Throughout my youth, I was convinced that there was a major hole in my life. Something – even though at the time I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly – was missing. For what had felt like years, I’d been counting the days until my high school graduation. While some of my friends would have rather stayed in the secure boundaries of a set schedule and a sound social circle, I couldn’t be happier the day it all ended. I wanted to explore the world and finally get to know myself. And that paper, my final report, was my ticket. A ticket to the world’s wonders. A ticket to adventure. A ticket to a new life.
More than once have I packed my bags since then. More than once have I managed to fit the most essential items into the backpack that’s remained a steady companion ever since. More than once have I bought plane, train and bus tickets. I’ve taken the time to try different lifestyles and to walk down different paths of life, keeping one goal in mind wherever I went: Who am I? What do I want from life? What do I want my life to be like? I felt that with each journey, I came a little closer to finding the answers I was looking for.
Through my travels, I have learned to see the world, nature, and humankind in a new light. I’ve found a new level of acceptance, respect and appreciation for the other as well as have learned to open my eyes to the beauty, diversity and variety that surround us everywhere. I’ve met people who have inspired me – some who I consider my closest friends today. My family’s support and the mutual feeling of acceptance and euphoria I shared with fellow travellers I met along the way have encouraged me to continue my journey. It made me happy.
Back at home I’ve often felt painfully empty. An emptiness that used to be filled with the liveliness, the curiosity and the desire of freedom of the person I used to be on the road. They say that “when you leave a place, you’ll not only miss the people that you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again”. For a long time, I focused on the nostalgic truth of the quote that’s helped me justify my moodiness and desperation for new adventures just as much as it’s helped me keep the memories alive. I still believe that there’s a truth to it – that there are moments in life when we leave part of ourselves behind in order to start something new. If the long conversations with fellow travellers have taught me one thing, it has to be the following: We are not static and there is no right way to live. My personal quest – my actual journey – doesn’t end with my return to a place I call home.
At the end of the day, it’s the many small and big changes that make up this journey. There are the ones that seem easy to adjust to while there are others that almost seem impossible to embrace. There are the ones that we actively influence and the ones that happen beyond our control. Some of those changes set important milestones in our lives while others slip through our consciousness. We make plans for the future and have dreams and all that, but nothing’s ever set in stone. We all know that “sometimes on our way to the dream we get lost and find a better one”. Life is all about changes. And yes, it’s scary sometimes. But you’ll be surprised to realise that the free fall might be worth it after all. There are moments when life challenges us to take chances – moments in which we are left with nothing but the certainty of an unknown future.
Travelling has given me insights to a lot of unanswered questions that I’ve had and still have. I have learned a lot about myself and about my understanding of life. My views have changed. I have changed. Today I know to appreciate what I’ve initially perceived as generally implicit. I try to keep my eyes open even when I am not living out of a backpack. I’ve learned that just because something ends, it’s neither forgotten nor irrevocably over. That is how I try to keep the lively, curious, and freedom-seeking person inside of me alive. I no longer want to leave my soul in a distant place far away from my body. I no longer want to miss myself.
It won’t be long until I pack my bags again and jump into a new adventure. The simple thought of my next trip puts a smile on my face right now. I know it will be amazing. At the same time I know that the real journey into the unknown starts with each new day. It’s a journey called life.