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An Interview With A World Traveler In The USA-Henry Biernacki
Name the one most important thing you learned from Mother Teresa?
Mother Teresa hugged me with her eyes. She had much more than a powerful brilliance in her eyes. During her life, imagine what she had seen. She looked directly at me, directly in my pupils, making me want to look at her with the same intensity. She was seated in a wheelchair, but I never felt she was weak. As I spoke to Mother Teresa, I forgot she sat in a wheelchair. I honestly felt her soul outgrew her body. Her eyes alone felt as if they could hug the world!
I often think, if I never acknowledge random occurrences, how can random experiences unfold as to the time I was with Mother Teresa? She revealed to me about capturing the instance of the now. This very instance is now gone. How did we choose to live it?
I wrote, after I met Mother Teresa: The breath of a man is taken in through his experiences and upheld by the stern thought of the spirit and in his steadfastness deep believe, that he walks- never alone -but rather, is with all entities at one moment among the Creator.
Tell me about one of your most difficult situations, and how did you stay calm?
By extending oneself, beyond the physicality, one shall deny the ego, setting forth on a journey, discovering one’s internal self.
-I flew into Lahore, Pakistan. I then took a train up to Rawalpindi. I wanted to visit Kashmir. I had to change buses to jeeps and cars. Before going to Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, I was pulled off a bus by border guards. Six of the guards had large guns and they were yelling at me. They unpacked my rucksack and went through my things for five hours, asking questions, and why I was there. They wanted to know why I was there, in Kashmir. I wanted to take the Karakorum Highway to China. It is the highest highway in elevation in the world. I sat there for five hours as they wanted to know more and more about my background. They logged everything. They became more at ease and they permitted me to get on the next bus. They told the driver not to charge me, since they took me off the other bus.
-Another time, was when I was on a boat from Batam Island next to Singapore. I was on my way from Batam to Sumatra, Indonesia. The boat hit something in the South China Sea and it began sinking. It was far too full of people and even more full of live animals, so escaping was really not an option, except through the tiny windows I was looking out. Just before the water took the boat over, it stopped sinking. We sat there for hours before another boat came to pick everyone up. The smiles of the people on the boat never stopped even after we almost sank. I have to think about how people are irritated when we are delayed ten minutes!
I have so many more stories: boulders crashing down the mountains, along my trek up the Himalayan Mountains and someone yelling out, “Careful! There is a large rock!” It would have hit me into the rapid water, as I walked along the footpath.
What were some of your life lessons that taught you how to stay calm in difficult situations?
Make your heart skip a beat and finally go outside the normal-everyday-life. The extent I shall journey, without knowing the outcome; yet only to find, traveling as an outlet: seeking an experience to then aggregate to my knowledge will only benefit when negative situations occur. By continuously exiting my banality, life demonstrates events that merely, at a glance, seem to frustrate me. In the end, I only think anything more than a breath of air is a gift. With a thought so simple, nothing should disrupt the calmness.
What do you remember doing as a child when you became angry?
Kids are more frustrated rather than angry in my opinion. When I was younger, I played a variety of sports and that kept my energy focused on disciplining myself to become better in sports. They occupied my time after school and I had to study after practice. I felt too worn out after such a long day and did not want my focus on being angry.
Do you believe stress is inter-related to high blood pressure?
I am far from a medical advisor, although I shall say that balance is needed in many, if not all, facets of life. If we do not deal first hand with issues, I do believe these take priority later in life and cause health issues.
Do you feel the world would be a more peaceful place if people understood how to practice staying calm?
I cannot think of one thing that is not relative. What I view as peaceful, another would say is aggressive. What they feel is aggressive, others may find it like a war.
Explain your most frequently used practices to keep your temper under control.
Again, this deals with the balance we have in our lives. Life, at times, is difficult enough, why focus on something that could cause such a negative outcome.
1. Simplicity. I try to simplify my life with utilizing what I need, without the clutter of modern life.
2. Anything more than a breath of air is a gift.
3. Sit still, feel, and focus.
4. I take myself out of the situation and view it from a third person. I then ask myself, what is really the root of the problem? If I can answer this, then I can work on the outcome easier.
5. I really do understand my past experiences, being overseas and seeing undeveloped nations, as putting my life into perspective. Nothing is as bad as it appears. Why would I waste energy of being upset.
Tell us about your book No More Heroes
Take a journey from San Francisco onto Nepal with this unique piece of story telling combined with wondrous characters. It is told through the eyes of a fictional character, Niklas.
No More Heroes, is available now through EBooks and any bookstore, (ISBN 978-1-4520-8976-8), (978-1-4520-8975-1), (978-1-4520-8977-5), and is a sensitive, insightful telling story. The novel, written with unique style, describes the scenes and images Niklas encounters along this journey.
No More Heroes, began in July: a novel where people were his heroes, a recital of experiences- thoughts between people while Niklas learned to enjoy the fleeting moment, LIFE! It does not matter if someone has visited San Francisco or even Nepal, Niklas describes the scene, allowing a reader to dive breathlessly into the setting. Suria aka Foxybird and Niklas share an uncommon tender friendship where their dialogue allows the reader to travel effortlessly deeper into the book. At the beginning, Niklas thought he was adding to Suria’s life, while towards the middle he realizes she was adding to his. Finally, they realized they needed one another for different reasons. They never discuss her illness or what would be the outcome. No More Heroes’ themes center on human interaction, traveling, love, friendships, philosophy, and sharing. In learning the value of these ideas, opportunities to create a powerful existence out of life are formed.
James M. Montoya, Vice President The College Board and Former Dean of Admissions Stanford University describes the novel: No More Heroes is a beautifully written testimony to the art of living.
It is a poetic and joyful reminder of those seemingly ordinary moments and interactions that are indeed so extraordinary. Henry Biernacki shares with the reader an uncommon sense of wonder and a profound sense of humanity. It is a rare gem in the form of a 180 page novel.
Tell me about some of your most exciting adventures.
It is not difficult to merely have an idea, creating an adventure. A further greater barrier is achieving an outcome and the grand energy it takes to seek through many avenues to have such an adventure, which naturally is the most demanding part of the entire effort.
Travelers may enter a point where we stop looking at where we have been and look at where we have not been, so we may gain more understanding. I released from caring about what life was going to offer me and I went out and began learning from life without worrying about the outcome. My adventures influence me to slow down, more than pressing me out of my comfort zone, they make me realize a lack of control with the process and the outcome sorts itself out.
When I stopped caring for the destination and fell in love with the process, this began the most exciting adventure of my life.
Which country, in traveling to over 120 countries, has been your favorite?
Many places could be anywhere, but this place could be nowhere, nowhere except here! The special places around the world are still there if you know where to walk.
I have discovered this of traveling: no one place is any better than another. In our physical presence, wherever I am, I have to construct it with skillful chaos of not knowing what is going to materialize. We choose to make it excellent or not. At a point, the more you travel: you are not a guest anymore! “When is that?” Someone asked me. I do not think you know when that is, although you kind of seamlessly stroll into that phase of travel as you do in many grand portions of life. The people around the world have taken me in and made me feel at home.
I’ve lived lifetimes in days! I’ve lived centuries in seconds and existed in wondrous moments next to marvelous people. And think: I have not begun to speak of half the beauty I have seen, touched, smelled, and tasted.
Asking a traveler which is his favorite country is as difficult a question to answer as for me to ask someone which breath of air has been the most memorable. But Nepal and the Himalayas do have a way of affecting a human. Why is this country so special? The answer is simple: it is awake.
(The following excerpts taken from No More Heroes.)
It was a strange feeling to be a foreigner again in such an isolated world. Even Siberia was closer to most people’s imagination. Niklas felt closer to himself in such a foreign land. Funny, how so much solitude can make you understand yourself. Traveling cures isolation through intellectual hands-on education.
The air was as still as an animal waiting to catch its prey. Suddenly there was no cool breeze in the orange sky. Besides the bus-park the rest of Kathmandu slept as he drifted through the small streets to find Thamel. That was the best place to stay for cheap guesthouses with the best bed bugs he could find. That early in the morning he could feel the streets unwinding like a tired man does as he wakes from his deep sleep. The city’s alleys stretched with rickshaws, fruit and chai that vendors sold at wholesale prices, which would then be sold at market prices later in the day to hungry Nepali and travelers alike. He couldn’t see the bags of spices yet, but he could smell the fennel seeds, cumin powder and the anise seeds. Incense burned and smoke filled the narrow wet unpaved alleys.
A Nepali man walked around a Buddhist Temple. He spun the prayer wheel, then touched the middle of his forehead, then his heart. Iron prayer wheels continued to move all day while black soot rose from the burning candles. Women threw water on the ground and swept the dust outside their small shops. He began to think to himself as he saw a man eating with his right hand. The man scooped a hand full of curry-rice and shoved it in his mouth. Nothing in Nepal reminded him of anything familiar.
A traveler could see life in the morning of a new country when the locals are even sleeping. Everything could be closed and the smallest signs could reach out to grab his attention. The buildings could be seen because people are not cluttered in the streets. All Niklas saw were children sticking their heads out of small windows. One child had dark eyeliner, framing her eyes and one red tika mark on her forehead.
New experiences. You can smell sugar mixing with milk and you could hear the hiss and pumping of the propane gas cooking chai in each house and the bottle opener hit the beer bottle to uncap another beer. Woks fried vegetables. Laughs came from all directions as the Nepalese sat, ate, and visited. Families go next door to share glasses of chai and beer while others go to the bar/hotel where above the reception desk a sticky wrap hung to catch flies and mosquitoes. It was full. The hotel restaurant had one blue curtain with pink flowers hanging in the entryway. You could look in and see old plates sitting in a stack waiting to be picked up. Flies sipped the spilt beer and sticky chai rings left on the table. Small grounds of unboiled chai scattered on the floor. Four people clapped as one man sang. Everyone shared a drink.
Finally, tell me what it feels like to fly the Boeing 747-400?
It is a humbling sensation when you are on top of the world, flying across the Earth.
Realizing the mass and momentum we control is a humbling experience, awe-inspiring. Maneuvering an object 875,000 pounds (takeoff weight) with grace, takes not only training; it takes the ability to process information from various sources: dispatchers, crew inflight, ATC control, and others within an airline. The pilots are the ones flying and make decisions to remain safe. Nevertheless, we incorporate ideas from these sources to make sure we make a solid decision, which ultimately makes the flight the safest.
I have been fortunate enough to fly all over the world in different airline transport category aircraft (Boeing747-400/757/767, Airbus320) and the B747-400 is elegant. Flying is a constant ceremony of placing your training to work and correlating the process of learning directly to hands-on work, and finally is celebrated with each flight ending with the parking brake set safely. Men, some retired and some still flying, have taught me how to be a safer pilot, which is why I have stated flying the B747-400 is a humbling experience.