Goodbye Nepal and a Few Thoughts on Why I Travel

_MG_1457My time in Nepal is coming to an end, I can’t believe that another 4 weeks have passed already.

I’ll miss the country. Nepal is not an “easy” country – Kathmandu is noisy, dirty, chaotic, and you can hardly see the surrounding mountains because of the constant smog; traveling within the country is somewhat of a challenge; and Nepal as one of the world’s poorest countries has it’s own challenges the people here have to deal with on a daily basis. Right now, for example, one big issue is the desolate state of the public schools – due to my own experience something that interests me. The results of the most important school leaving exam, the SLC (similar to British O-levels) have just been released, and only 28% (!!) of public school students managed to successfully pass the exam, compared to 93% of private school students (private schools sometimes don’t cost that much, according to some reports). A very important issue for the future of this country, whom I wish that it will manage to improve its people’s living condition in the next years.

IMG_1432 IMG_1676Nepal is also a very beautiful country, with mountains where wild green vegetation proliferates on deep red soil, with jungles, forests, a great multitude of animals – tigers, leopards, elephants, hundreds of different types of birds – and of course the crowning glory, the snow covered roof of the world, the Himalayas. And Nepal is full of life and interesting people with their various philosophies and views.
IMG_1711 I’ve spent the last four weeks in my favorite area, Boudha, and have taken vacation from my vacation: Spending a lot of time reading, often sitting on one of the many roof terraces surrounding the Grand Stupa, looking at the people “doing the Kora” (see also my report about the full moon puja here). The space is filled with the humming of the people, the air is literally vibrating with atmosphere, and I could stay here for a long time._MG_1482
Other than that, I watched DVDs (all five seasons of Breaking Bad – brilliant!), met people for lunch and dinner, helped my guesthouse a bit with their IT and trained the staff, taken out my “serious” camera just once, and that really was it. And spent many hours planning my next travels – not so easy to decide when to go where and how, and to coordinate it all. And what I won’t miss is the “Kathmandu Belly” that’s been plaguing me for the last days.DSC02168

Now the big wide world is calling again, I’ll be leaving for Taiwan in a few days. The country was really a stop gap, but after I’ve seen pictures and read reports by other travelers, I am quite excited now – all I knew was “Made in Taiwan”, but it looks like there is more to the country than that, if it is as beautiful as it appears on photos, I should have an interesting time.

Then it’s off to Indonesia – first a yoga and meditation retreat, for the first time since school days I’ll be sleeping in a dorm again, let’s see how I’ll like that. Then I want to have a look at the special funeral rites on Sulawesi (maybe slightly morbid, but things like that fascinate me), and then I’ll be teaching at a school on Western Java for a few weeks. I am looking forward to all these different experiences. _MG_1500
Talking about experience. I’ve now been traveling for nearly six months – hard to believe how time flies – and I haven’t only seen many great things and met interesting people, but I also notice a change in me. When I first told people about my plans to travel the world, many said: Oh great, you’ll have a chance to find yourself! Well, yes, about that – unfortunately, I found myself nearly immediately, the same old Gudrun with all her little (ahem) weaknesses and neuroses was traveling with me, and I just couldn’t get rid of her. So I was often accompanied by an internal chatter which complained about taxi drivers and beggars and tourist touts and hygienic conditions and anyhow and anyway. It really got on my nerves. DSC00977

By now I believe, that for me, the aim of such a journey is not to find myself, and also not to lose myself, but rather to learn to live better with myself and mankind. And for this, I really do think there is nothing better then such a journey (at least if one does not travel in a bubble of luxury), because all the way, one is confronted with life in all it’s guises, and one has to learn that things will not go the way one wants them to go, or are different from expectation, and one shouldn’t lose one’s sense of humor, and should reduce one’s Ego to more manageable size.

It’s not easy. But without challenge, one doesn’t change; sitting in a solitary cave one doesn’t change; venturing outside and meeting the challenges of life can sometimes be painful and sometimes be irritating, and from time to time, the cave is calling. But every experience really is a good experience, I’ve learned, even those not really appreciated at the time (I am only saying, the way to Junbesi…)

My little silver buddha

My little silver buddha

Perhaps one or the other noticed that the word “Buddhism” is popping up more and more often in my narratives. That’s only natural, I’ve been surrounded by Buddhism of various distinctions for 6 months now, and perhaps it was meant to be; because I’ve started to become seriously interested in the philosophy of Buddhism, and specifically Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t think I’ll ever become a religious devotee, shave off my hair, start wearing a sarong and chant “om mani padme hum” all day, I am not that sort of person. But the philosophy is enormously interesting and varied, and by now I believe that nearly all self help books ever written are somewhat based on Buddhist principles, because these are quite simple to understand (NOT to live) and helpful for daily life.

So, in a way, I’ve discovered Buddhism as my personal self help program. Doesn’t mean that I am a different person now (other than needed reading glasses permanently, it seems), and guaranteed no better person, and what took more than 40 years to evolve will take more than a few months to dissolve again. But I do notice that my thoughts and perspectives and inner monologues are changing slowly. As the Dalai Lama said – Buddhism can help to become a happier Atheist – I want that.

My travel companions

My travel companions

I like reading blogs by other travelers, and noticed that I am not alone in this development. I think that’s one of the main reasons some people are nearly addicted to long term travel – it’s not the sightseeing, not the “easy” life (which isn’t always that easy, and one does miss home, family and friends from time to time, despite all the new acquaintances), this is not a cruise to white beaches (although they might feature) – for me, it’s the daily often exotic challenges and new ways of thinking, the new philosophies and views one encounters, that make it so fascinating. DSC01318
Anyhow, enough of that. Next time you’ll hear from me I should be in Taiwan, I wish you all a good time till then!

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