Alright folks, I’ve got a confession to make.
Uhm well, I confessed it already in the headline.
Or to put it this way: There’s a dark side behind rainbows and unicorns in the world of constant travel.
And despite random people as well as friends who keep telling me I’m “living the dream” or “I wish I could travel as much as you do” – I do want to paint an authentic picture, and make some things clear. Let’s try to look a little behind the scenes, shall we?
So, sit down, let me grab you a virtual cup of tea and follow the story….
My desire for travel and adventure all started back in 2011. I was 17 and full of the most fantastic dreams about my life after graduation. I was freshly in love, I had an amazing bunch of friends and family around, and I just started to become interested in photography. With a new glaring red suitcase that contained
way too much stuff my few precious possessions for the next year, and an afraid yet curious heart, I left. I lived and worked a year abroad in New Zealand and subsequently traveled Tonga. I worked out my passion for photography and after a year had my harddrive exploding with over 20.000 pictures I had taken. That was all I shared with most of friends and family back home, the pretty side they’ve got to see.
Now however, try to imagine this. A still rather dependent soul somewhere on the verge of a girl and a woman, as far away from home as possible without leaving the planet. A country whose language she just understood. Three children and a household to take care of, and torn apart by lovesickness, by fear that distance would destroy everything. Looking back, I missed out on a lot of fun when my heart was not present, but back home. Not saying, I would like to change what happened. I’m a strong believer in things happen as they’re supposed to, leading me the path I need to go. But I was filled with grief.
The next time I was away from home for a significantly longer period of time was my term studying in Sweden. I had studied psychology for two years in Hamburg by then, and paused for this exchange semester as well as time for internships. So off I went to my 5 months long home of choice Örebro – a cute little town two hours west of Stockholm. Miracously there was a bunch of girls, we all met for the first time at the very first day, and we became closest friends for the entire time and beyond – and believe me, we had a blast discovering Sweden together!
Yet again, no matter how truly amazing the whole Erasmus life surely was – it also resulted in some of the hardest times I ever had. I lost focus on where in life I wanted to go, I let the whole … spirit drive me, keep me partying too much, let me go on trips without keeping an eye on my budget, let me skip lessons I would actually have found interesting, and worst of all, let me lose my relationship out of sight. Leaving wounds that were still present years after.
Earlier this year I traveled to Thailand for a month, of which 2 weeks I was wandering north Thailand alone. And again, I dived into the vibes surrounding me, almost without thinking. I lost myself between drinking, partying, chilling out, meaningless affairs and the seeking of fitting in. I forgot whose word to value, I completely lost focus on my own values. It all summed up and left me sitting at a hill beneath that giant white buddha statue, crying my eyes out, feeling desperate and aimless and incredibly lonely. The next day, I left for a Thai monastery and lived there three days – which was the wisest decision I could have made, luckily. I found closure, and although it was too short of a time to heal, it certainly pushed the reset button in my head. This movement is still going on today.
Then I went on this stupid little crazy road trip a couple of weeks ago. Because I realized, I wasn’t going anywhere in life in general. So instead drove 1000 km for a day in Venice. Haha. Well, thing is, I just reached a peak of this restlessness – and within 20 minutes, I decided to just leave. While most comments I received were either “You’re completely insane!” or “Oh we all dream of just spontaneously getting in the car and leave!” – I felt devastated. Half the drive I was crying, the other half lost in deep thinking. I had to come clean with a lot of things, to let go. I had to see how I could handle this situation myself. I failed a couple of times. But in the end, I had this moment. This moment, when I was sitting on this square just as you would imagine Venice, with the perfect tunes playing along to the scene, and me enjoying the most ridiculous, most expensive (freaking 9€ for a cappuccino #yolo), most emotional and yet best coffee I ever had.
Traveling long-term and solo does get lonely. And exhausting. It does drive you to tears and puts you in situations you feel not capable of enduring, beyond your limits. It does confront you with your fears, at times it does mean to rely on a stranger’s kindness because you’re utterly blank. I does let you forget your daily life, let things slip out of your focus. Sorry, no sugarcoating here.
Today I’m on the verge of finishing my half year long corporate internship in Frankfurt. And again, there’s a huge gap in front of me, and I can’t tell you where I’m gonna be in two months (apart from roughly the Middle East). I have spontaneously jumped on the flight offer for 7 weeks Israel and Jordan and who knows where. Maybe I’ll even extend the stay.
It does look like previous attempts to find my way, like it was just happening all over again. However, I don’t think so. Each part, each new trip contributes to a whole.
Cause you know what? I did travel thousands and thousands of kilometers around the world. But the inner travel, the journey within my soul was a way bigger one. I know that many might not relate to this, find the choice of words and thoughts and actions weird, detached even.
For me, traveling is not just discovering the unknown, letting my curiosity explore the world. It’s the journey of development, of confronting myself with my fears and challenges and feelings and weaknesses. About losing and finding myself. My strengths, my values, my dreams, my passions.
And, eventually, rainbows and unicorns, sipping at a coconut in paradise.