Holding on to my gypsy soul.

e000f8e7fdbdb52fd01725224314a6ae

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.

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!

 

What I learned in 2015

ee7ccf11df4e58b0bd4b5dcaa5887e64

This is not an entirely travel or wanderlust related post as the end of the year always encourages me to reflect on all that’s happened in the last 365 days. As for me, many of those days and endless thoughts and daydreams were and always are defined by a violent urge to explore the world. As the quote above says, it really is what sets my soul on fire. That’s why I have the solemn pledge to dedicate my existence to travel.

This year has been especially eventful in many ways and there is one lesson that is connected to everything that I encountered this year: stay calm and everything will figure itself out.  2015 taught me this lesson very early on with me getting robbed in Athens. Instead of freaking out and wishing to go home, I gathered my thoughts and decided to enjoy my time in Greece even more. I was determined not to give other people the freedom of pulling the strings of my happiness.

Sitting here on the last day of 2015, I can connect the dots even further. Especially right now, staying calm is what I need to do. I should have learned by now that the best things in life come super unexpected, just as my most recent trip to Japan. Who would have thought that after trips around Wales, loving life in rural Canada and roaming Southeast Asia I would get another opportunity to travel this year? I did and I am so grateful for fate fueling my life continuously.

Right now, at the edge of 2015 and with 2016 in sight, I find myself in a phase that seems all-consuming, confusing, exciting and nerve-racking. Being a recent Masters graduate, I am about to leap off into a phase of my life that seems to determine my existence. From time to time, this utterly terrifies me. But just as I did with my travels, I am just going to center myself, take a deep breath and believe in whatever comes along will set my soul on fire. And I will not settle before I find it. Happy 2016!

 

Where to research for your trip?

Whenever it comes to planning the next trip, there’s the big question of where to go. And once you’ve figured that out, what to do while you’re abroad?

I am a firm believer of the concept of travel guides. I always rely on them for expertise and a vast collection of advice from experienced travelers and writers. As for most of us, my favourite guides are the ones from Lonely Planet. If you are doing a trip through a country instead of only visiting one city or place, I definitely recommend the “Lonely Planet Discover” series. They are more compact and a bit more easy to navigate through than the regular guides.

Since my last trip to Southeast Asia, I definitely tend to consult Instagram and Pinterest for my travels. For Instagram, searching for hashtags or locations is the best way to go! Or simply search through your favourite travel bloggers feed to see where they’ve been. They offer you the best up to date information on the top destinations and insights a travel guide can’t offer you. And first and foremost, they are photo based! How to better fuel your excitement?

ac03b2ca45aac635a0a5cb61890b8f18

Source: http://bit.ly/1X09Q51

Talk to people! Know anyone who’s been there before? AWESOME! No information will be as detailed and honest as when you talk to people about their trip. It can get confusing talking to a bunch of different people because all of them will have different opinions. But if Nicole hadn’t talked to a complete stranger about going to Vietnam, we would have never ended up at the Pepperhouse Homestay!

For hotels or homestays, I can wholeheartedly say that Booking.com is the best address. We booked all our accommodations in Southeast Asia via the platform and we always ended up making a great choice. The best feature about it is that you really only book your room instead of having to pre-pay for it.

I guess this list will not totally revolutionize the way you educate yourself about the place you’re going to but from time to time it’s great to rely on all of these sources together instead of only one. Who doesn’t want to gather the best possible information for their next trip and relish this perfect state of anticipation?!

The art of storytelling.

4.5 weeks
32 days
768 hours
46.080 minutes
2.764.800 seconds

This is how long my trip to Southeast Asia lasted. A trip of a lifetime. Well, I know that the majority of backpackers travel far longer than that but for me this trip marked the end of my academic career (I had just handed in my master’s dissertation) and as I have stressed multiple times, it was my first ever backpacking trip. So I wasn’t the only one excited about it. I have an awesome bunch of loved ones around me that were just as passionate about this trip as I was.

So here you are after those 2.764.800 seconds, with your head still in the clouds but your feet already on the ground back home. Somehow you feel in need of another vacation after all those new impressions, people met and experiences gained. Nah, that’s not going to happen. Your awesome bunch of people (bless them!) wants to know all about your trip! So you meet up with everyone, your eyes are gleaming, your skin is tanned and radiant and you have a big smile on your face – the post-adventure glow rests on you.

Then you start telling your story and shortly after you started off, you get caught up in details, trying to transmit each feeling, sight, smell or sound that caught your attention. Unfortunately I have experienced that it is impossible to completely convey all these things. And that’s totally okay! It is you who went on that trip and you are lucky to being able to say that you experienced all this. When talking about your trip though, you will never have your listeners as spellbound as you would want to. In my experience, it is best to talk about those stories that you either found most fascinating or those that irritated you, a.k.a. where the culture clash happened. With respect to my Southeast Asia trip I always tell the story of us at a bus station in Vietnam trying to get to from A to B. None of the people around us spoke English but desperately wanted to help us. “Helping us” implied six Vietnamese men and women grabbing our arms, attempting to pull us into their vans and take us wherever we wanted to go.

IMG_8401

Accompany these compelling stories with photos. Do not bore your family and friends with the 3.125 photos you took. Make a pre-selection or select them spontaneously while you tell your stories. No one wants to admire the countless pictures you took of yourself as part of a girly-sunset-photoshoot or numerous photos of the same attraction from ten different angles.

Sometimes it can be frustrating, repetitive and exhausting to talk about your travel stories – for both you and the listener. As long as you keep up your glow and talk about it in a short, snappy and entertaining way, you can really mesmerize others with your adventures and remind yourself yet again of just how superb the trip was.