Holding on to my gypsy soul.

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So here’s the story: I just arrived in the UK a few days ago, my first real trip abroad this year. Already having felt a bit overwhelmed with work and social activities, I wasn’t feeling too organised either.

Despite my usual habits, I only packed my bags two or three hours before I had to leave for the airport. Those of you who know me, will know that I love to be organized when it comes to traveling. I love to have my affairs in order way before I have to leave. It’s not a thing of being anxious when it comes to traveling, it’s more that I enjoy the excitement of an upcoming trip so much that I find utmost joy in writing packing lists, raiding travel guides and buying all the bare necessities.

And being someone who usually hops onto a plane 5-6 times a year at least, I’ve become really good at it. I can literally organize a trip to the other side of the world in the blink of an eye.

Having started my first real corporate job this year, I feel like I kind of lost this ability. It’s already the middle of the year and I have only done two tiny trips to the Netherlands and Dresden. No plane, no other continent, no nothing.

So going on this trip actually turned out to be exciting for me. And how did I find out that I didn’t travel enough this year yet? When I arrived at my friend’s house in Cardiff, I nonchalantly wanted to plug in my computer but realized that I didn’t take an adapter. Having lived here for a year, you assume that I know that. To be honest, I didn’t even consider bringing an adapter once. It wasn’t on my well-thought out packing list or in my suitcase.

That’s how badly I need to travel again. Luckily, there are a few adventures coming up – either only on my agenda or already planned and booked.

Traveling is the best way to learn.

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I love to learn new things, acquire new skills and educate myself. Unfortunately sometimes I don’t get around to it, I can’t seem to find time in my busy schedule to learn more about the things I truly enjoy and love.

And then, when it’s time for a new trip, learning seems to be a piece of cake. Whether a day trip to a metropolitan city, a hike around the country or a trip to the sea, you always learn something. Be it a few words in a foreign language, habits and customs or literally learning facts about a country and its history.

And it doesn’t even feel like learning because you don’t have to study. I remember how I used to try to cram endless amounts of facts revolving around different topics for school and for university into my head. As soon as my exams were over, everything was erased immediately. However, the things I learn while traveling I never seem to forget.

They are connected to experiences, adventures and in essence to my identity. Not only does my mind learn and my horizon widen, I seem to alter and change with every experience I make, every person I meet along the way and every country I visit.

There is no substitute for experience. When you’re traveling, you are exposed to so many different things – you can read about a place or a historical event but nothing compares to actually being there, following the footsteps of history. You come to a deep understanding that can’t be achieved in any other way.

 

The outdoors make you smarter, stronger and more spiritual.

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Constantly being removed from nature is not good for us. In our everyday lives, we find ourselves in offices, houses, shops or the like, surrounded by artificial environments. What are we missing by staying indoors?

According to researcher Netta Weinstein, nature can improve our minds, rejuvenate our bodies and restore our spirits. But how often do we take advantage of the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of nature?

Micro-breaks, like taking a five minute breather and walking around the yard surrounding your office or even looking at a picture of a nature scenery has discernible benefits for our minds. Or better, take long, immersive stretches in nature. It can have big benefits for our creativity and problem-solving skills. We develop a cognitive advantage when spending time immersed in a natural setting.

This proves that we are meant to live a substantial portion of our life outdoors, it’s a unique place to experience ourselves and restore our spirits. Too often we find ourselves trapped between four walls that keep us away from the places we truly belong. Our life is defined by churning and turning through endless and tiresome tasks and assignments.

As Michael Hyatt says, nature is our reset button for our minds, bodies and spirits when life gets tough. I vow to use that button every single day – even if it’s only for a few minutes.

The one that collects countries.

So there’s a book that’s called “Die Ländersammlerin”, written by Nina Sedano, a woman that says she is the most well traveled woman in Germany, she literally collects countries.

It’s almost been a year since I got this book and today I would like to share an excerpt of the book’s prologue with you as there is no text that has ever captured my thoughts and my true essence as much as this. Nina Sedano seems married to her adventures just as I am and her hunger for the unknown seems just as boundless as mine. So here it goes:

It all starts with a prologue and a woman without roots. 

It is September 30th, 2011. I am 45 years, 7 months and 11 days old and I made it – finally! 

I have reached my personal goal, the one that I set myself only five years ago : I have traveled to all 193 countries recognized by the United Nations. I didn’t ever doubt myself or my enormous willpower but I expected to somehow fail because of the entry requirements of some countries. Just now I am coming back from Turkmenistan, the last country on my long list.

[…] I want to travel, explore the world, experience everything myself, smell, taste and hear, enlargen my horizon, dive deep into new cultures and try to understand the people around me. Whenever I travel I know no solitude. Being homesick is also a foreign feeling to me. At home, surrounded by my oh-so familiar four walls I experience cabin fever and the urge to wander. 

Why do I feel this need to go and visit all countries on our planet? Why doesn’t it suffice to read about traveling, watch documentaries about faraway places? The typical 30 day annual leave you get as an office worker will never be enough for me even though I often manage to stretch them out to 80 days and try to relish those few days as much as possible. […]

My willingness to leave everything behind and travel the world evokes different feelings in the people around me. There are some that even go as far as saying that I am fleeing from something – myself and my problems. I am definitely not trying to run away from myself, I would never be fast enough. I rather try to escape people that do not fathom my adventurous spirit, name me a gadabout and regard me as a failure for being 36 years old and quitting my job. I always have my goals in sight, in the world and in my life so their opinions are a strange concept to me. 

On my journey I have learned that every country is different just as every human on this planet is different. It is essential to me to talk to these people from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds. To laugh with them, listen to them. I also truly need my friends and family back home that do not begrudge my lifestyle. 

Until today, I have crossed many borders. And by that I do not mean only those borders that wrap around countries. Living this life I also challenge my emotional and physical limits. Those experiences are the ones that count the most and enrich my soul every day.

Traveling is my elixir whenever life gets tough. Being on the road all over the world I feel alive with every threat of my soul and every bone of my body. I feel that I am alive and not only exist. You have to make the best of the most tricky and dodgy situations, conform with local customs and practices, use foreign tongues to talk to foreign people, ask them for advice, trust them and myself and take everything with a little sense of humour.

A journey into the world is always a journey to yourself.

I have to say that I often need a little time until I get used to a book and its author. But Nina Sedano really captured my attention with the first words she wrote. In the course of the book she explains how she first traveled to a foreign country as a child and then eventually decides to travel the world. A definite must read!

 

Yup, it’s healthy to spend all your money on traveling.

It turns out that I’ve been right all along. Traveling makes you happier than most other things do. It’s good for you! According to science, experiences do make you a lot happier than things. And the simple reason for this is adaptation. Whenever we buy something – a car, the newest TV or the purse we’ve always wanted, we do get excited. But this feeling of happiness seems to fade after time. As time passes, everything we buy becomes ordinary to us and we get less and less excited about it.

As Huffington Post pointed out, the things we buy become wallflowers of our lives whereas experiences become part of our identity. They don’t get out of fashion so we don’t have to substitute them. It is so much easier to feed off of those trips you went on as a child than the pair of jeans you only bought one year ago. We’re the sum of our total experiences. 

Not only do experiences make us happier as individuals, they facilitate a deep connection to the people around us, our family, friends or the stranger you meet meandering the world. And for all you doubters out there: stop thinking you don’t have enough money or time to travel. Or maybe you find an entirely different reason not to travel?!

Curiosity and an adventurous spirit shatter all boundaries. And in the end it’s not only about  trips that take you to a different continent, it is about collecting experiences and sharing them with others. Go to a museum, talk a walk around the forest nearby or really do hop on a plane and explore a place you’ve never visited before.

Whatever you choose, spend your money on experiences rather than things, it’ll make you much happier.