Why should I travel in my 20s
My most important finding about traveling
Traveling doesn't make you happy. That is the most important insight I have gained about travel in the last year of my life. It sounds pretty negative to say that. It is not really meant that way.
I traveled a lot last year: to Lebanon, to South America, to Japan and South Korea, to Finland and Sierra Leone. I had the opportunity to do so. The more you travel, the more natural it becomes. It is very natural. That goes for everything you do in life.
I've made a name for myself in the so-called travel blogger scene. That's nice because it shows that you somehow get ahead with what you love to do. You feel confirmed in what you are doing.
But what difference does it make?
In an interview with Spiegel Online I explained: “Being on the move is often transfigured as a state of longing. Only the practical travel routines are often tiring and sobering. One realizes that traveling per se does not mean lasting happiness either, because the euphoric moments, as usual in life, only occur sporadically. "
It is exactly like that.
This may sound depressing to many. When I tell people about my travels or when they read about it on the Internet, they are often followed by comments like “enviable” or “amazing, wherever you are”.
On the one hand, that's true.
On the other hand, I've often felt pretty lonely while traveling. I didn't know what to do with myself in the most beautiful places in the world. I was wondering about the pros and cons of this or that lifestyle, this or that decision instead of just enjoying the moment.
In the best case scenario, I experienced traveling as if I was intoxicated. I didn't deal with myself, but with the world and what it has to offer.
But after almost every trip there came a moment when I sat in my room in Berlin and asked myself: What has actually changed?
This question got bigger and bigger after my trip to Peru. The story about it is about this contradiction between expectation and disappointment.
In the distance, when you let yourself drift, you can feel the energy of life very strongly. At home in the evening in your own apartment, the big world is shrinking again. As if you've never really been away.
How can that be?
I am convinced that it is a mistake to believe that traveling charges you with a positive energy that you can use to change your life permanently. This may work if you go away for a really long time and go into existential extremes - half a year in a monastery in Asia, weeks alone through the desert, with a sailboat across the Atlantic, an expedition up a high mountain.
But ordinary, temporary travel doesn't make you a better or happier person. It usually doesn't change your posture either. You carry your worries and your big questions about life in your backpack through the world. In the best case scenario, you forget them for a while. But they don't go away.
That is a sobering realization. But at least for me it is true.
The ability to get on a plane and fly away doesn't change anything.
This statement is by no means as negative as it might sound. On the contrary - it is carried by an awareness that can ultimately lead to much more satisfaction than any self-discovery trip in Southeast Asia.
Just like the big backpacking tour life changer is, there are other individual outstanding experiences such as a bungee jump, the long-awaited semester abroad in so-and-so or a sports car.
It's the things we do every day that make the most difference in our lives. And which really contribute in the long term to greater satisfaction with our incredibly privileged life.
It's not the unique experience, the extraordinary, the extreme. But the constancy, the everyday, the constant work on yourself.
The main thing is to turn off negative routines and develop habits that contribute positively to daily well-being. Usually these are very mundane things: get up earlier, speak to people more often, listen better, concentrate fully on one thing at a time.
It's about working on your interests and potential on a small scale and piece by piece, in order to get closer to the so-called big goals.
Recognize things as right and then implement them.
So it's about the whole state of mind, about the attitude one develops towards things and the way in which one lives everyday life. Every moment.
That shapes the character. Everything else is attitude.
But what should be done with traveling if it isn't that great of a lucky charm in the long run?
To learn to travel is to learn to live. There is no difference.
At the beginning I wrote: Traveling doesn't make you happy. You might have to say: the ability to travel doesn't make you happier than normal life.
Of course, traveling is often more spectacular than everyday life. Every form of variety and unusual experience leaves stronger memories than the monotonous sequence of getting up, working, eating and sleeping.
Probably everyone has to answer the question for themselves why they are going somewhere and not somewhere else or not at all.
I can only speak for myself: I see travel as a valuable addition to my world of experience.
This happens in very different ways. The motive of a trip can be the interest in the reality of life in a certain cultural area. A journalistic research. The attraction of going beyond physical limits. The need for relaxation and contemplation. The desire to withdraw from the world. Trying to find (or find again) yourself.
I think these are good reasons.
But travel should not be transfigured into a state of longing and elevated to a fantasy of happiness.
Probably every day should be started like the great journey that one hopes for so much from.
This is how it may work at some point to go through life more relaxed and at the same time more focused. With an alert mind and an open heart instead of disinterest and cynicism. To put one's own meaning aside before the greatness and abundance of things that surround one every day. Enjoying more instead of lingering in endless loops of reflection on yourself.
I don't manage to do that as often as I would like.
But it just doesn't fall with a journey from heaven. It's a long way.
Journalist and author from Berlin. His book "Vom Glück zu Reisen" has been published by Reiseepeschen Verlag.All postsWebsite
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