I started my dream – a trip around the world – exactly one year ago. Time for some reflections.
So here I am, in a coffee shop in Japan, publishing this blog post while thinking about all the things I’ve seen and experienced in the past 12 months. It’s incredible. I’m probably as surprised as you are that it has been already one year since I started my trip around the world. It feels like I left only a few months ago, yet if I think about all the experiences I made I feel like I must have been on the road for years, so intense and rich has my trip been so far.
So here are a few thoughts about my trip, travelling alone, what’s the best part of a trip around the world – and what the worst.
Why a trip around the world?
Some people ask me whether this is a self-finding-trip or even if I am running away from something. The clear answer is: NO. As unspectacular as it sounds, I just love to travel, to explore unknown countries, to learn more about a new culture, to meet strangers and become friends. I am very curious and I learn more by experiencing things on my own than just reading or hearing about them.
I have travelled a lot in Europe during my studies. Because Europe is small and compact, I was able to spend a long weekend every now and then in another country. I had not seen much outside of Europe, so now I wanted to discover the rest of the world. Also, it was the perfect moment to go on this trip: I had finished my studies, gotten some working experience (and saved some money), had no apartment, no kids, no dog.
What were my favourite countries so far?
This answer is very subjective because I feel it’s mostly due to the people I met during these trips and the experiences we share. Therefore, I’d say Ethiopia and Myanmar because these are the countries where I had the most magical and intense moments on my trip. They were also by far the less touristic ones. Also Nepal, India and China, as well as Senegal and the US (well I’ve just been to New York on this trip) were amazing. But every country I’ve been to so far was a great experience, I don’t regret visiting any of them.
What is travelling alone like?
First of all, I’m not alone all the time. Either I am lucky to have friends joining me for a lap, or I visit friends in their home country. I consciously picked most destinations according to where I have friends. But there are a few countries on my way I want to see even if I don’t know anybody there. Also, my local friends can’t spend their whole time with me since they have to work/study, so sometimes I travel on my own.
I am a very sociable person, I love to spend time with people. I’m definitely not a loner. To be honest, I am still in the process of learning how to be alone without feeling lonely – sometimes I manage better, sometimes not. But travelling alone definitely has its advantages too, I am incredibly spontaneous and more careless because I’m only responsible for myself and don’t need to have a bad conscious if something goes wrong or not as planned. Since I have a very optimistic attitude, I try to consider unplanned things and mistakes new adventures.
What did I learn?
Honestly, I feel like I learn something every day. Sometimes it’s just small things like different perceptions about life, little cultural customs, different social behaviours. Sometimes I feel like I add huge pieces to my picture of the world, the global context, for example when I talk to someone about the history or politics of a country. I feel like – even though I studied International Relations – I have learnt more about the world in the past few months than I did in the three years of my Bachelor’s degree. Then again, it’s valuable to have some basic knowledge and theory from university that allows me to put new experiences or findings into perspective and think about them critically.
Also, I learnt a lot about myself. That I am able to find my way in a completely different country without knowing the language and without internet access. I learnt trusting strangers, listen to my intuition, be spontaneous and flexible, be open-minded and uncomplicated. I learnt not to take things for granted or consider them to be better at home than in other countries, but to understand different lifestyles, economic orders and social standards.
What is best about a trip around the world?
I love the freedom. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I feel like. I am dependant on much fewer things than back home. I can change plans spontaneously or just go somewhere without any plans. I love meeting new people from different backgrounds and hearing their stories. I love learning and discovering. I love experiencing the local culture and trying to get involved as much as possible. I love facing challenges and adventures, and, to a certain extent, even being vulnerable.
What is the worst on a trip around the world?
I discuss this topic too because I feel like I only showed the shiny side of a trip around the world until now. Of course, not every day is a crazy adventure and I’m not happy and smiling every minute of this trip (even though I am maybe 90% of the time) – which is totally normal. The worst is being sick, as it is much more stressful in a foreign country than back home. The worst is not seeing my godson growing up. The worst is not being able to be fully there for my friends and family, not to be able to help or support them, and to see them taking big steps in their life without me participating. I sometimes feel like I miss out a lot.
Also professionally by the way: I miss many interesting events, conferences, networking occasions, working experiences, job offers. And there is this uncertainty about how potential employers will consider my long trip around the world, even though I manage to work part time at the same time.
Oh and one thing I consider really annoying meanwhile: small talks! Really. I feel like I explained to about a thousand people where I am from, what I do, to which countries I’ve been and where I go next. Of course, these are totally normal questions to ask someone who’s on a trip around the world, but I almost want to print the answers on a sheet and give it to new people to read so I don’t have to repeat them every few days…
Do I miss home?
No. Not home. Nor Switzerland. I feel comfortable wherever I am, I can adapt easily and I realised that I don’t need any material things to be happy. Already as a kid, I was never homesick so I guess I have the wanderlust in my blood. What I do miss incredibly: My family and my friends. Not that much in the beginning to be honest, but now I miss them more every day.
At the same time, I’m incredibly lucky that some of my closest people are joining me for parts of my trip. My brother came to Canada, my two best friends joined me in Morocco, Senegal and South Africa respectively in Nepal, and my mother will visit me in Australia in two months. And I believe my late father is accompanying me as my personal guardian angel.
But also all my other friends back home do a great job staying in touch with me, integrating me as far as possible in their daily life by sending me messages, pictures, videos, calling me regularly and making me feel still being a part of their life, even though I am so far away. You don’t know how important this is for someone on such a long trip. Small shout out: Guys, I love you!
When will I go back to Switzerland?
Honest answer: I don’t know. I don’t have a ticket back home (yet). I used to say «when I’m fed up with travelling». But then I met this Japanese guy in Myanmar who wanted to become a monk, and when he asked me the same question and I answered «I don’t know», he added: «so when you’re satisfied.» And this is so much of a better answer.