Johnny’s Many Lives

by Lukas Bruihler / Oct 05, 2012 / 0 comments

With each new place you go, you can have a new start. Take my friend Johnny, for example. In all of his 65 years of life, he has had to start over many times, in nearly all of the places he has lived.

Johnny’s first life was his Chinese Indonesian life. He and his family were Chinese, and had Chinese names. When he was a boy, he didn’t notice how Indonesians didn’t like Chinese people, because, as he said, when you are a child, you don’t think much. All you want to do is play; it doesn’t matter who you play with. But the problem started when he was older.

Chinese people had taken over the economy at that time in Indonesia, and so Indonesians thought all Chinese people were greedy and rich. Johnny’s family was forced to change their names to protect themselves. His family tree was shattered, because each family changed to a different name. When this failed to keep the family safe, they were forced to move to Hong Kong, where his next life started. Johnny was only thirteen at the time. When he was in Hong Kong, he saw that even though he looked very Chinese, he couldn’t speak a word of the language. When people started talking to him, they noticed immediately that he wasn’t one of them. What he saw in Hong Kong was very eye opening for him, and he became more open minded. He learned that what you have is not always the best.

Johnny’s next life started when he moved to the U.K. In the U.K. he met Coby (who was Dutch), and married her, even though both of their families didn’t want them to. When they married, both of their families deserted them. They needed a new life.

Their next life was back in Indonesia. When they were in Indonesia, Johnny made a good business, but just when it was doing well, riots broke out. He watched from a curtained window of his home, with Coby and his daughter Caitlin, while people broke into and stole from the stores owned by Chinese businessmen. They waited until they could, and then fled the country, leaving all of their stuff behind. He learned that the only things you need are your health, your family, and a positive attitude. You can always start over again if you need to. And that is what Johnny did.

When they left Indonesia, he needed a place to settle down. So he went to Coby’s birth country, the Netherlands, and set up a business. Since then  he moved one more time, and now you can find him in The Hague. He is now trying to piece back together his family tree, trying to find all of his Chinese relatives who changed their names.

Johnny is funny.  He’s friendly.  He’s considerate and kind and watches out for people.  He works very hard.  He accepts people as who they are.  Through all his hardships, he has found out that whatever you look like is not what you are.  You are what you want to be, and he accepts you that way.  I can never forget Johnny. 

Traveling has changed Johnny and he has seen different cultures. So it doesn’t matter what culture you are from.  If you like him, he likes you. 

Johnny has had many different lives, and what has kept him going through all of them is his positive attitude, his health, and his philosophy about life. For each new place you go, you can have a new beginning.




Lukas Bruihler is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

Photo courtesy and copyright Lukas Bruihler