This post is due. Maybe even long overdue. But from another angle, it’s still good timing, maybe the best I could’ve chosen, as tonight marks a significant stage gate – my last evening in Asia. And against all inclinations, I’ve decided to spend it on my own. Me and a glass of Chilean Shiraz. Time to reflect and think, to assess and realign, and boy have I done a lot of that these days!
It’s time for me to put some of these thoughts out there in the spirit of authenticity, honesty and boldness, as these are the principles I have committed to in this experience, no matter what happens.
It’s been exactly 123 days that I have spent in Asia now, after setting out on a year of travel, leaving my professional, mental and social homes to set out on a journey. 2 weeks Japan, 2 weeks Hong Kong, 3 weeks Malaysia, 1 week Indonesia and Singapore, 4 weeks Vietnam, 3 weeks Cambodia and 3 weeks Thailand. I’ve been on a total of 19 flights, 10 long-distance bus and train rides, and have stayed in 26 different accommodations. Sounds intense? Well, the most interesting thing is that my former life saw at least the same travel intensity. To be exact, it was even slightly more! Definitely more flights. Definitely less temples. And definitely a different person that I was back then. But what exactly has changed?
It is hard to summarize the last 4 months into one blog post, but I will make an attempt to summarize my three biggest learnings from my time traveling through Asia. Here they go.
(1) The keys to my own happiness are few, and they’re not financially expensive! If I look back on the setup of my “old” life and on some of the more costly experiences this year, I have spent a lot of money on shallow stuff that was more burden than delight, more obstacle than catalyzer, more shell than substance. If I had to name my most favorite memories of this year so far, two of them were conversations with incredible human beings I have met along the way that kept me up at night and opened new mental doors. Two were moments in nature where I felt incredibly connected with life and the world. And one was a spiritual realization in a place that didn’t even charge an entrance fee. I’m not saying money is a bad thing – on the contrary! Money is energy, is power, is drive, is value. But it’s only what we use it for that determines its real character. And I’ve learned a lot about what matters to me, and what makes me embrace this journey that is my life.
(2) It doesn’t really matter where you are in the world, you will always find the same! I can see you cringe right now. How can I compare Miami Beach, Florida to Phnom Penh, Cambodia? Well, naturally, there are differences! Major ones, of course, if you compare them side by side. But only until relations and comfort zones change with time and places. What is rich? What is fun? What is hard? What is happy? It is interesting to compare the moment of first arrival in a place with the moment of leaving it. How your parameters change during that time. How shock turns into appreciation. How perspectives switch upside down when spending more time in different places. In the end, you always find the same thing. Yourself! In all its complications and challenges. With always the same questions. So, what’s the point of traveling like a maniac? Maybe it’s to realize exactly that. About getting a better view on who the real you is, in all of these places. And what it needs to take the next step. There’s many more answers to life’s questions on the inside of your own skin. It’s just sometimes easier to listen to it when you travel and see yourself in all of these incredibly different environments.
(3) There’s no sense in trying to be someone you’re not! It’s a complete waste of life’s time and energy. And leads to heart break. And anxiety. And many other things. I don’t mean you shouldn’t strive to become the best you possible. I’m rather saying trust your gut in determining what the best version of you really is. I should’ve known this by now, but for some reason it only became obvious these past few months. When I was a child, we moved around for my dad’s career. I jumped ahead two grades in school, did a high school year abroad, went to a post-grad university after high school, tried to grow my career in as many countries as possible – I was always the “youngest kid” in everything I did, in every environment. Every couple of years, I was in a new situation, needed to make new friends, redefining myself. I’ve tried to settle into a long-term relationship right out of high school – didn’t make me happy! Climbed up the corporate ladder to only realize there’s more disappointment than gains if it’s not what you really want. Even in my spare time I tried everything from race-driving motorcycles through the alps to singing solos in classical choirs. Everything! Well, if I had listened to my gut more closely, I maybe would’ve known. The answers are not given to you by your environment, but by the reflections of yourself in these different setups.
You wonder where Asia fits into the picture here? It does. And it doesn’t. Realizations sometimes come in environments that are so foreign that they force you to ask the right questions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still waiting for some of the answers. Actually for most of them. But I’m much more true to my core, and I realize how much I owed that to myself!
Settle? Never! Not personally, not professionally, not geographically. I’ve realized that this is just me, and it’s good the way it is. For now, for me!
I’m about to fly “home” to Europe, before I fly “home” to the US, before I fly “home” to… where my heart is. It’s with myself for now! And with so many more questions that need to be answered. So many more connections to be made. And so many more people to meet.
Life is a wonderful journey! And I am so happy to embrace it as it is. As my own journey!
Thank you all for being part of this!