Meeting my own presence abroad.
Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash
“What is it that you seek through your travels?” my grandmother asked me as we sat on the couch after another delicious meal she had prepared for me. It was one of those rare deep conversations that come out of nowhere and put emotion in the voices, make the eyes shine, and follow you for a few hours after you leave the room for other adventures.
“I want to feel what it feels like out there” was my answer.
“The only rules and limits are those we set for ourselves.” — Tim Ferriss
That’s the closest description I can make of what I’m seeking overseas
This is not the tour. The monuments. The famous places. I planned hour by hour sightseeing trips to Stockholm and Beijing before I realized that having to stick to a schedule takes all the joy away.
I rarely feel any emotion when I stare at a place recommended by a paper guide. Later, sitting in front of a typical dish, I wonder why I am so indifferent to what seems to justify the flight of other people. What is it that really excites me then? What drives me to travel?
The food? Last January, I was alone in Berlin for a week. I had planned to grab diner at what was reputed to be the best kebabs in the city (Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, for those interested). I was expecting to wait 15 minutes before having my sandwich in my hands. I was wrong. I found myself waiting in line on a freezing night for no less than THREE. WHOLE. HOURS. But I didn’t regret a single second of it. It gave me the chance to chat with cool ladies and share an “improved” coffee to withstand the cold.
However, I don’t think food is the only answer.
It seems to be more related to the 5 senses as a whole…
I have reached a point where I no longer identify with the way I used to travel. I don’t even buy a guide anymore. I don’t plan ahead. I just go to the cities and countries that attract me and decide on the content of each day over breakfast.
My travels no longer consist of checking boxes. It’s no longer about rushing from one place to another just to feel satisfied that I’ve “seen everything” but haven’t really looked at anything.
It’s all summed up in the answer I gave my grandmother. It’s all about experiencing the place. Feeling it with all my heart. Tasting it with my whole body. Seeing it with all my soul. I want to go there and feel what it feels like to be alive, to be a human being.
And this feeling is exacerbated by being outside of my usual environment. I use travel to create breakthroughs. To create perspectives that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Break patterns. To see clearly. To Feel alive.
I want to meet my own presence, my existence, my reality, and it is abroad that this happens most intensely.
A static lifestyle no longer makes sense to me
I feel further and further away from what seems to be the “normal” life for 98% of people. I see no more point in many things. Among them, the possession of material goods. Yesterday, I went Christmas shopping with my family and saw people coming out of the stores with bags full of new goods. I was indifferent. I already have everything I need. I’m on an inner quest, not an outer one.
I no longer feel any desire to living in one place. It’s somewhat alarming because I feel I’m moving further and further away from what constitutes society. People buy or rent houses and apartments and build their lives there. They work, then go home and do other things. And that makes them happy, most of the time. I’ve come to the point where this lifestyle makes me feel like I’m missing out on my life.
That’s what my travel bug is responding to: the desire to live. To live on my terms. My rules. My desires and needs, as a specific and unique human being with the right to live, not just to exist.
I do not denigrate material goods or sedentary lifestyles. It’s just that, personally, I no longer identify with them, at least for the moment. And that’s my point: ban the “shoulds”. None of them are real. As Tim Ferriss wrote:
“The only rules and limits are those we set for ourselves.”
I felt liberated when I discovered that the common way of life, adopted by most people and often taught as a model, is not the only way to live. There are as many as we can imagine, as long as we don’t encroach on the freedom and rights of others.
Be bold enough to reject the common way. I once cooked pasta in a kettle because the Airbnb we rented in Athens didn’t have a kitchen. That’s not the common way of doing things, and yet it worked perfectly beside being fun (I felt like MacGyver that day).
If something doesn’t suit you, dare to question it. And find your own way to do it. If traveling was just about sightseeing, I probably wouldn’t bother. What a loss that would be.