After seven months on the road with her parents touring the Western U.S., Europe and Morocco, Mali headed back to the United States to resume her young adult life. She was interviewed by her parents as an exercise to attain some closure and a touchpoint for reflection before embarking on the next chapter of her journey.
Q. When planning this trip, what did you look forward to the most?
Amsterdam. Definitely Amsterdam, because it’s such a liberal city and with the laws as they are, people are really accepting. I was really looking forward to living in a place that embraces the same kinds of ideas that I do.
Did it meet your expectations?
Yeah, it did. The way that people treat you when you walk down the street being alternatively dressed, people don’t bat a negative eye at you and I’ve gotten more compliments there than anywhere else in Europe.
Was it different that you expected?
Not a lot that was negative that I didn’t expect, but I did expect people to be more pushy and to feel more endangered like carrying my bag and stuff on me. It was a positive outcome for a negative expectation.
Q. If you had one word to describe yourself before you left Redmond what would it be?
Stuck-in-a-rut: I took a lot of things for granted, like washing machines, and I recently learned that most of the world doesn’t have washing machines let alone a dryer. Getting up for school every day and the same stuff every single day got boring.
Cultured: because once you experience a bunch of different cultures around the world you get out of your Ameri-centric view and you can appreciate things around you and the places other people live.
Q. If you were going to provide advice to somebody your age about a trip like this, what would it be?
Finish school first. Even though you never stop learning, and you have more learning to do, you need to have the basics under your belt so that you can not only appreciate the things around you more, but also you don’t have the constant worry about, “Am I going to be able to go back to school, or get a job, or get a diploma . . .” You will have more options available to you.
And your advice to their parents?
Give them more space than you think is necessary because traveling together as a family, however you get a lot of good time together, if you go from living in a home with everyone has their own bedroom and sometimes bathroom and everything is so individualized, and you go into traveling where you have most everything you have on your back, or in a car in our case, you really don’t have that much personal space.
Q. What was your favorite experience on the trip?
I have to choose? Can it be a concert? Probably the Stiff Little Fingers concert we went to in Amsterdam. I have to say, how many dads would go to a punk show with their daughter, in Amsterdam? That’s rad. But it was also great to see how other subcultures that I’m already in tune with act with each other because American punks are really stand-offish and at the concert I made at least three really great acquaintances and you wouldn’t talk to other people at shows in America. It was weird for me, but really great.
What was the most transformative place you were on the trip?
Probably the edge of the Sahara. You are very much alone even if you’re just on the edge, besides the occasional donkey and your camel. It’s a really great place to think because you really can’t hear anything except for your thoughts. It’s really great for that reason.
Q. Did you visit anyplace you plan to return to one day?
I have to say Amsterdam again. I really like that town. It’s a great city. And maybe Lyons in France, not only because I made a great friend there but because it’s a great town and the food is superb.
Any place you wouldn’t revisit?
Midelt, Morocco. There’s not much to do there, and it’s kind of boring and sad. It seems like there’s a depressive blanket over everything there. (Editor’s note: Midelt is where the Oesting’s motorhome broke down and they spent several anxious days having it repaired)
Is there anywhere you didn’t visit that you’d like to?
The U.K., Ireland, and Scotland. I have friends there, and I want to visit them. It also sounds like a really great place that I’d like. I tend to like Northern Europe. The U.K. also has a fascinating history.
Q. What was your favorite meal?
Aside from when Grammy Sue brought Annie’s Mac and Cheese, I want to say our chocolate adventure in Bruges, Belgium, because in quantity it was as much as a meal, but nutritionally it’s like dessert. But dessert’s a meal, right?
I’m torn between French and Spanish but I can’t really say Spanish because I was vegan at the time. Probably French then, because their food tastes so much better: they use a pat of butter in everything. Their specialties are really very good.
Q. What travel tips have you learned that you’d like to pass on to others?
*Don’t wait too long to go to the bathroom
*IKEA has great French presses so you don’t have to suffer without good coffee
*Peanut butter is more readily available in Europe and North Africa
*Tortillas (not Spanish) too!
*Don’t forget your water bottle – if you think you’ve drunk enough water, drink some more
*If you feel like you’re getting sick, eat as many oranges as you can
*Remember quick-drying underwear
*Bring a headlamp
Q. After living in such close quarters with your parents for six months, what would you say you learned about them that you didn’t know before?
We share a lot of really, really great ideas and philosophies together and we can openly talk about them and I really like that. I never thought I could talk about my beliefs with them before because of the generation gap. And that is a very nice thing.
Q. What are three important things you’re taking away from this journey?
1. Probably a better understanding of myself; because when you’re traveling and you don’t have the internet and you can’t talk to your friends, and your iPad is out of batteries so you can’t listen to music, you are bored. When you are bored, it is a great time for self reflection and getting to know yourself.
2. A better understanding of how the world works in different places and just knowing that things don’t have to work one way, there’s always another way things can be done.
3. You don’t really need a lot to live; Americans are so materialistic that a lot people overestimate what they need to be happy. You don’t need more than two pairs of pants, and some people have entire wardrobes that they don’t wear. People have too much stuff.
Q. What did you learn about yourself from your journey?
I’m highly introverted; however, I can spend time with other people but it’s emotionally draining for me. I’ve learned a lot more about ADD and how things I struggle with can be rectified outside of medication and so putting a label on behaviors can be great because I know it can be fixed and doesn’t have to be that way. I can live in chaotic organization (it’s a thing – being able to find stuff in an utter mess).
Q. After living in a motorhome for six months, what did you take for granted before this experience?
SPACE! There’s so little space in a motorhome that people don’t expect how many people should mentally fit and live together for an extended period of time. Being able to use the toilet freely for any purpose without having to get out of the motorhome and walk to a toilet.
What did you miss the most about living in your American home?
Probably being able to freely live without having to be careful with my environment (e.g. decorating with posters, screwing hooks into the walls . . .). Again, space and being able to take up as much space as I need.
Q. What was your biggest hardship?
Leaving. It was hard to leave all my friends and everything I had created over the past year and the relationships I developed that I fit into. Also my guitar, which is my baby.
How did you cope?
I listened to a lot of music. Surprisingly, that really really helps. Also talking to people on the internet, however not face to screen to face, not on Skype, was good.
Q. Having experienced a variety of ruins and old cultures on this trip, what have you learned about history?
It’s old. The world is old. America is a baby. We are a tiny little baby culture and we have to keep this in mind as we make big decisions. We need to model ourselves after other cultures who have done this before and found out, this doesn’t work. People fight too much. A lot of times we were going to ruins which were old cities which were places people lived, but a lot of times they were entertained by violence. And it hasn’t changed. History repeats itself, so it’s in our hands to change it.
Q. Being a young female American punk, how did you feel you were perceived by others throughout your journey?
In Northern Europe, there is a higher percentage of people with an understanding of punks. The closer that you get to the equator, the countries get more 2nd and 3rd world and they don’t have the room socially to express themselves in that way. I think that people didn’t really know how to perceive me, or they thought I was Irish. There’s more punks that travel the world that happen to be Irish. I didn’t feel disrespected. People looked me in the eye and greeted me, but they kept their distance. They didn’t know what to expect, they don’t know me.
Q. Did you have any engaging encounters with strangers?
Yeah. We met a really nice guy, randomly on the street, that stopped me because he really liked the band patches on my pants. We wound up talking for two hours and he let me play his brand new guitar and it was a very unique and awesome experience (shout out to Jeremy!).
Any scary ones?
Yeah. Being harassed through the window at a gas station in Morocco. It’s a joke, but usually I perceive this okay, but this time I got really uncomfortable: the men offer camels as a dowery.
Q. Having lived in close quarters with your parents, has your relationship with them changed?
I think so. I have a deeper appreciation for them as people, and definitely a lot more understanding of why they wanted to go on this trip.
Q. What have you learned about getting along in small spaces with others?
Communication is necessary. Especially when you have to finagle people pressed into an island of a kitchen, someone is getting their shoes on, and another is coming out of the bathroom at the same time, communicating where you are and where you need to be is essential for getting around. And sometimes you just need to have somebody sit down.
Q. What are your plans upon your return to the U.S.?
Finish my High School education and pursue a career in art. Becoming an independent young adult and definitely pursuing music.
What are you most looking forward to?
Gaining more independence. Also, having my own room. I really like having my own space with privacy. The place I’m going to has a lot of cats and I really like cats 🙂
Q. This journey is your parents’ dream; what is your dream?
I don’t know that yet. I have, hopefully, upwards of 70-80 years to figure that out, but I really don’t know.