Christian Marques had it all — a well-paying job as a software engineer, a nice apartment in the French Riviera — but deep down, something was missing.
“I was feeling very disappointed with my position in society. I felt that I was working too much for someone else […] and I felt like I was just another cog in the machine,” says Marques, a native of Portugal.
So it was that the moonlighting poet left it all behind to hitchhike over eight months from Turkey to Nepal, his only constant companion a backpack, in what has become a book of verses in A Wandering Poem.
“I wanted to feel alive instead of feeling comfortable,” says Marques. “Comfort and security numb you, if you want to put it that way. You don’t get to feel that human intensity of confronting yourself with other people, with different cultures.”
“The first [encounter] that I had with the real Islam was very fascinating to me,” he adds. “It was like being a child again. Every little detail — the food, the smells, the way people think about things — everything was different.”
Resolving to write a poem a day based on his experiences, Marques went from Turkey through Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Pakistan, and India to Nepal — along the way, surviving a car crash in Iran, getting caught in a shootout in Balochistan, meeting refugees bound for Europe in Pakistan, and helping the earthquake relief effort in Nepal. He also experienced endless hospitality from people along the way — meeting truck drivers who would pay for meals and drive him hundreds of kilometres, and hosts who insisted on treating him like family.
The experiences left a profound impact on Marques, who now calls Lisbon home.
“If we have this gift of being alive, we should enjoy it fully,” he says. “And that’s something I learned on this trip — enjoy every moment as if it was the last.”