Traveling for 8 months around the world
27.12.2012 - 29.08.2013 30 °C
I am back home, in my lovely Switzerland. I am quite confused about what has happened "lately": I am in my normal and usual reality, but it definitely feels different. There is this window in my mind that sometimes opens up wide and a stream of images, moments and emotions comes rushing out. I try to grasp what all of them are, but it's... too much. Only when scrolling through my blog or reading a few lines out of my travel journal I come close to realise that... I circumnavigated the whole world, an expression I used in my first chapter. I did it, and it feels incredible =)
I guess you can imagine how difficult for me it is to even start writing about it, but I guess I will give it a try. There are two perspective I can take when reviewing the journey: one about what I did, and another about how I feel about it. Let's start with the easiest one:
What and where did I travel?
"Statistics" say that I traveled for about 84'000 km, or put it in another way, I traveled around the globe for more than 2 times! I spent 240 days on the road, visiting 14 countries, taking 20+ flights, countless buses, tuk tuks or bikes. But mostly, I have walked. And walked. And walked... every day, for hours. By putting on paper the itinerary in my journal, I've counted about 90 "beds" where I slept, giving me an average of 2-3 days in each bed. Considering that I counted weeks-long cruises like in the Galapagos and Antarctica as 1, the reality is that rarely I stayed for more than 2 nights in each city... and that reflects more the fast pace that I kept through all of it. This is why at the end I was pretty exhausted. But always happy, as that was the way I wanted to travel. I had this curiosity that I wanted to satisfy, and I can definitely tell you that in this regard my journey was a huge success! I had my moments where I refused to get out of bed, but in the majority of the cases I was simply too excited go out of the door and start exploring everything the place I was staying had to offer. And I did experience quite a lot around... I drank tequila at new year's eve in Mexico, I dove with a swarm of hammerhead sharks and sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, I witnesses the healing ritual of a shaman in the amazon forest of Ecuador, I saw Machu Pichu emerge from thick clouds in Peru, I got surprised to see hundreds of pink flamingos in the coloured lagunas of the Bolivian highlands, I ate the juiciest meat in the local inns of Buenos Aires in Argentina, I sat on the ground surrounded by thousands of penguins in the glacier heaven of Antarctica, I met for the first time a new branch of my family in Chile, I cycled around the island of Rapa Nui under the watchful eyes of big stone heads, I kayaked around the crystal waters of Bora Bora in French Polynesia, I casually stepped into the garden of Bilbo Baggins's house in Hobbiton in New Zealand, I got personally introduced to two real geishas in a tea house of Kanazawa in Japan, I walked on the Great Wall close to Beijing in China, I walked around the stupa of Bodhnath together with hundreds of pilgrims in Nepal, I swam in the Gange together with some sadhus of Varanasi in India, I got four-hands massages in an ayurvedic centre in Sri Lanka. All of this, and much more, in one single trip.
How do I feel about this?
Overwhelmed. This journey has been... quite a lot to take in. I am still in a phase of processing, that I guess will last for a while. But I am aware already that what I just did was the adventure of a lifetime, and that it has taught me more things that I could have ever imagined. I do believe I am different now, in a better way. I knew things before traveling already, but when you live them with your eyes, your ears, your skin, your mind and your heart, that is when you feel you finally understand them for real. I would love for this reason to share some of the lessons that I have learned, that I will humbly try to translate into messages for you:
1// a smile goes a long way, and it is the only universal language
When you smile, the world changes. It changes the way you see everything, and how everybody sees you. Nothing like a smile connects you instantly with another person, independently of his race, skin colour or religion. If you smile, it does not even matter if you don't speak the same language... you'll find a way to understand each other. So often a smile allowed me to get to know somebody, be her a lady selling cheap jewels on the streets of Jaisalmer with whom I ended up drinking tea, or a young monk in a Buddhist monastery in Lumbini with whom I shared a lunch in the canteen. Consider a smile the key to people hearts, and be amazed by how beautiful it is to live our lives with such a joyful attitude. And by the way, it is free.
2// everybody is the same - everywhere
Of course everybody knows this, it is the correct way of thinking. By talking to people around the world, by sitting down with that old man in the streets of Tokyo, by playing with kids in the back alleys of Macas, you understand that is the only way of thinking. Of course, we do not share the same languages, cultural backgrounds, or religions. But every language we speak is there to convey the same emotions that everybody has, the cultural backgrounds are a simple result of being born in a certain place - you would have been the same if you had moved there when born, and all the religions point to the same light. Kids try to have fun with their friends everywhere, boys and girls tease each other non stop everywhere, young adults try to make a living and start a family everywhere, adults care and try to provide for their kids everywhere, and older people get pissed off at everybody else everywhere.
3// traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer
This quote has been my favourite all along the trip. Nothing is more true than this - traveling has become more expensive over the years, but there is nothing that you could ever buy that would be worthier than it (I might be a bit biased, but still). How can you put a price to having the whole world as your teacher? The more you travel, the more you will. For every country you check out of the list, you will add two. The realisation that there is a whole world that you can discover will open your horizons, and every experience you will live through is gonna teach you something, especially about yourself.
I would have tons of more things to say, but I think these three messages convey what is most important to me. You might not perceive them as shocking revelations, but it was important for me to share some of these final thoughts, as they are some of the most precious things this journey has given me.
I cannot believe this will be my last post. I can still remember every computer I sat at for hours to write each chapter, trying to express all the emotions I felt at the moment, and add some of the pictures that best captured the beauty of this world. I am grateful to everybody that has been following me on the blog over these last 8 months, as you were my true motivation. Traveling for the most part alone left me without the opportunity to share some of the best experiences I had, but by writing about them for you made me feel inspired to discover more and more so that I could tell you about it at some point. I not only hope I could get you a bit interested in my journey, but also to have inspired you in pursuing your own and creating your adventure of a lifetime.
So what are you waiting for, pack your backpack and leave, there is a whole world to discover =)
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.