“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” I only truly understand this quote from Ibn Battuta now. Now that I am back, I’m trying to find words for the wonderful, healing and growing experiences I was presented with (I couldn’t find a better word to describe, as it was being present and receiving a present). For me traveling means to open up to new insights, to another culture.
For a while, all that I wanted to do in my life was traveling. I was studying abroad in Australia and fell in love with traveling, being natural, free and wild. So I came back home, finished my degree and left again. This time without a plan. Two backpacks, a flight to Bangkok and a heart full of joy and excitement was all that I had. How to travel without a plan? Well here is already the first lesson that I learnt.

1. Follow your heart

A statue in Thailand.

Traveling for over 7 months on my own and having no plan quickly developed me into an intuitive person. If I liked the place, I stayed, if I got the wrong vibes, I moved to the next beautiful spot on this planet. I learnt how to go with the flow. I met a lot of people, some of them are still close friends, one of them even my best friend. And through all this time of wandering from place to place, I listened to my heart. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What do I want to experience? From Thailand, I took a boat to Laos, travelled with buses to Cambodia, flew to Indonesia, to Australia and to New Zealand and finally to China and back home. I had an open heart and came home with a heart full of wonderful experiences that I am eternally grateful for.

2. Enjoy every moment

Early morning of a three day hike in Indonesia

Sitting underneath a waterfall, feeling the fresh water run down your body, dancing barefoot in the sand to your favourite song, experience the beauty of a first kiss, enjoy the taste of a ripe mango, seeing a million of stars on a volcano with epic friends… all these memories are stored in my heart and my mind. But I will never re-live them again. You can take a thousand pictures, film it, take home souvenirs – That moment has gone. All you can do is enjoy it. Enjoy it to the fullest and be happy in every moment you are blessed with these incredible experiences. The next one will come too. But you cannot hold on to every one of them. Let it flow, follow your heart and you will get more of these wonderful happenings.

3. Having little makes you happy

On top of an active volcano!

Western people often accumulate materialistic things. This society with the television and all the advertisment trains us to be that way. Only if you have the coolest car, a boat, a big house and heaps of money, you are going to be happy. If you reach the goal you set yourself, a fast car for example, you realize that you are not any happier than before. So, you work harder and harder to get an even more expensive car. Meantime your life passes you by. Is that what you want to do in life? Slowly, more and more people realize that this is not what life is about.
Going traveling for a longer time with just the things that fit into a backpack makes you realize how little you need to live and be happy. And you realize that others don’t have all that stuff that you have at home and are much happier. Once I got home from my trip, I donated about half of my possessions.

4. Even little things can be shared

Two hammocks on Kho Rong Samloem.

Imagining coming from Switzerland, the country that most people connotate with money, chocolate and cheese. Now imagine how people are offering you free food. They maybe have – if at all- a few hundreds dollars on their bankaccount and still they want to offer you their food. This happened to me all the time. They were giving me free food, free rides, free advice and love. They showed me how beautiful it is to share. When offering them my money, they didn’t accept it. They wanted to share their culture, to share what they have with me, a total stranger. Even in Australia I was allowed to stay in a friends of a friends place for a week for free while they were on holiday. This was totally new to me. In my culture, where people have a lot, we don’t give as much. It seems the more people own the greedier they get. People with little possessions share it, and they trust that at the right time someone will share whatever they have with them. A beautiful concept!

5. Sharing makes you happy

Hugs, smiles or food – share and open your heart.

While traveling, I met greedy people, was greedy myself, I met generous people and was generous myself. I learnt my lesson that sharing is truly caring. By letting go of my possessions, at the right time things will come to me too, I learnt how much fun sharing is.
I am still working on this point. But when I can let go and give, it is a wonderful feeling. It doesn’t matter what you share. You can share a laugh, a smile, love, money, your apple, water. Anything. As long as you do it from your heart.
To end this paragraph I would like to quote the beautiful words of another traveler:
Happiness is only real when shared.

6. Stay positive – no matter what

Sunshine and fog in Rotorua, New Zealnd.

It is very easy to blame someone for something that happened to you. Paying too much for the taxi, getting food poisoning, having to wait for hours at an immigration office. BUT: It is your choice how to react. You can either be angry, pity yourself or feeling scared. But you also can look at it from a neutral perspective. Ever heard of the law of attraction? Very simply put: What you send out, you will get back. If you let go and try to find the reason why someone reacts in the way they do, you will understand him and stay positive. They do have their reasons, but it is their personal issues they have to deal with. You can take care of your part. Do you really want to get pissed off, just because your paying 3 dollars too much, although these three dollars will feed the taxi driver for 3 days? Is it worth to ruin your day, just because you think it is unfair? Instead you could accept the situation, forgive yourself and the other person and take the lesson you can get out of it.

7. Love yourself to love others

Namaste – the devine in me honours the devine in you

A lesson that I am still working on in my relationship but which is so powerful to understand. In a lot of romantic movies, people are portrayed as happy, complete once they are loved. “I need you” is a proof of love and happiness is tight toghether whether being with the one you love or not. That was the image I had from love after reading romance novels in my teenage years. So, like in my books, I was looking for love outside. I got attention from men, I was in relationships, I even heard of the saying “before you love someone else, you must love yourself”. But that wasn’t exactly what I was doing.

Being free, single and not caring what others think about me, I finally found myself while traveling. I practiced self love, I followed my heart and did what I wanted to do and what felt right for me. This was painful at times, because I had to say goodbye to people, to say no to people and to hurt people to stay true to myself. But only this way, you can love others. Not just your partner in a romantic relationship, but really anyone. If you can truly love yourself, you can love your parents, your friends, your enemies, your postman and every stranger that appears in your life. All you have to do is take care of your half of the relationship. The rest of it is not in your reach and not your business. Love comes from you, and giving it makes you happy. Not the other way round ;)

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who was part of this journey. Thank you all, you beautiful souls to letting me part of your journey on earth!