When I left home for the very first time without a return ticket, I only had a rough idea what travelling is about. I knew I would stretch my comfort zone. I knew I would make new friends, try new things, discover new places, but I didn’t know it would change my life in an irreversible way.
When I returned home, my family and my friends drilled me with questions: “How was it?”, “Did you find yourself?”, “Are you happy now?” “How is it to be back home?” and so on.
To be honest – I was devastated and didn’t find proper answers to these questions. ‘Coming home’ hit me like a severe earthquake. Painfully I had to realize that I DIDN’T find myself as I still relied on the hypocritical interest of my surrounding. My strength faded with every unanswered question about my future.
I thought I gonna return home and nothing can stop me anymore. I thought I would continue stronger than ever before. At the beginning the opposite was the case. It took me a very long time to actually process what I experienced. So many things had changed.
Since months I’m trying to finish this article. My goal was it to publish my ultimate learnings, but I found out that my learning process is still ongoing. (And I want to travel even more to learn more…). I’m hoping to cover the most important points with this article….
1. I Can Do Whatever I Want
When I was a kid everybody told me about the things I can’t. “You can’t climb that tree.”, “You can’t dance on the street”, “You can’t be good at physics” and so on. Everybody was only talking about things I can’t do. Nobody told me about the things I can. It took me twenty-something years to understand that nobody tells me what I’m capable of.
During travelling I learned that I can do whatever the f*** I want. My goals are reachable as soon as I’m aiming for it. Everything is possible as long as I believe in myself and commit to a plan.
“Don’t let others tell you what you can’t do. Don’t let the limitations of others limit your vision. If you can remove your self-doubt and believe in yourself, you can achieve what you never thought possible.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I’ve learnt how to steer a boat. I’ve learnt how to fish (and kill the fish). But overall I contributed to a humanitarian aid project for the first time in my life. Nobody told me I can do this – I had to experience it myself. Which leads me to my next insight..
2. I Can Learn Everything
There is no such thing like “I can’t”. There is only “I can learn”. When I started the humanitarian aid project I didn’t even know how to use a hammer properly. I smacked my face, but at the end I became quite good at it.
If there is something I really want than I gonna be able to learn it: The first thing I did when I came home was signing up for a webdesign course and applying for a hospitality job – things I had never done before. The good thing about being human is that we are highly adaptable. Unfortunately we forget about it as soon as we are caught in our daily routine.
3. I’m Creating My Own Life
I’m able to define myself new everyday as long as I’m willing to learn. I understood that I have my life in my own hands and I’m empowered to change it whenever I want to. The chains are only in my head. More than everything travelling taught me that I’m my own boss. I’m responsible for every decision, every step I take, everything I do or don’t do.
If I feel stuck in a situation, I just remember that I’m not entrenched to the ground. No, I can actually make a move.
“If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.”
4. The World is Full of Soulmates
“Do you travel alone?” – “Nope, not exactly.” In our culture a good friendship is a long friendship. Travelling changed my perspective drastically. I had a lot of casual encounters, which turned from one deep conversation into a serious friendship. Especially while you are travelling alone you meet people you “click” with immediately. I used to be scared of being alone. I used to feel like nobody understands my needs and desires.
But I learned to connect very quickly as long as I stay open and unbiased. When I feel like nobody understands me, I remember that the next person I can relate to is just around the corner (or maybe in my neighbour country). This fact released a lot of my “social pressure”.
5. Time Is Precious
The time is not flying – we just became victims of our busyness. We think we have to “keep busy”, but actually we have to decelerate our life in order to enjoy it. In our culture we are always in a rush. We never take the time to actually enjoy our being, because we are obsessed with work and entertainment.
During travelling I started to actually enjoy the moment. At the beginning of my adventure I asked myself: How long is one year? What did I do the last 12 months? I could barely remember. The time was just passing – there was a lack of meaning. But since I’ve started travelling I understood how precious this one life is. The phrase “yolo” got a complete different meaning to me. I appreciated every moment so much more, because I knew I only have this one moment.
It is up to us, if we just keep watching our time passing or if we truly appreciate every moment.
“You are not killing time, time is killing you.”
6. Letting Go
When you are travelling things go wrong all the time. Sometimes you miss a train or even a flight. Your couchsurfing host cancels your request. You don’t find a place to stay. The good thing is that there is always a solution – sometimes maybe not the most convenient one. But at the end everything turns out fine.
These circumstances teach you to deal with uncertainty. In your everyday life casual things don’t appear that serious anymore. You start to worry less and let go. Let things be and just happen.
Travelling taught me to trust in that river called life. It will take you along landscapes and places you never imagined in your dreams. You just have to let go and go with the flow.
7. Reality Is A Matter Of Perspective
Meeting people with different cultural backgrounds reveals how poled we are by our system. The way we grow up, the way our families are influenced traditionally, the way we live shapes the way we perceive our reality. The news, social media and advertisement does the rest.
Travelling shows you different concepts of life and time and it really adjusts your perspective on life. If you are open for it travelling turns your values upside down – you find out that your reality is just one way to perceive the world and eventually you get the chance to change your view.
8. I Discovered Happiness Within Me
When you travel alone apparently there are times when you are by yourself. I did a lot of hikes by myself. I got used to be bothered by my own thoughts. I gained a lot of new insights everyday. Travelling solo opened up new perspectives on my needs and desires. But most fundamentally I found happiness in solitude. A heart full of gratefulness on top of a mountain, eyes full of tears of joy on a lonely beach. Nobody can take this happiness away from me anymore. It is my personal gem.
9. Fear Is Always Present…
“…but it is only 20 centimeters deep”. Before I did my first volunteer project I always thought I’m not capable of humanitarian help. All my life I thought I’m too shy, too fragile for stuff like that. Well, I am fragile, but it makes me empathetic.
Fear always held me back. It held me back from signing in to the choir, from studying Biology, from starting a job in hospitality. It held me back from learning foreign languages. But finally I learned the most important thing: Fear is ALWAYS present. But fear is not my prison warden, fear is my guide – behind fear there is my real me. Without my travel experience I would still be afraid of foreign cultures and so much more.
10. Immersing in Different Cultures Makes One Modest
Empathy is growing if you are the minority. Travelling taught me not to take myself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, you will be more aware of your feelings than ever while travelling alone. But immersing head over heals into a different surrounding teaches you to stay humble.
“Travelling makes one modest, it reminds you which tiny place you inhabit in this world”
11. Your Comfort Zone Expands As Soon As You Start Walking
I thought I gonna overcome my fears, but in reality I expanded my comfort zone. Fear is part of travelling. Sometimes it’s not even fear, but just feeling uncomfortable. This is something that holds people back from starting something new. The thing most of the people don’t understand is that you are starting to feel more comfortable in situations as soon as you throw yourself into that particular situation. NOTHING but putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation can increase your ability to feel comfortable in any given situation.
12. I Matter
Travelling makes you modest, but also you encounter people who meet you for the first time in a neutral environment – far away from your familiar surrounding. They look you in the eyes, they hear your voice, see your gestic and mimic and acknowledge your presence. They don’t judge about your background. This is when I saw my true value: Strangers are like a mirror, which reflects your real character.
13. My Personal Needs Became (More) Obvious
What do you need in life? This question is still hard to answer for me, but I came closer. During travelling I experienced that I’m happier with less – my happiness doesn’t rely on the standards I live in.
The more people I meet, the more I consider my own values in life. I get to know various life designs. Finding out what matters to others makes me reflect upon what I want and what I don’t want in my own life. I find out, what I’m ready to give up and what’s essential for my survival.
MANY things had changed. I don’t say to travel is the only way to learn, but for sure it is one of the most effective. There is barely anything that can teach you as much as travelling/working abroad does. I’m so grateful that I found the balls to just go for it. Instead of judging and blaming others for my own deficiencies, I have started to take full (!) responsibility for my own life. My anger yield understanding – disfavour turned into goodwill. Instead of questioning other peoples lives I live my own life now without resentments against others.
The only thing I regret is that I didn’t start earlier.