trying mushrooms” she explained. “I couldn’t concentrate on anything, my mind didn’t stop going from one place to another […] With the mushrooms, it was like if you could go way further with your mind that what you can when we are in our normal ‘based on time’ state of mind. I started to feel scared, vulnerable, that I didn’t have nothing under control”. She says the absence of time and the feel of unity she started feeling both with her friend and with the rest of the world really marked her trip. “I felt like he and me were the same person […] I could hear his thoughts, I could know what he was thinking […] at some point I was seriously asking myself if we were the same person, for me it’s like we were”. One of the emotions she felt harder was loneliness “I was there in Thailand, alone and on drugs near a road next to a guy I met three days ago”.
But then the feelings of empathy and unity came and filled every part of her body, little details from the drivers of the road like “this car that turned off his lights to not blind us… for me that was an act of love, that he did because he felt empathy with us. I felt like all the people was me and that I was everyone, like all the good and bad in the world was inside of me”. Alice doesn’t consider herself a religious person, but all of this really got to her like a spiritual awakening. She likes Buddhism though, and she thinks maybe that’s the reason why people there are so kind and nice.
The deep connection with her Japanese friend did turn into love at some point. They made love before the mushrooms, and as Alice said, they didn’t make love after that because what they felt mentally during the trip was so incredible that a physical thing so banal as sex could ruin their memories of the travel. “We connected so much at a mental level that doing it after at a physical level would feel so vague” They still talk to each other today, and while Alice feels a deep love for him, they are not in a relationship. They do have plans to see each other again.
“What we experienced in Pai lives in an atemporal world that continues to happen forever”.
Three cool pics of Copenhagen I didn’t include in yesterday’s post. They are from the cultural center called BLOX, and the Justice Palace. “BLOX promotes sustainable urban development in a broad sense and thus forms the setting for activities aimed at the general public as well as more narrowly defined professional networks”, says the official webpage. I’ve been getting a lot of lectures about sustainability in university recently, and I’m getting more and more interested in studying that topic as a journalist. I’m really enjoying my classes at uni right now, I’m so happy I managed to enroll in International Studies.
We are starting to notice an improvement in the weather, there’s more sun between the clouds and it’s not that cold anymore (thank God), but as much as we like it, I hope this is not because of global warming. I’ve been told last summer in Denmark broke temperature records. News like that are bittersweet when you are in the streets enjoying a good sunny afternoon, but still thinking, is this weather normal in this part of the world?
Anyways, I’m happy that we survived the coldest months already, now it’s downhill from here.
Since the long time I’ve been in Denmark by now, I hadn’t visited the Royal Library yet. Everyone said it was beautiful and I really wanted to go, to make pictures and to also study there while feeling so intellectual. Today we decided to go to Copenhagen after class to spend some hours there.
The building, commonly called the Black Diamond, has this dark, sober and elegant figure proper of Copenhagen’s architecture. It’s really big inside and contains a public space for reading and studying, offices and expositions. The reading space was very full and my friend and I had to struggle a bit to find a spot to sit. But when we did, we opened our books and tried to focus a bit, which was not difficult at all given the intense silence that surrounds this big room. We had a break in the middle to go to a 7-Eleven and buy some food, so some pictures are showing the surroundings.
PD: As you can see in the pics my hair is really long already… I need a damn haircut.
At age nineteen, many people lives are quite messy. Some of them try to follow a certain track like university to keep them pointing to, at least, some direction. Others just work and others go somewhere, looking for something that they probably don’t even know yet.
But Elisa Escabia, born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, seems to have everything pretty clear. She is not even 20 yet but she is doing what she likes, where she wanted, the way she wanted. Being already economically independent, living in another country and working and studying at the same time, she looks like a giant cannonball of ambition thrown to the sky. She can be an example of how to stop the bullshit and just own your own life still being very young. In this interview with her, she talks with honesty and openness about education, ambitions and fears in this unique moment of her life.
Let’s make a quick recap. After finishing high school in Barcelona studying Natural Sciences, Elisa wanted to study Biology. But most specifically, she wanted to do a branch called Environmental and Molecular Biology. She was doubting in studying either this or Arts, her other passion. But she finally decided for biology and discovered that, by then, only five colleges in all the world offered this degree. One of them was Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, a college one train station away from her home, and another one was Roskilde University, located in Denmark. Since the dream of Elisa was to travel, pieces started to fit together.
“I was jaded of high school”, she confesses referring to the Spanish education system, which in her opinion emphasizes memorization over other aspects of learning also important. For this reason, she was clear in her desire to study abroad. But what’s even more, since she was so tired of studying, she wanted to have a gap year, to fulfill her traveling dream. While taking a gap year before starting university is the common thing in countries like Denmark, it’s not the norm in Spain, so most parents don’t like the idea. She talked about this with her parents and no, they didn’t encourage the idea, but at least it opened the conversation to the possibility of studying abroad.
When deciding to go to Denmark, she didn’t know that much of the Danish education system, but the collective imaginary of the northern countries, at least in Spain, evokes modernity and progress. Another reason was that in Roskilde University they have this “semester project” about a topic they choose, that needs to be done in groups and its very huge (it counts for 15 ECTS). She liked this collaborative idea since she thinks her future daily work will need to be done mostly with other people, so basically, she thought this system would fit her better.
She studied in a public high school until she was 13, and then changed to a semi-private high school, where she finished. “I think changing from one high school to another in the middle of my teenage years, made me realize that breaking the links with the people around you is not a big deal”.
After her application was accepted, she didn’t take long to confirm her parents and friends she would be going to study in Denmark, a whole different country, with a whole different language. And yes, she did it. Fearless of studying in English or leaving her life behind, she first landed in the northern country with only 17 years old. Talking about her parents’ process of acceptance, she says that since it was a long process, they had time to consider the idea, but that didn’t change the worrying of her mother. The friend she seems to miss the most is Paula Minguillón. They met fighting each other in a handball match, and they keep their distance friendship until today.
Here is an important thing: she noticed that some people thought she was kind of ‘given’ this opportunity, like if she earned a scholarship or came from a privileged position, but nothing further from reality. She researched by herself and figured out one of “these opportunities that are there for everybody” as she calls it, and she was just brave enough to pursue it.
We have to add one more ingredient to Elisa’s plan now, that will make it way more interesting. While she didn’t know about this from the beginning, after some time in Denmark she learned about the SU. Here’s the deal, in Denmark, not only college education is free for everyone, but also students over the age of 18 can obtain a grant from the government if they work some hours per week while they are studying. This also works for non-Danes that have a job and pay taxes to the level where they are considered at the same level as a Dane by the system.
Elisa was helped by her parents to first finance her way up to her dream studies, but after finding a job as a bartender in an Italian restaurant at her second year, she now receives an amount of money per month (between 5000 and 7000kr of job salary + 6000kr of student grant) that allows her to live comfortably, by her own and economically independent from her parents at a very young age. In euros, the 6000kr of SU she receives are 780€ approximately. For this reason, right now she finds herself in an ‘equilibrium’ phase that seems to make her life pretty sweet, of course, thanks to her hard work and bravery. This whole SU thing can look very extraterrestrial for a Spanish person, who could work twice the hours Elisa is right now and still not reaching that amount of money. Thanks, Denmark!
But this money doesn’t mean there’s some bittersweet flavor in all of this.
I asked her if she had felt at some point in these two years that she could be missing something from Spain that could be good for her to have, maybe skipping some aspects of the Spanish education system or just continuing her life there.
“I do have thought about it many times” – she confesses. “By studying an international degree, it’s true that many people are studying for the second time or have traveled before and just came back… I was the most little one from my degree when I first started” she says kind of missing being with people of her same age. This is explained by the Danish education system. Because of their different organization, Danes normally go to their first year of uni at age 20. They finish high school at 19 and sometimes they go to an “Efterskole” between under and upper secondary studies. Elisa’s flatmate, for example, started uni at 23.
Efterskole consists of a one year course in a boarding school where they can spend time in the activities they like. This is a very interesting and unique aspect of the Danish education system that Elisa taught me a lot about. It’s the only part of their education that is not public (not completely free) and “each one of these schools is based in a hobby” as she explains it. “Some of them are about sports, other ones teach music, dance, environment… During this year they have just a few hours of class and a lot of time to do activities and to build relations”.
Elisa strongly believes this system kind of fits better the needs of a teenage person. Referring to the Spanish system she says “Imagine finishing E.S.O. (you are 16 by then) and you are just a crazy teenager, you don’t even know yet what is happening”, “For example, back then I was like very lost in one hand, but so creative in the other, and then they put you in Bachillerato (Spanish upper secondary education) and they make you study a lot, they are somehow cutting your wings”.
In her opinion, something as an Efterskole fits so much in the age when you are supposed to attend it, encouraging you to discover yourself and explore your creativity and interests. For me, this makes so much sense. “Here, there is no pressure as in Spain to start university as soon as possible”.
So getting back on track, about what Elisa misses from being in Spain, she says in Denmark she is living with people that are at different stages in life than her “A friend of mine just had a baby”, that’s a good example. “Since in Spain everything is very marked by timing, people from your class are going to be people from your generation, people that have watched the same cartoons as you on television as a child, but in here, sometimes I think I’m missing doing the typical silly things of a 19 year old girl, like going out to clubs or crazy uni parties”. That’s about the social circle, but what about college?
Well, Elisa never studied in a Spanish university so she can’t really tell, but according to what she expects it to be, she says: “I really like my education here, but it is true that sometimes I miss my courses were a bit more diverse […] it feels like education here is very open or soft and I think sometimes hardness is necessary”. Especially in science, she addresses. But also, a degree in Denmark is three years instead of four, because they are supposed to make after a master of 2 years, what would round their university education up to 5 years. That’s why if you only do a bachelor degree here, it probably won’t be considered enough. Anyways, Elisa still thinks Spain emphasizes too much the memorization, so perhaps the path here seems to be more calmed, she doesn’t think the level is lower than in Spain. Also, she is very happy with the amount of practical activities she gets to do here “We have a climate room for our own where I can control the temperature and humidity, and we have twelve aquariums where we can control from the PH to the carbon dioxide. We have a lot of freedom for experimentation and there’s a lot of budget for laboratories”.
When mentioning the World Happiness Report that placed Denmark as the happiest country in the world last year, and the second one this year, Elisa said that “the conception of happiness in Europe is based on money […] Denmark must be very happy then because they have parks with a big economic value, good museums, a great social security, the difference between rich and poor is very little… But I can assure you, that Denmark is not the happiest country in the world, and if I got to say, I would say is very at the bottom of the list”. “We can also mislead happiness with security, in Denmark people feel safe in the sense that they will have a payment if they lose the job, their children will be able to study, when they grow old they’ll have a pension, so here they live with safety. But while security is very important, it doesn’t give happiness”. In fact -she says- in Denmark there’s a lot of people suffering from depression. It’s not weird for them to have dealt with it at least once in their lives.
I asked here then how is she feeling in RUC because if the Danish education system itself is already very different from the Spanish one, this university is even more particular than the others in the country. “RUC has the fame of being hippy and easier, what I think is that it is easy to pass the exams, but not to have a good grade though. You really have to work for that”.
Now, talking about traveling, which is the main goal of Elisa right now, she has managed to go to the Caribbean Islands last summer and went to Thailand this Christmas. After these two trips on her own, she has confirmed to herself that she loves to travel alone and that she is definitely going to spend more time on it in the future. Especially in the month she spent in Thailand, she found out incredible new things about herself. But first, a recap on her trip to the Caribe:
Elisa’s main hobbies are playing handball (she’s been in a team for many years), painting and diving. She loves the underseas so much, that she wants to make a living as a professional diver while she travels around the world. Her passion for the sea is also one of the main reasons that she wants to keep studying Biology until obtaining a PhD. After her first year in Denmark, she did her first important travel alone to the Caribbean Islands. This travel was not yet fully financed by her, but she used it to attend a diving school and earn three titles called Ecodiving, Rescue, and Dive Master. The last one allows her to be a diver professionally by helping in a diving center, a key part of her life’s puzzle. With these courses, she will now have a way to sustain herself doing what she loves: discovering the sea and traveling.
The next trip she did was in Christmas, when she went to Thailand and lived incredible experiences that she says, would like to keep to herself.
And what about her future?
Elisa thinks her time in Denmark has ended, and although she has been very happy here, she feels that it’s time for her to let go. That is why she will be doing an exchange program for her next semester in Colombia since August. She thinks this will be the next big step in her life and what she needs to continue her journey. After that, only one semester in RUC will be left for her to finish, and when she does so, she will spend some more time in traveling before going after her next dream, get a scholarship to study a master in California, USA. She will definitely spread her wings and fly, or maybe in her case, she’ll get under the sea and swim to the next ocean.
to know more about Elisa, follow her Instagram @elisaescabia 🙂
This morning I made a little trip to the Spanish Embassy in Copenhagen, situated in Østerport. The reason was to fill up the documents I need to be able of voting for the general elections of Spain in April, the 28th. This was very exciting for me because this will be the first time that I’m voting in my life. After not participating in the Andalucia elections that took place the 2nd of December of this year (while I should have voted because I’m from Málaga), and after sadly watching the, in my opinion, not so good result, I realized the importance of the young people voting.
So even if it was a bit difficult to manage to vote from another country, me and my Spanish friends in Denmark knew that we were going to do whatever is necessary to vote for the generals. After completing all the forms, we will patiently wait for a letter to reach our mailbox, containing all the information from the different parties.
It will be special for all of us, the Spanish group, to vote for the first time, in a crucial moment as the one Spain is living right now.
So, after leaving the embassy, I decided to take a walk through the surroundings, and I found unintentionally a quite beautiful place in Copenhagen, the Kastellet Fortress. I didn’t even know I was in such an important place, and a military yelled at me for walking in the grass 😅
Certainly, Denmark keeps surprising me with more beautiful spaces, but that doesn’t change the fact that all of us in the Erasmus crew are very frustrated because the sky doesn’t cease to be grey.
Anyways, enjoy the pics 🙂
All pictures were taken and edited with iPhone SE.
A thought that has been crossing my mind repeatedly these last days has been the idea of being a grown up. I’m 20 years old and so are my friends, some of them being 21 or 22. It is becoming something natural to start making comparisons between us, to try to realize who is doing the better, of course always in a friendly way. But doing this is also a very good way of creating healthy competitivity, and sometimes is also funny. The thing is that it seems very funny to me trying to define which are the functions or variables that make one’s life better than the others. What do people use to judge you as a person, and are they right references or not? References such as money, job, lifestyle or a college degree. Let’s discuss this.
Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is work, do you have a job? but the most important, do you have a job related to your field of study? Wich guides us to the next very important question, do you study? I could say it’s even the most important question given that with 20 years old maybe we are still too young to be able to find a good job.
These two initial variables, a job and studies, I’m sure most of us will agree are the better signs to “judge” if you are doing better at life than other people. But again, the most intriguing thing for me is to think about the social conventions around us and that sometimes give us little space for imagination when it comes to creating your own path in life. Having no studies or just being a drop-out from college or high school seems to be a very bad symptom. But why does this have to be this way? I know many people with low level of studies that are doing pretty well in life, so why is it a requirement to have a good life, and most of all, is official education a requirement to be considered smart?
The case I can not stop thinking about when talking about this is Alaska, one of the most important stars in music and culture circles of Spain. Born in Mexico, she was the huge icon of the ‘Movida Madrileña’ an intense explosion of culture that took place in Madrid back in the 80s. Every Spanish person will know the lyrics to smash hits like A quién le importa o Bailando, performed by Alaska along with the different groups she has been part of through her career.
So, this woman pops in my head every time I think in exceptions to the relation studies – success because she barely managed to finish basic school. It’s not that she is famous now what I want to address, because thousands of stupid people get famous every day for stupid reasons. It’s the fact that she is known to be one of the most intelligent, well-spoken and cultured famous people in Spanish television right now, able to speak up for a lot of different topics with a very reasonable perspective. This is due to the fact she is a huge reader and has had always interest in learning in her own way. No need to go to college if you are truly willing to educate yourself respect the things that interest you.
So what I’m trying to say is, should college always be an unconscious requirement for being seen as a responsible person from the people around you? I get there are a lot of reasons why this can be a guarantee of ambition, but well, I’m just fooling around with there thoughts.
Now it’s the turn of the job. Are there possible ways of living a good life without the need of a job? Can a person be considered a grown-up adult without working? These days, with the brand new types of jobs that are being discovered, such as being a YouTuber, a bitcoin investor, an influencer, an Airbnb owner or an organic farm volunteer, the need of a traditional 8 hours office work is questioned. Why don’t consider certain lifestyles that reject the need for big amounts of money, like minimalism or living in a little house in a village, instead of big cities? The amount of money is definitely another, and maybe the key point people use to judge you as a person.
A person can be very happy just traveling with Couchsurfing and giving free hugs, or becoming a Buddhist monk. That shouldn’t make you less valuable, should it? I’m just thinking we should open our minds to more possible paths that we might not even consider, while they could make us happy and we don’t know it.
That’s dakota of earth, a youtuber that posts videos and podcasts about its traveling lifestyle and talks about his interests, such as DMT and spirituality. A great example of what we are talking about. In my opinion, he is very successful given that if he uses its channel to obtain money to support his own lifestyle, he is winning the game! But would he be seen by others as successful too? What do you think?
That also makes me think about self-sufficiency and economic independence, that’s also a great factor. If you are self-sufficient then you are successful right? But, if people keep judging your job, it can still be difficult to be seen as an adult example if you are the one making gameplays or cleaning streets. The social perception of the value of jobs is really important.
I guess it’s all a matter of balance. If you are not in studying but you are becoming a best-selling author with a novel you just wrote, then I guess people will acknowledge you as a successful person even though you don’t have any titles. And in the opposite, if you are in university but you are not getting anything out of it and neither are you really interested, then what you are doing is useless.
But well, what other functions or variables could be added as a must for grown-ups? I was thinking in extracurricular activities or ambitions. Such as music, art, taekwondo or sports. These are things that, while they can be seen as useless by other people, not only make you happy but also make you smarter because you are using your brain to become better at something, also you learn routine and they can serve as a principal reason to get you up from bed. Having a ‘hobby’ or a special taste for something, is, in my opinion, a good symptom of the right adult.
Is happiness itself a reference for success? Do people count their level of happiness when making an auto-evaluation of their life? This should also be an important variable, you may have no money but you can be extremely happy at the same time, so why should people feel bad about you?
In part II of this article, I’m making a graphic of the success level of me and three friends of mine, based on the variables we talked about in this text. It will be fun. Remember to subscribe to the feed to receive the updates!
So these past few days I’ve released two new songs, one of them is actually a new version of a demo called ‘Erasmus Party’, a song to honour the great parties we are having this year. The other one is called Animal Crosin, a love letter to the best videogame of all time, Animal Crossing ❤️
Enjoy them 🙂
Don’t forget you can also follow me on SoundCloud, to stay updated of my new hits hehehehe. xoxo