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  • Writer's pictureMadli

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” - J. Kerouac

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Milford Sound, South Island of New Zealand / 2014

All of creation begins from pitch blackness. Utter darkness. It is everything and nothing at once. Infinite potential, endless possibility, like the codes of life lying dormant within a seed. And so too, this journey begins from the void. There is no destination, I am simply following the road map and letting the path beneath me be the one to lead. Today, it guided me here and compelled me to lay my fingers on the keyboard, without really knowing which part of my story would be ready to be told.

There are countless ways I could begin, things I could tell you about myself - that my name is Madli, I am 27 years old and I was born in a small Eastern Europen country called Estonia. Or that I am a wedding film maker, photographer and a coffee addict, among other addictions.

I could also begin by untangling the knotted threads of the chaos that is the current stage of my life. I am about to become a divorcée, packing up my life and selling most of my belonings to become a vagabond once again. Like a cherry on top, I could add that I don't have a driver's license, a college degree and absolutely no plan for the future, which, in the unforgiving eyes of society, would make me the story book example of a "giant failure".

But I won't. Because by the ruler I measure things by, I am just about the happiest person out there. Life is unfolding in front of me like a lotus flower. The air around me is filled with tension and the sizzling static of the unknown, a feeling I had long forgotten and scared I would never come to feel again.

In this very moment, it feels as if anything is possible. The road is calling, it has for a while through the soft whispers in the wind.

And at last, I answer.

There is a distinct difference between what I classify as success, versus how most of the world tends to see it. I measure wealth in happiness and experiences, not in the mindless accumulation of possessions and achievements. I don't really mind whether they come from money, or the lack of there of, because the last ten years of life, with all the backpacking and nomadic living before I settled down, have pushed me to view scaricity as an invitation to cultivate gratitude and out-of-the-box sort of creative thinking.

In my book, the glass is always half full and it would often come to be, that when I seemed to have the least, I would feel most content.

Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for everything and material stability is the basis of one's sense of safety, especially when you are ready to settle down and grow roots, which I had to realise the hard way, I was not. In my humble opinion, all of the big and beautiful things are worth nothing, if beneath it there is no genuine peace and happiness.

For the one who sees with the heart, joy can be present in both feast and famine, as it flows from the inner sanctuary and not as a result of outer circumstances.

Over the past few months, my world has tilted on its axis, most of the time spinning faster than I can keep up with but amongst the cold and admittedly terrifying winds of change, I realised there was also ample adventure ahead of me. I knew this time around, I wanted to document it.

And so, I begin.

“I was an adventurer, but she was not an adventuress. She was a 'wanderess.' Thus, she didn’t care about money, only experiences - whether they came from wealth or from poverty, it was all the same to her.” - Roman Payne, The Wanderess

The Pacific, at Highway 1, Southern California / July 2014

There are many branches of story arcs on my tree of life, and I am certain there will come a time in which I must travel all the way back to my childhood, but for now, I feel it to be most important to start from the beginning of the big cycle that has just come to completion.

We are going back 9 years ago, to the Northern Hemisphere summer of 2014.

I was 19, freshly graduated out of high school and ravenous for the road. I was still living in Estonia but somehow already homeless at heart. Ever since I was little, I had been itching to set out to chase every utopian fantasy I had pictured adulthood to serve to me on a silver platter. I was fearless back then, and painfully naive but not in a gullible way. I just believed things would work out in my favour and somehow, they almost always did.

“I wandered through cities and countries wide and everywhere I went, the world was on my side” - Roman Payne

Growing up, I spent a lot of time looking out of my bedroom window, wishing I could one day be onboard one of the air planes flying over our house on the daily, leaving its trail of condensation marks for me to reminisce on, even long after the plane was out of sight. I didn't understand the sadness that lived inside of me, I was a seemingly happy child but something deep within my soul had me yearning for lands and experiences as exotic and far away from home, as I could possibly find.

Those of us from the fatherless tribe tend to have our innocence robbed from us too early, and I was no exception in this unfortuante equation. I realise now, in hindsight, that I spent years frantically looking for myself, like the one sock that always goes missing in the wash, not realising there was never much of me to be found out there. Only a deep, dark internal ocean, sprawling beneath the surface, waiting for me to find the courage to meet myself to the extent of its vastness. It would take ten years of running and bypassing, looking for safety within anything and anyone but myself, until I would be finally ready to face my pain.

I had it all figured out. My mind was set on the sweet smelling, freshly mowed illusion that grass would be greener on the other side, and I was prepared to chase it all the way to the ends of the world, just to have my bare toes tickled by its dewy blades as soon as I would come of age. I felt my destiny was awaiting. As a musician and a poet at heart, I was exceptionally good at overly romanticising my life, but in this case, I would indeed later come to realise it was not without reason the south side of the planet had begun calling out to me.

In the afternoons during my last year of high school, I worked as a teacher at an extra curricular music school. I taught table harp, or kannel, as it is called in Estonian, our national instrument. Music had been such an integral part of my life, my bread and butter, but somewhere along the whirlwinds of life, my ties to its healing balm got severed. As did majority of the rest of the connection I had to my roots.

Where I could, I would also skip school to pick up random little jobs in the capital city to help save up for my grand plan of spending the upcoming year travelling the world. I had the password to my mother’s parental accesses to the electronic school portal, where I kept giving myself permission slips to miss class so I could go to the city to work. According to the e-school system, I had been to the dentist about fourteen times that year and tormented biweekly by things like stomach viruses and migraines. I felt bad to technically have lied my way through high school but I had a dream, and there was nothing that was going to stop me from fulfilling it.

I don’t know how I managed not to get caught or save up enough money, but through some magical amalgamation of my dedication and the wheel of fortune spinning in my favour, I graduated with not-too-bad grades and pulled everything together to move 17,000 km away from home to a small country town on the south island of New Zealand. Admittedly, I had something like $160 dollars in my pocket and no health insurance, which, an awful case of tonsillitis and hundreds of dollars later, I would come to deeply regret.

San Diego, Southern California / 2014

Before settling on the south side of the planet, the road in front of me would first gift me a summer of passion and palm trees on the west coast of America. They say you are not the same having seen the sun set on the other side of the world, and that I knew, when I first caught the lilacs over peaches and cream of a Southern California sunset, dropping into the big Pacific.

They don't talk of the California Dream without reason. It has a strawberry soft serve sweetness, so irresistibly infused with temptation and dipped in the hundreds and thousands of seductive darkness, making it impossible to the weak of spine to resist. I certainly was powerless to its allure. So much so, it would have me gravitating back to its pull four continual years in a row.

That was also the summer that truly got me hooked on Lana del Rey. Somehow my life was narrating itself in perfect unison with the music she was coming out with. Lana was way older and cooler and famous, of course, but to some extent, it seemed I was following in her footsteps, gracefully glorifying my bad decisions.

I liked her music because the duality and darkness in me recognised the one in her. It made me feel seen and a lot less crazy, or at least I felt justified by it, as if it my madness was something to be taxidermied and hung on the wall like a hunting thophy. I don't say it like it was a good thing, as if I was something to be proud of, because this girl was exceptionally good at romanticising things that shouldn't be romantcised, like Pepsi Cola and suffering. I just understood her. Both her pain and her beauty. The world often called her a wannabe but I always knew she was an artist of the heart deep down, trapped in Hotel California, like so many of the rest of those brightly shining stars.

Hollywood, Southern California / July, 2014

Maybe my notion of it is slightly biased, tainted with a rosy glow but believe me when I say there truly was something so moviesque about So Cal. Probably because later that summer a love was ought to find me, the ghost of which would haunt me for years to come.

Though short lived and ephemeral, this relentless rockmelon romance and heaven on earth I came to experience, I'm talking the sort of thigh-dribbling, champagne-popping passion that has you weak in the knees for weeks, would leave an imprint on my pink and unbruised heart. One that would prove to be notoriously difficult to override. Way more tragic than the curse of having fallen in love with someone I couldn’t have, though, was that it had created a template which would have me mistakenly confuse the intensly blazing infatuation I had just experienced, for the epitome of love. And boy was I going to make sacrifices beyond my years to keep such wildfire love alive, only a few years later.

On that, and how life played its cards in a way that would have me moving to Australia, getting married at 22 and divorced five years later, I will come back to at a later time.

Southern California / July 2014

By the end of summer 2014, I was heartbroken and homesick as ever, except for places I had never been to. I was ready to set sail. Luckily, the worst of my pain was swiftly diffused by the breeze of the open road and promise of adventure that lay ahead me.

To this day, there is nothing more healing to my open wounds than the excitement of new terrains.

As I first set foot on The Land of The Long White Cloud, the chilly of the southern hemisphere's early August air filled my lungs with a wave of sweetness I had not yet come to taste. I was waiting for my host family to fetch me from the airport, I would be working as an Au Pair in a small village called Swannanoa, 30 kilometers outside of Christchurch. I remember the feeling so vividly. I had a single suitcase of things, my pockets were empty but my heart was full. Adventure was upon me. I was finally free.

How strange to find myself once again in a similar position, nine years later. Thank heavens I now have something immeasurably valuable I lacked back then - life experience, maturity, a deep sense of self and an unwavering trust in the Divine.

The only thing left now, is to surrender and take the leap. And leap I will.

Yours truly,


Milford Sound, South Island of New Zealand / 2014


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