Happens to hear people saying “Oh, Cambodia was amazing! I learnt so much about the culture and the history while traveling.” Far-from-being-judgemental and highly-open-minded me would have rolled her eyes, in disbelief, and sigh just as you do when they almost play your favourite song on the radio and then, well, no…
Obnoxious as it sounds at first, I now realise that these people might have a point. While traveling in itself might not teach you (please read “me”) much, once you cut your eyes wide open, every trip becomes a journey.
Let’s take a deep breath and allow me to explicit the utterly disconcerting remark I’ve just made about traveling. From the end of my backpack, the memory of a trip rarely equals to-visit lists. It is more about the people, their stories, the scents of dusky, dusty Parisian streets, the smartly-dressed blue-haired Swedish girls, the mirrored waters of Indonesia reflecting my naked-as-it-came spirit, the steamy Argentinian tangos and the raw, heavy, meaty smells of a Sunday afternoon in Palermo.
The Initiating Trip to Bali
It’s the beginning of August. I’m living in a temple near Bangkok where I’ve started a self-development process. Main principles? Go with the flow, allow things I’ve always longed for to come into my life and embrace the belief “the only constant in life is change”. Questioning things that you’ve (please read “me”, again) taken for granted your whole life is neither easy, nor very pleasant. My ego is struggling terrible; having-wrestling-sessions-every-evening terrible.
On this background of doubt, it comes only natural to develop a tenacious little voice whispering into my inner-ear: “Leave now, change the air, challenge yourself, see how much you actually changed!” Obviously, the little voice wins.
So, I make up my mind to jump on the first plane and spend three weeks in Indonesia. Bali isn’t only the island of “Eat, Pray, Love”, but also the most frequent word I hear these days next to a “you must”. The most frequent after “you must stop throwing yourself from cliffs for fun”.
“Traveling alone, best option to see your karma”
This is what Eka tells me when we say good-bye. Buddhists understand karma as “be aware, your actions will have consequences.” I choose to understand it “do good, be generous and kind and this is what your reality will become.” I look at traveling as a series of decisions. The more present and conscious you are in those decisions, the more obvious the understanding of the outcome.
Bali reveals the flavor of unconditional gratitude. Rarely being one for much planning ahead opens the possibility of all sort of realist and surrealist stories unfold during my trip. More than the stories… this experience of befriending myself and noticing how traveling is actually a very fulfilling self-development training; a chance to ask yourself (hey, let’s just make this pact: whenever I use the general, casual, not-involved, allowing-me-to-talk-about-myself-as-if-I-was-a-symbol-of-a-generation “you”, please read “me”; this deal also applies to you-derivates) the most haunting questions and just observe what comes your way.
Now, let’s see what I really learnt from traveling as a means to self-development.
- Set the mood. Work on commitments
- Buddha, my taxi driver as my mentor
- Fear, drop it like it’s hot
- Observe your patterns
- The world is abundance
- Raw food in Bali will rock your tongue
- Trust your gut
- Live and let live. Love and let love.
Disclaimer: Stocking knowledge and information is not really my thing. I am for the doing, the living, the effervescent traveling and storytelling. I dislike pictures taken in front of the Eiffel Tower and I have a profound hate for umbrellas and travel insurances. Can’t really keep me inside a painting museum for more than 15 minutes unless there is some serious bribing with vegan wraps and carrot juice.
On the other hand, I am very keen on bumping into strangers on trains and planes. Listening to travel stories that erupted when you went out wandering the streets of an unknown city empty pocketed, that is something I take very seriously. I have been known to spend one day inside a vegan/raw restaurant stuffing on yoghurt with Spirulina, nuts, fruits and muesli, in the company of a book, spending a fortune on wheatgrass shots or getting lost on the streets of Vienna though that meant that I would miss my flight and be homeless for the night. Hope these lines paint the picture of the type of traveler that I am.