Most people seem to assume that you leave everything behind to encounter the real you. Or even worse: to find yourself. And that you must be in a really fucked up state of mind to make such a crazy decision to take a gap year to go traveling.
Some people just bluntly call it escaping or running away from your issues at home. It’s only the few who understand how you feel, even if you don’t even have a clue yourself. It’s that person that left at one point as well. This is about a year of traveling around the globe, including some tips about solo traveling.
“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own now, and you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go”
— Dr. Seuss
I never dreamt of discovering the world, but I did of having kids and becoming a superhero dad. And I was getting there: I had wonderful friends, a stable relationship, a good job, a beautiful home and a fast car. At least when it was going downhill. But at the same time I had a gnawing feeling in my stomach about the monotonous regularity of daily life, the muddling along and the what if-thinking and dreaming.
And actually, I have never felt as ‘found’ as that moment when I took the train to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Confronting, sure. Leaving everything behind and having no idea where to start again. With the tiniest heart pounding in my chest.
But then suddenly life started racing. Jet setting in private clubs in Hong Kong, sleeping with the locals in Cambodia, jumping of waterfalls with Balinese, encounters with Air Force pilots in the Outback, staying overnight at a deserted island in Halong Bay, tasting fancy wine with the best travel gang ever in Margaret River, headlong racing with a motorbike through Thailand with a Finnish cuty on my lap, getting my foot sole stitched up in Lombok after a failed surf session, soughing right above the Great Barrier Reef in a private Chesna plane, chasing Frodo on Mount Doom, eating stuff that I didn’t expect to be food, diving next to the beach of The Beach, driving my 4×4 through a river dodging crocodiles, experiencing a wonderful night at the Yi Peng festival, watching the sun rise above Angkor Wat, jumping out of a plane in Byron Bay at sundown, getting a costume tailor-made in Hoi An, sneaking into a infinity pool of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, crashing into a kamikaze kangaroo (rest in peace Skippy) in Darwin and removing snakes from the girl showers at the campsite where I accidently ended up working as a bartender slash pool boy. But above all I took my time and never hurried.
And suddenly you are ready to come back. Yes, I actually was yearning to return home. Living from a back pack has its perks, after a while all that Asian food starts tasting the same and in the end continuously engaging in new friendships gets tiring as well. I caught myself standing at the foot of a waterfall on a beach in New Zealand and all of a sudden I was not blown away any more by the tremendous beauty surrounding me. I got used to it.
My brother is coming back from his gap year next week. I hope he is ready for what’s next. Because coming back is the hardest part. The traveler’s high turns without a blink into the traveler’s blues. The black hole, getting settled back in and wrenching yourself back into that socially acceptable bodice. And realising that time has passed by and actually nothing changed. Except that one thing did: you.
Encounter with yourself
Finding myself? Yeah, that never happened. I felt with each step I took, every new friend I met, every city I explored and every sea I swam, I just got more lost. It is a sense of feeling the majesty of this earth, how many people to get to know and how many lessons to be learnt. Always an extra step further away from finding myself in my own little bubble, but… feeling so grateful and happy in return. I have no clue what changed, but something did and I have become a more happy person.
A few weeks ago, someone told me I would be an excellent case study, that she never met someone as restless as me. It’s times like these I am most of all proud of myself, that I keep striding for my own happiness. With bumps in the road, ups and downs, head forward straight into the wall, with passion and with tears.
People I talk to often tell me that I was lucky to have had that experience. I don’t agree with them. It is not about luck. You make your own choices and your own excuses at the same time. I too had to make a difficult choice to leave a lot of things behind and do things I never thought I could. But everything starts when you stop doubting and start telling yourself that you will do it. Never take the easy road. I don’t regret for a second that I may not have a home nor money now. Or that I stepped out of my comfort zone.
Because that’s where the magic happens, believe me. Dilly ding, dilly dong.
“Blessed are the curious, for they will have adventures”