hun | eng

1st Interview 7th February 2016

  • ’Women around the world’ – first of the interview series written by blogger Orsi Nagy-Szabó about women who were able step out of their comfort zone alone or with their partner to accomplish something worthy of recognition in the world.
    Intro by Orsi: „my first interviewee was Monika Merényi, whose beautiful book (Living and travelling the Path – South-America) I fell in love during a loitering before Christmas. Immediately. Both of us. Its mood captivated us, so we could not wait to sit under the tree on Christmas Eve to flip through the book and to dream. Then, it was not surprising that according to the book how special and a colorful personality is the author itself."
  • 1. Flipping through your book two things are immediately obvious: one is there's a lot of color in it and the other are the inspirational, uplifting quotes by you in the first part of the book. It's visible that this wonderful book is the result of a deep, inner journey. Who and how is that woman who started off on such a trip? 
    When I decided to do this trip, I just felt the need to go, that the next step is over there that I would like to experience. I was open and I trusted myself, I knew that it will all turn out as it suits me best.
    The time between departure and my ticket back home covered five and a half months. I wished to discover eight countries during this time, get to know its landscapes and see where and how the natives live. Then it quickly revealed that this is going be a significant internal journey as well, getting the opportunity to reconnect with myself, to find answers to my questions and to find myself in the world, as at home I could not.
    My loved ones and what my life was about back home was important to me, yet I was longing for distance, new impressions and for a trip different than any I've done before, experiencing all alone what South America is about.
  • 2. Why did you choose South America for your destination and based on what did you put your schedule together?
    I learned and heard a lot about South America, I speak Spanish and I have not been there before.
    I started to learn Spanish in high school, and ever since then the Spanish language and culture has become part of my life for longer or shorter periods. Over the years I got to know South American people who became my friends. During summer of 2014 when I decided to spend the following winter traveling around world, it was pretty obvious that I will travel to this continent.
    First, I wrote a list based on a backpackers' guidebook called "The Rough Guide to South America on a Budget” and based on thing I've seen and read on the Internet about recommended places, landscapes and cities that seemed interesting to me. Then I marked all these places on a map. The ones "sticking out" of a logical route, which would have meant taking a really big detour, was pulled off the list.
    Afterwards I calculated what can realistically fit into this half year journey financially and is in a manageable distance. This led to an idyllically achievable attractions list, which changed slightly depending on where I wanted to stay longer, or added not-to-be-missed places the locals recommended or even ones where I ended up spending less time.
  • 3. For how long were you planning this trip or how much was it a spontaneous thing? What do you think is the most important, what is absolutely necessary for such a serious trip?
    In August 2014 as a result of a conversation from one hour to the next I made up my mind that such a trip is what I need now. Then I spent a couple of long evenings searching the possibilities and planning the route. After that I „just” had to buy the plane ticket and get the vaccinations, and also have my family and friends to accept that it is all going to work out well, there is no reason to worry. To prepare such a trip for ourselves, then go through it alone felt much more like an expedition rather than a simple journey. I left with a list – with the places I wanted to see -, otherwise I organized and decided everything on the spot.
    I think faith and confidence in ourselves, in our instincts and in fate is the most important thing during such a trip. Without it I would have called it off before leaving - as many thought my trip was a crazy idea. Even on the road in certain situations these qualities came handy. Of course, the knowledge of the language has also helped appearing confident and for others to treat me with trust despite coming from a different culture.
    In addition to that, it surely meant a lot and reinforced me the love and support of the people I love, who "traveled through" the whole half-year with me. Keeping contact with them made me not feel abandoned on the other side of the world.
  • 4. You told me that traveling comes natural for you, you lived in many countries, practically you are in a constant bustle.
    Yes, thankfully in my childhood I traveled a lot with my family, that largely determined my value system, my mentality and my never expiring curiosity and openness to the world. Since the world opened early to me, I was able to see how miraculous it is. Later I had a great wish to discover it, getting to know the places and lives beyond my everyday environment. I enjoyed not only traveling but also living abroad. The years spent in Spain, in Germany and in Ireland were important chapters in my life as well. Moreover, for a few years now, I have been spending my summers in Bovec, Slovenia, a wonderful place, a Paradise on Earth for me. After this break it is easier to spend the rest of the year in a busy city (Budapest).
    For me living like this is normal. Experiencing the world, following my instincts, luckily for which I have always received great support. Traveling always recharges me, enriches me with friendships and experiences. I live the boundlessness of freedom, arriving home a bit changed.
  • 5. Indeed, the palette is very colorful. But let’s circle back to South America. You were gone for five and a half months. Was it difficult or scary to travel alone as a woman? Did you experience anything negative during your trip?
    In countries like Argentina, where many descendants of European immigrants live, a blue-eyed, European-looking girl is not that noticeable. Furthermore, a lot of people travel to South America from all over the world. However, there are countries where they pay more attention to people who look different than the locals. For example, in Ecuador and Colombia in general they take a closer look at women, especially when they are different from the familiar one.
    This was the first such long and distant journey done alone, so many of my friends and family were concerned. That is why as a precaution I have dyed my hair dark brown. Over there I was happy with it, so I was less distinct among the locals. Besides that, I was not wandering alone at night on the streets and at the bars and during the day I was also avoiding the trouble spots. During the first month I hitchhiked a couple of times, but after a few unsolicited offers and arrival at dawn to unknown towns, I decided to save money some other way.
     I felt safe all along the way, I was treated politely almost everywhere. Fortunately, neither before, nor on the road felt l fear. If I were afraid I would probably have not even started. I am in for many things, but I know my limits and this trip was within it. I could only count on myself and the outcome and quality of the trip was solely my responsibility.
    On such trips nothing is self-evident, I had to set up everything, every day. Yet, traveling alone also means big freedom. It is essential to be prepared to be in your own company without distraction all the time, to face everything that is within us. Moreover, even if you are traveling alone, someone is only alone when they truly want to. While traveling, at the hostels, during the trips or anywhere there are many travelers or locals you can get to know.
  • 6. If you had to name one country or location, which was the biggest influence on you during this journey, what was that?
    As a country Colombia resonated with me the most, however, I have seen wonderful places in every country, for which I am grateful.
    If I had to pick one city within South America, I would recommend to visit Cartagena (Colombia). For me, it was perhaps the most beautiful and colorful town, which reflects the typical ambient of South America. The colorfulness of the old town, the music, the rhythm, the local people's openness, the balconies and the big patios of the colorful houses all show how this Caribbean coastal port city is full of life.
    During the journey I really liked the architecture of some of the places, but it was the South American landscapes, flora and fauna that really fascinated me.
    Among the many wonderful natural sites I've seen, for me, the Iguazú Falls (at the Argentinian-Brazilian border) was the one I could not get enough of. 275 waterfalls fall below sometimes from a height of 80 meters; an uplifting and powerful sight!
  • 7. You have experienced truly fabulous landscapes. If you were to think beyond them, what did you most like about the natives' lifestyle and behavior?
    I traveled to places several times where people live in poverty, under circumstances far worse than mine and I have learned a lot from them. They can be very grateful for little things and how happy they can be with it. Family, human connections and time spent together are first priority for them. They accept or if possible they resolve the difficulties of life instead of complaining.
    I love animals a lot, so I was very pleased and touched by how direct and harmonious is the locals' relationship with the animals. I saw lots of dogs living on the streets of South America, they are accepted and loved by the people and these dogs are natural part of their lives.
    What I also liked a lot about South American people is that they are full of life and also calm natured and balanced. It was instructive to see how naturally South American women accept themselves, they are not ashamed of how they look, they proud to be women, and they radiate it.
  • 8. During our conversation it became clear to me that you accomplished a very deep and intense self-awareness journey. Do you feel that this journey is complete and you got everything you wished for? Did you have expectations at all?
    I had no expectations, I just wanted to explore a different continent and to tidy up inside myself a bit. Albeit I received a lot more during this trip. I gave myself the time, attention and love that at home I couldn’t always do. Meanwhile unintentionally I was „re-examining" everything that mattered and shaped me in my life.
    I processed those things that were in the depths of my soul and so I cleared my feelings, my thoughts. I found peace in myself, ran out of my questions, I am simply satisfied with what was given and I am happily doing my duty. I accept and I appreciate my life, I am more connected to everything, I see the reality of things, not the way I wanted it back then. Somehow it is much easier and so much more beautiful this way.
    I think everyone can benefit from such a trip – especially if done alone - where our lives can be seen from a different perspective, outside of our comfort zone, living life fully, to see what really matters and to get to know ourselves well beyond that small slice of life where we routinely live with its fixed conditions and participants.
  • 9. This kind of balance is truly enviable. Where did you have the idea to publish your trip in form of a book? Otherwise, how does it feel to know that people at home are leafing through your book and get inspired or even longingly looking at your photos?
    First, I wrote down my thoughts to myself. Everyone could have experienced how liberating it is, when an idea or feeling is conceived as an essence in us. Next to that it felt good to pick my images and share a couple of them including short travelogues. Then more and more of my friends suggested me to share my experiences more widely as well. For a long time, I did not consider this, but then, as the whole experience settled in my mind, I began to feel that maybe it would worth showing others where I have been and what I have experienced during this journey.
    As soon as I finished with the initial content, I showed it to some of the people that are important to me. I received such inspiring and appreciative feedback and support, that there was no question any longer whether the book shall be published or not. So this book was born: "Living while traveling - South America".
    Last year the Hungarian version of the book hit the stores in mid-December, and since then I have received overwhelming amount of kind, appreciative and uplifting feedback, that made me very happy. It feels good when others get inspired by and take courage from my notes and pictures, either to start off their plans, or just being touched by some of my thoughts, see the world differently and dare to connect with themselves. 
  • 10. From every sentence shines the joy of homecoming as well. After such a round trip are you planning any extended trips in the near future?
    I hope one day I get the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia for a few months. I would like to tour Indochina, within that certainly Thailand - Cambodia - Vietnam - Laos.
    But for now I feel that I have traveled enough for a while, and I have seen what I wanted. I enjoy my life at home, all is good, just as it is. Nevertheless, you never know what tomorrow brings, what makes and impact on me and where my life takes me.
    There are no limits if we let ourselves to be where our heart is and where we are loved.