7. Edgar, the Alchemist and the pursuit of happiness

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” 

― Edgar Allan Poe

This entry has taken me 4 days and 3 destinations to write, begun in Phnom Penh, finished in Kampot and finalised in Sihanoukville. Cambodia. There are three parts to this post.

Part 1 – The pursuit of happiness

Part 2 – Edgar and the Alchemist

Part 3 – Conclusion

Brace yourself because it is long.  This song is currently playing and this is how I have started.

Part 1 – The pursuit of happiness

The beginning of this post was inspired by my room mate in Siem Reap, Keland. He shared a story with me, and I shared one back. The one I shared back he encouraged me to write about. At the time I felt guilty and slightly lost too. He said this:

“Knowing what you want is half of the battle, doing something about it is the next step”

At first he assumed I was a writer. I am not a writer, not a journalist, not preaching just sharing stories.

In 25 years there isn’t much I have not dug into. Like a lot of people I love to learn. But only absorb myself in something for a very short period of time. There are so many things you can do and I want to do everything. Contradict myself a lot too. I have a hundred ideas on what I want to do and often leave a lot of things unfinished.

As a kid I use to dance, do karate, play instruments, paint, sing, gymnastics, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, languages. You name it I did it. When I was younger I thought my parents were training me to be a spy, like Alex Rider from the Anthony Horowitz series. It wasn’t a mad theory considering my mother was a soldier and my father worked in International Aid. I traveled a lot with them too and fantasised that they were preparing me for a career with MI6 or the CIA. Dreamer much ey?

I was pretty unhappy as a child, a spoilt brat possibly, I had left the freedom of Central America, the travels, new cultures, nomadic lifestyle. Never really adjusted to life in the UK. It was so sheltered with so many rules. Wanted to live in my own world, like most children. We need constant stimulus to be happy. I would only do things for a short period of time. Maybe a year tops before I would need to move on and do something new. Still like that, the mentality of a child still learning. Never truly growing up. Accepted we don’t have to.

I am in pursuit of happiness. I found happiness a long time ago and am on a journey to find it again and again and again. I am looking for unconditional happiness. Travelling with my parents as a kid was my happiest time, here in Asia I am happy. The nomadic lifestyle. The main reasons are stories, stories make me happy. Learning about people. Understanding them. Sharing their stories. But it’s only temporary happiness. I learn from them and sometimes question myself. I learned a lot from the story below, Keland identified that I now what I wanted. But needed to figure out how to get it.

Not always happy though. Find life very conflicting. It’s easier to not worry, not stress and not care. Things always work out, always but sometimes it is distressing. It can make you numb to your own personal life.

I don’t like to focus on anything. By doing a mixture of things you don’t need to care a lot about one thing. I think this is why I am happy a lot of the time. Avoid drama and conflict. If I get a sense of it then I move on somewhere different. I met someone similar recently. Below is his story.

Part 2 – Edgar and the Alchemist

I was listening to this song when I begun this part. Perfect strangers ey! – While reading this remember “We are only human”. Sometimes we need a perfect stranger to reflect the worst parts of ourselves so we can learn.

This part was written in Kampot – Cambodia – High Tide Hostel


This is the story about **Edgar**. If he concentrates hard enough he will find his treasure. To understand the below you will have to read a book called ‘The Alchemist’. Edgar recommended it to me. I was not inclined to read it at first as it was about paths and destiny. Seemed a bit too deep but read it anyway. Glad I did.

His mentality to life is what inspired me to wanting to write about him. Bit of a nutter to be honest. Similar to me in some ways. His is a very different journey though. I found his interesting. By understanding him, I made a realisation about myself. He was a very conflicted individual.

This story is long and complex but I will leave some things out to simplify it a little. I didn’t get the sense that he came to in Asia to ‘find himself’. He seemed to know himself pretty well. He came for the same reasons a lot of us do. Escape reality, enjoy a more relaxed life style and to fill an empty void.

I met him under a mixture of usual and unusual circumstances. I had been drinking beer Hoi with a friend when I met Edgar and his mate. The usual merry drunk encounter. If I am honest I did not think we would be friends, he seemed like a bit of a tool, kept talking about pharmaceuticals. Little did I know this was about to be one of my craziest nights in Asia and he would later become part of the Hanoi Family.

There were no boundaries that day, no worries, no plans, just went with the flow. At some point our paths crossed again later in the day. Think we were like minded that day, not expecting anything bar the usual drinking games and socialising. I cannot explain all the events which led to the next tale, neither of us can remember but in summery, we locked ourselves out of our hostels and decided to roam the streets of Hanoi at an ungodly hour with no cloths on. Well he had a towel on and I had at shirt and jumper. Why? I cannot tell you. I don’t know myself. Just to be different maybe. We made up a silly story as to why we had no cloths on. I can’t remember the story, something to do with a dare I think. The reactions were interesting, maybe that’s why we did it. To get some type of reaction. Yes. I know why now. But too ashamed to admit it. Made some moral errors that night and lost a good friend. Anyway Edgar will blame me for the incidents which occurred that night and to be fair it was mostly my doing. It was funny though. Made for a good story. He told me he was a nudist so he only has himself to blame. It was a fun night. No regrets…well some. It got him plenty of attention, our Hanoi family thought of him as a legend after this. This was not the first crazy night for me…there have been many but the dragon was tamed years ago. Welcome to Maz world I thought.

During these events he begun to tell me a few things about himself and his life. He talks a lot. I like stories so was more than happy to listen. Truth be told I did not think I would speak to Edgar again so was not fully engaged. I wanted to have a crazy night doing things I would never usually do and then do the usual, pack my things and leave quietly never to be seen again.

I tried not to focus on his story as I knew if I did listen carefully I would care and I would want to help. By this time I was sick of being an agony aunt after an exhausting journey with Casanova and Luke and Alex (these stories will come later). I was quiet cold, regret that. Maybe the following could have happened a lot earlier.

He mentioned that his time in Asia was crazy, he had been on a binge of alcohol, drugs and women. I told him I knew we was a bit of a ladies man, in harsher words, he tried to argue with me about this but I knew. I  also knew there must be a story behind the facade but didn’t want to ask. This all sounded so familiar. Someone I once knew, Nathan, ended up in rehab after similar events. I was worried but needed to focus on my own journey at that moment in time.

The next day we spoke about what we wanted to do. He wanted to start up a hostel etc. I explained I wanted to open a bar type establishment. We laughed about the previous nights but true to my word I left that day. Really not expecting to speak with him again.

We did talk, briefly over the next week or so. I sensed some type of desperation from him, as if he was trying to mask some guilt. He said he stayed in contact and was friends with most of the women he has been with…I told him I was not judging, I had no right to and I really didn’t care but he didn’t want to be seen as a ladies man. By this point I wanted to know his story. But there was no point in asking. I was never going to see him again. Just another travel acquaintance. He mentioned a few things but I never read into them.

Strangely enough I thought about him from time to time but was not sure why. I have met so many people travelling I usually only focus on the ones who are present in the moment. Though maybe I had developed a crush on him? Nah. It was that damn story, couldn’t let it go. He was intriguing. Also fun to hang out with. Regardless I dismissed the thoughts and assumed it was just memories of the a crazy night. Keep reading before you get any ideas.

A month later I returned to Hanoi. For many reasons which I will share in another post. From time to time my Hanoi family would send me updated and snapchats of life in Hanoi Rocks. This dude got stuck, like I had been a month earlier. The dungeon had swallowed him and he was doing what I did months earlier. The dungeon can do that to you. If you have unresolved issues it will destroy you and spit you out. This is how you learn to sort your shit out. He told my friend and I that he was in Thailand so I did not expect to meet him again. Edgar returned to Hanoi, it was going to be home after all so was not completely surprising but I was caught off guard.

A month had passed so I had not thought about his story for a while. All the Hanoi family were on a night out. It was a great night. Everyone was happy and enjoying a good time. We had not exchanged words, I was in my own world that night but towards the end of the evening we did have words. He begun to tell me his story. The dungeon can have that influence on you. When your tiered, drunk and with friends you open up.

He told me about his interests and beliefs. Also the reason he was in Hanoi. He made references to destiny and paths. He mentioned a book called the Alchemist. He was on a journey and I think at that moment in time he had realised his path. He needed to reach his treasure so he could return to a girl.

He did most of the talking. I listened and this time made sure to really hear what he was saying. He spoke about fate, destiny, paths, religion, omens and kept repeating the word ‘Maktub’, it is another word for destiny, a reference to the book. He then told me his reasons for travelling Asia.

He mentioned that he left his home as he was not willing to commit and wanted to run away. He had identified a flaw in his actions. He had left something very important to him behind. In 5 weeks he was going to meet with this person again. He looked worried and sad. Very conflicted. He was on a mission to fill the hole she had left. He kept masking it, he didn’t want to elaborate. I sensed he was trying to figure out what he wanted.

He continued to tell me about his time in Asia. He has made a brief mention of it previously but had not been quite honest. This particular story was not surprising but didn’t fit his personality. We had managed to sleep with 16 girls in one week and put himself in hospital from a an infection it gave him. Mad. He said he has had no drama in Asia, but that is not quite true. I had heard the stories. I told him this. There have been many girls. With many girls comes some drama. But we did not need to discuss this. It was irrelevant. But from then on I realised he was in denial about a lot of things. Battling with himself. Trying to be good but getting himself in trouble.

He gave his rational for why he did what he did. In my mind it was all cock and bull. But I was not going to preach. I needed to hear more to understand his logic.

He was filled with interests and ideas. A very different background but similar mindset. I was dubious about the idea of paths and destiny. Stopped believing in anything a long time ago. Shit just happens. I said that in life you make your own choices and if you want something only you can go and get it. In my eyes there was no written destiny. No paths, just life and your personal choices.

He continued to tell me about this book, The Alchemist. It was late and he was exhausted. He saw a cat and thought it was an omen. Easily distracted. One of  our Hanoi friends describes him like a puppy, I noticed this at this point. The end of chat 2.

I was unsure if we would talk again, sometimes when you have deep meaningful conversations with people it was get a bit awkward. I felt a bit awkward. Thought maybe I had learned enough. I did think he was a bit crazy. He was drinking all day most days. I judged him, something I should not have done. Thought he was a lost soul who was drinking, taking drugs and just partying. Same as a lot of travelers, I saw no depth.

One day Edgar woke me up at about 9am, trollied, I had his keys for his bike. I told him to sort his shit out. He stunk of rum and was bothering me, I was tiered. He gave no indication that he was going to do anything but drink. I thought, if you can’t beat them join them. So the three musketeers were formed. We drank the whole day.

More about his past was surfacing, our third musketeer disclosed some of her story and he could relate to some of it. I cannot describe how sad I felt for both of them. The dungeon was doing its thing.

Later that evening he disclosed even more. This encounter was freaky. Edgar was a lot like me. At one point made me feel quite sick. Think we both felt a little uncomfortable. I wanted to leave at that point. But needed to hear more.

We were both brought up Catholic but did not practice the religion. Because of this there was a common moral understanding between us. This is the moment I realised that maybe our paths crossed for a reason. He was way ahead of me in his journey. He seemed to know what his destiny was. What his treasure was. He also had the love of his life waiting for him to finish his journey…well it wasn’t quite as simple as that, just the basics. We prayed. Recited the Our Father and agreed to go to mass the next morning. He rung this mother to advice her of this, as if he was looking for approval or some positive reinforcement. I didn’t believe he would go. But he did, well he said he did.

He continued to tell me about his family. He really loves his family. Spoke very highly of them all. Even rung them all to tell them he loved them during all of this. But there were some indication that things we not all fun and games. He got himself in trouble a lot. His mother was telling him off at one point as he was drunk bothering his youngest brother. We all do this though don’t we. We love to torture our sibling. It’s part of the family dynamics. I liked this part of the story. It was by far the most intriguing. Family makes you who you are so was able to get a further insight into why this dude was the way he was. He also told me about his friends, his school life, showed me videos of them singing. He went to a boarding school. By choice. To be with his friends. This led to him telling me about a proposition he had been given. One of his close friends. who he called cousin, wanted to make him a God father. He was worried he would not be a good God father but he accepted and rung his mum to book a flight home for him.

I kept laughing in my head as he continued. Why was I here? Was there a reason? After reading the book I realised the little voices in my head were right. There was a reason. In my summery I will try to explain.

Some aspects of his story were not easy to listen to. For example the subject of alcoholism. This was hard for me to listen to due to my history with alcohol. He said his father was an alcoholic and he thought he would be too. I understood the bliss that alcohol can give you, from then on I never judged him again.

He had made many calls this day. Another was to a woman he considered a second mother. This part made me cry.  Again was all too familiar. He lived with her for 3 years and missed her, a lot. He thought I was similar to his mother, this made me cringe a lot. Did feel a bit like a mother nursing a child at points. Just like he was a father nursing a child back at points too. Was a bit gross to be honest. Wondered if maybe I had been drinking shroom shakes instead of gin and tonis all day. Was very surreal. I was flipping tiered too though so maybe just delirious. The similarities of his story were uncanny, his words not mine.

He mentioned he liked surreal art, many music artists which I also liked. It made me laugh. I recognised this. He was a chameleon someone who makes themselves sound like the person they are talking to. I realised it didn’t matter if he was because I am a chameleon. Have had so many interests I always connect with people’s interests as at some point in my past I have probably had a short term interest in their hobbies. He was a people pleaser. A very nice guy who seemed to want to please everyone.

While he continued, I felt like a child, mind wide open waiting to hear more about his past. I did not get the whole story  though and if he really is anything like me there are a lot of things he will never share. He seemed fed up. With himself mostly. He wants to be a good person but also wants to have fun. I don’t think he knew what he really wanted. I think he wanted his old life back, think he realised he took his relationships for granted and let go of someone he really loved.

He is lucky to have people in his life who really love and care about him. I told him this. Because our friends in Hanoi had nothing but respect and admiration for him. He was well liked. Well cared for. I think he takes that for granted. But don’t we all?

This part is important. He spoke to me about a person in his life who he had nothing but respect for. Someone truly amazing. He was conflicted because although he adored this person he didn’t seem to be able to control his other urges. I couldn’t understand this. Tried to preach and tell him to get his shit together but now that I have read the book I do understand. If you read the book maybe you might too. He indulges then wakes up riddles with guilt so continues to indulge. But he mentioned this made him numb to human interaction. I could tell. When he was sober he seemed far away, blank almost. I hardly knew him so cannot be sure of that statement but it was my observation at the time. He had changed a lot since I had first met him, he seemed defeated this time around. Less caring about anything and a mess in his own mind.

I tried to tell him to stop, his good friend also gave him some words of advice but you can never help someone who does not want to help themselves. He was very aware of his issues but at the end of the day it is his journey, his prerogative and his choices that will help him get to his destination. We are human and we are allowed to let loose once it a while. It’s fun. Being out of control means you don’t need to think or care about anything. Denial and guilt soon follow as does the desire to need stability. That”s what I understood anyway from what he told me.

I wanted to know how the story was going to end, but at the same time I felt myself getting lost. I was unsure what I thought about Edgar. He was frustrating. A good person but bloody mental. While he was telling me about his journey I was relating it to my own. Asked myself many questions.

After Edgar’s story I felt guilty. For many reasons. I felt like a a bad Omen. A bad Omen to show him the right turn to take on his journey. But maybe that’s what Edgar needed. Doubt it. Sometimes words are not enough to put someone on their right path. Was all so confusing and I did not know how to help or what to do.

I remembered Casanova and understood why he did not think we were friends. Maybe we cross paths for a reason and that is all it is. Not friendship, not anything but a necessity to push us towards our righteous path.

I read the book a few days later. It was a mind fuck. But understood his story a lot better.

Where is Edgar now? Still in the dungeon, still drinking and still a mess. As far as I know nothing has changed. Maybe even worse. But if his story is true he will be leaving hell (Hanoi) very soon. Once you leave hell shit seems to work itself out.

Just after reading the book I took this picture, minutes later I had an encounter with someone who made me believe in paths. His Story comes next.

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Part 3 – Conclusion

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” 
― The Alchemist

Now I am here. Listening to this as I begin. – “I refuse to be concerned with condescending advice because I am the only motherfucker who can change my life”

Sihanoukville – Cambodia

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My understanding of the book. Maybe we all do have a destiny. I believe it is our choice what that is and it can change many times. The book also talks about love, I think we can love in many ways, it doesn’t have to be romantic. We will always have people who love us waiting for us to come back, could be friends, family or something else, even a dog? 🙂 in terms of the books reference to treasure? I think this is happiness. For me anyway. We are all in pursuit of happiness, quite often it is right under our noses.

It is a difficult book to understand and does not relate to everyone’s life. I didn’t think it related to mine until I was at Angkor Wat. Then a chance encounter made me think there was some truth in the books teachings.

The encounter with Edgar made me sad. I met someone who was a mess, there was nothing I could do or say to help. I listened to a story I think he has told many times.

I did get something out of it though. What he didn’t know what I was also conflicted. I have let it all go now so will take it to the grave but I was in a very dark place. His story helped me. I practiced what I preached.

Shortly after a I read the book. I did relate to the story. But it messed with my mind quite a bit. All my previous beliefs vanished, the tranquility I had in my life was conflicted. I took a good look in Pandora’s box. Let everything stored in there go so I could start again. I came to Cambodia. To find the pyramids? A reference to the book. I am unsure of that. Maybe to find a fortune teller who can intemperate my dreams or maybe to find an omen.

Things have not been easy the past week or so. I stopped drinking. That was hard. Alcohol makes me happy and more social. Not that I lack confidence but when your drunk your more interested in talking shit. Alcohol also dilutes your thought process so I don’t think, just do. Stopped eating for a few days, wanted to know what it was like to feel hungry. Saw a lot of things I never noticed before and it made me sad, really sad. Wanted to understand other people’s realities. I now have no ties or anchors nor demons. Just in pursuit of happiness, without alcohol, it was my biggest problems. All the things which have been happened I have caused myself. I am in control now. Cambodia is healing me. Next blog I will expand on this and what I have have seen so far in Cambodia.

Anyway Back to Edgar. He is a brilliant human being, genuine and pure. Those to cross his path are lucky. He is special in many ways and I am grateful for what he shared with me. I think sometimes he underestimates himself and allows demons to control him. When he masters himself and realises how great he can be he will truly be free to control his destiny. None of us are perfect, and that’s what makes each person special. Just be kind always and you can’t go wrong. It is nearly the end of the story now. It is unfinished, a lot has been left out but this is my interpretation. He may have his own and that’s his prerogative.

Without knowing he had given me a lot. Because I met him I had also met two new friends who I still speak to today. Two British lads. One from day 1 and one from the last day. He attracted very kind and genuine people to his life and I was lucky to have met these two. One is spending a week with me in Brighton this July and I am going to visit the other in Manchester when he returns. I have a feeling I will remain friends with these two for years to come. He also recommended the book. I stopped drinking, started reading and writing. I also moved on from my ex. I use to think he was the best human in the world but what I realised is that there are a lot of other amazing humans in this world. I have met many since. Lastly was his constant and rather annoying rants about Cambodia and how amazing it was. I nearly skipped it but it is amazing and by far my favorite country in South East Asia. Magical things have been happening here. The next post will explain.

I don’t know if our paths will cross again. If not in this life then maybe in the next.

Now back to reality.

Before you leave I want to ask you a question. Do you believe there was any meaning in this encounter?

Do you believe the above story?

What if this is fiction and I created a story about something that never really happened? You believed it didn’t you.

Sometimes, similarly to the story of ‘The Life of Pai’, we believe stories like this to shield the truth. We all have our own truth and all choose to perceive life in our own way to give it meaning. It is possible that I fabricated meaning connected to some random guy I met. He did share his story but it is possible that it was meaningless. I could have written to the above purely for your entertainment purposes. I ask myself that question sometimes. Did it mean anything? I recommend you read the Alchemist and make you your own mind.

Peace out ❤

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