One Year Of Traveling – What Have I Learned?
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Soon it will be one year since I have left Germany, so I took some time to reflect...
Back then, I left with some questions in mind.
Now, I'm a little bit older, and hopefully a little bit wiser, so that I can answer those questions - at least partly.
I want to share the three most important questions I was asking myself...
1. Why did I decide to go on this journey?
Asking for the why is not only essential for me regarding this trip, but rather for all my actions in life, to know the motivation behind them.
So, why did I leave everything behind, put on my backpack and go to the other side of the world?
Well, this, I can’t answer in one sentence. I think long-term traveling is – at least to some extent – often motivated by two driving forces. One is running away, and the other one is chasing or looking for something.
For me, it was quite clear. I’m running away from being "stuck" in Germany, from having a job that doesn't fulfill me. I’m running away from the fear to spend most of my time doing something that neither gives me joy nor meaning.
As Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist and concentration camp survivor put it, I often feel like living in a world where many “people have enough to live by, but nothing to live for; they have the means, but no meaning.”
So, one important quest for me was to find that meaning – however that might look like. As I wrote in earlier posts, I think there is no ultimate meaning in life, but rather some smaller ones that can be discovered every day in all kinds of situations.
Certainly, a deed or work can be meaningful, and I gotta say I haven’t found that one, at least not the latter.
But one thing I know by experience is that people and relationships give meaning to life. By loving other human beings and connecting with them we add meaning to our lives. In theory you can derive this meaning with every human being you encounter if you are both open to engage in an honest connection.
However, the ones that are close to us, our loved ones, are of special importance. Therefore, I decided to fly home soon to see these people.
2. What lies in the far distance that I couldn’t find at home?
To be honest, there is nothing on the other end of the world that I couldn’t find at home. Meaning, joy, human connection, authentic expression, all these things that really matter to me, I could find at home.
So again, this question comes down to a why... Why do I still travel then
Well, traveling often makes it easier for me to realize these things, at least for now.
Now, at 26, I want to discover, explore and go on adventures. All the different people I meet, the diverse cultures, the challenges that arise, the new experiences… All of that has helped me grow immensely and made me who I am today.
It's also why I decided to continue traveling after I visit home. Not because I think I find all the answers in the far distance, but I think the circumstances of traveling make it easier for me to go my way. And since I have I choice – to travel or not - I decide to travel.
A while ago, I was on the phone with my friend Clara and she asked me if I was happy. After my immediate response wasn’t “Yes, I am!”, but rather I babbled something about the things that are supposed to make me happy, she managed to look through me and said “Please, don’t be Santiago.”.
Santiago from Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist”, similarly to Hermann Hesse’s "Siddhartha", is venturing off into the world to find this “something” only to end up realizing that he always had everything he was looking for already within.
Rationally I know this. And maybe Santiago and Siddhartha “knew” it, too. But still, to fully comprehend it, they had to go on the actual journey to come to the realization by experience, not only by knowledge.
3. What is my biggest learning from being away for one year?
Well, I’ve been away for a longer period already a few times. Back then I always had to go home at a certain point. If it had been totally up to me, I would have continued to travel for as long as I could.
So, on this trip, my goal was to travel for as long as I like and for the first time in my life, I decided to go back home because I want to. Although I won’t return for good, but instead “only” for a visit, it still showed me what is important in my life: the people.
While traveling this aspect can get confusing after a while. You meet many kind people you connect with, and you even become friends. But eventually you will go separate ways again and everyone continues on their own journey.
So, the only thing that lasts are the memories of the time in which these paths crossed.
I am truly grateful for all the people I met on my journey. All the laughters we shared, the hugs we hugged, the bus rides we endured, the meals we cooked, the waves we surfed, the smiles we shared, the goodbyes we said, simply for all the memories we created.
To be more precisely I am truly grateful for all the people that I met in my life. And for all the beautiful memories I have in my heart.
And exactly this I learnt more than anything else: Life’s about people.
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