Sebastian Dahl and the White Rabbit to Wonderland

On the Road July 19, 2015

“On a sunny day in September 2012 I left my hometown of Oslo, Norway and walked down to the motorway. I put my thumb in the air, and 112 vehicles, 10,000 km and 3 months later I arrived at my destination: Beirut, Lebanon.”

Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. And there are other times when the inner freedom instinctively takes you to those epic journeys bound to challenge the others cultural identities. Sébastian Dahl is one of those light wanderers. He packed one small bag and a camera with two lenses and took the decision to travel 10.000 kilometers, hitchhiking his way from Oslo to Beirut in a fascinating journey of nearly three months. He kept a travel diary along the way, taking 112 pictures from 112 vehicles, documenting and memorizing the facts leading to the state of pure freedom. His ‘Right Side Window’ project is meant to highlight the landscape changes along the road from Oslo to Beirut as well as the limitations of being on the road, proving that without people the roadtrips lack substance and cultural diversity: the main spice of any inner and outer journey.

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To Sébastian, the heart core of travelling is keeping the eyes wide opened while getting lost in the wander and wonder of the experience itself, blending cultures, recording filmstrips of life, retelling stories, saying yes to everything he encounters along the way and enjoying the ride.

“During the 3 months I was traveling I only slept in a hotel room once; the rest of the time I asked random people in the streets to host me (or stayed at friends and family’s places) ‘hello, I’m traveling and I’m looking for a place to spend the night. Do you have a bed or a sofa I could crash on for a night?’ was basically how I proceeded, and it was always quite easy.”

Freedom may be considered the lait-motif of his remarkable journeys from the very beginning. Sebastian’s means of transportation is the boundless hitchhiking, which implies trusting people who at their turn trusted him with their stories and not making any plans, letting himself be part of the journey.

“When I arrived in Lebanon I was hosted by two very kind Lebanese girls who had read my blog and invited me to crash in their little apartment. They introduced me to their friends and took me out for drinks. On day 3 I met Boudi, an incredible young Lebanese guy. During the whole year he took me around in Beirut and Lebanon, giving me his perspective on living in Lebanon. We quickly became best-friends. On day 5 I found a more permanent place to stay, a flat that had been a kindergarten. I moved in because it was the only place I found where foreigners didn’t already live. Later this place became
something called the Kindergarten Collective. An arts and entertainments venue that I started with some new friends. We hosted everything from poetry readings to exhibitions, concert and workshops.”

In Beirut, Sébastian has discovered a crossing point between cultures, a paradoxical but strong refuge amidst religion and conflict.

“While exploring Beirut I heard about the Beirut hippodrome, a place where many men (and very few women!) go on Sundays to bet on horses. I’m not much of a gambler but I decided to go anyway, after all I had never been to a hippodrome. The atmosphere fascinated me immediately. Men where shouting, jumping and swearing. The more I learned about the place, the more I knew I had to do a documentary. I started going there every Sunday and quickly became a regular.The Beirut hippodrome is a place free from religion. Today it’s a meeting place for several hundred men of all ages: Muslims, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Every Sunday afternoon they come here to bet on the horse they believe to be the fastest. Some see it as gambling, others see it as a possibility to make money, and the rest simply don’t have anything else to do.”

All journeys end at some point, but only for a brief moment, a pitstop on life’s roadtrip, a breath of air before following the White Rabbit to Wonderland again.

“At the end of summer I will hitchhike East from Turkey towards Japan. The trip will take about 6 months. I will stay in Japan for a year, do documentaries and hopefully learn to weld bicycle frames in the famous Japanese Keirin tradition.”

Article by Rebeca Scurtu | beca@sundaymorningsattheriver.com
Photographys by Sebastian Dahl | sebastiandahl.com

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