Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oh, what a trip!

Today I am about to return to the UK, and hence it appears to be time to conclude my last month traveling in Asia (which, for good measure, also included a bit of Arabia). Muscat, Bombay, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mysore, Bangkok, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, and Dubai were on the list of destinations over summer - and I have to say, it was a truly excellent experience. It was good to see places, get to know people I have never met before and to meet again old friends as well, and to eat and drink all the good things every place had on offer. It was a very intense trip though, and while I will miss traveling, I think it is also time to go back to 'normal life' and to digest what I have seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched while being away.

Probably the last month was one of the best trips I have had in my life, and I think this is due to a number of different reasons. When traveling I was very relaxed this time - as usual, I have missed trains, couldn't get into my hotel at 2am when I just wanted to go to bed and the like (so it was a proper trip in some sense); but I still felt very calm throughout, whatever happened. During previous travels I have often had the feeling that 'the life is elsewhere'. This time however my life was precisely where I was, and that felt good. I think if you want to connect to the people around you in a given moment, if you want to see (and truly feel) what a place is like, you 'simply' need to be present, and this time very often my mind was where my body was. (There are all sorts of associations with that state of mind of course; meditation and the feeling of 'being in control' come to mind. Not in the sense of controlling anything external, but being in control of your own situation, to feel entirely safe in the moment.)

What I also value immensely highly were the people I have met, and met again, along the way, in every single city I have been to. It was simply good to be back and to catch up again - to recognize what is known, but at the same time to discover new facets I haven't seen before. There are multiple layers to every truth, so it feels good to discovery the next one (of, in many situations, quite a number of them.) The number of cities I have been to was challenging - but not so much due to the travel, but since in different cultures your learned patterns do not work. If you then move countries multiple times within a matter of days, you constantly need to challenge your assumptions of 'how life is' - and, well, it is of course different everywhere. So then the question comes up: Where do you stand? Who are you, and what do you think, feel, and do, in a situation where you have to reinvent yourself? This changes your view on the world, but of course also on yourself. I guess from a good trip you don't return as the person you where when you left. I think this is also the reason why I think it is time to go back to the UK now - challenge is all good and well, but afterwards you just need a bit of time to digest what you have seen and to redefine a few (or a few more) of your worldviews.

Finally, I realized how important it is, for me, to travel alone - not necessarily every time, but at least a few weeks every year. Only when you are by yourself you are away from the constant (in both meanings) mirrors of your behaviour, which too often turn out to be obstacles to your personal development. When traveling alone I realized that I am much better able to focus on my own perceptions of the situations that 'happen to me' (or which I chose to be in) - this situation challenges me, so why is that actually the case? I react strongly here - why does this strike a chord precisely? Traveling alone forces you (if you allow it to happen) in a surprising number of situations, and while this is probably only a small step of many, I think the last month has advanced me a lot as a person.

I am looking forward to being back in Europe again in a few hours, surely. It will be good to be back in town, to see my College again and many people I am very happy to have around me. But yes, I will also miss traveling, and I am sure I will miss Asia. I will be back soon - I promise.