And now, at the end of my journey, my last report. I spent most of my time on Hawaii (in between driving around and admiring the starry sky) thinking back over the last 18 months and reminiscing about my experiences, as well as mentally preparing myself for return to „normal“ life. A kind of personal retreat, and also a reason why my reports from Hawaii had little of a social element in them – I needed some me-time.
Before my return, I received emails from friends asking if I regretted the end of my journey or if I was looking forward to coming home. Clear answer: I am happy about returning. Travelling around the world was great, maybe the best thing I’ve done, but living out of a suitcase for 18 months, never being able to develop a routine, moving from one place to another – all that is quite exhausting after a while. I already wrote about there being such a thing as too much of a good thing. But that is only one reason why I am looking forward to returning – I want to be part of a society, a community again, long term, not just as a passer-by. I am looking forward to my life having a purpose that goes beyond „travel“, I am also looking forward to putting to good use all my experiences, all that I’ve learned, the new thoughts and ideas, all my new resolutions, and making them part of my „new“ life.
18 months ago, when I left for what was to be a 12 month voyage, I had very little real thoughts of what I expected and what was to come. I wrote before about the challenges that arose by leaving my previous identity and position behind, by constantly living outside my comfort zone. But these challenges turned out to be a blessing – when you „meet yourself“ constantly, when you have to rise above yourself all the time, and especially when you see the world from a new perspective, then this fragile concept of „Ego“ is being poked and prodded and severely disturbed. And that can only be a good thing. With Ego, I mean that part of oneself that loves it’s own importance, sees oneself as being the center of one’s world, the part that faithfully adheres to its doctrines without realizing how limiting those are and how much they get in the way of real happiness.
If you really have everything – in my case, the opportunity to live my dream to travel, given to me by time, money and health – and you are still not happy, then the question arises: What is happiness, and what makes me happy? I could write a lot about this, but that would lead too far here, in this context. Many books have been written to answer this simple question, as of course I’ve not been the first and won’t be the last to ask it. „I wish I’d allowed myself to be happier“ is one of the 5 most frequent regrets voiced by the dying, according to one bestselling book (along with: I wish: I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me; I had not worked so hard; I’d had the courage to express my feelings; and had stayed in touch with friends). What exactly this happiness means is something each of us have to define for ourselves, it’s a very personal subject.
For me, happiness is an inner state, detached and independent from external circumstances. Or in the words of Matthieu Ricard: „Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it“. Noble words, you might think now, but true words.
„The Art of Happiness“ is what I could call the motto under which I want to live my further life. Sounds good, I also think I’ve understood the concept, however: It’s a long, stony way from theory to practice, and will take many years. I now know enough to know that I don’t know much and am far away from that practice. But it’s never too late to begin. I have a long list of resolutions to anchor myself in that wish, and the center point will be, not to put myself in the center, but the engagement with others – at my job, through voluntary and charitable work, in my private life. One of the lessons from my journey: I believe that we are often much too busy with our own navel-gazing, and much too occupied trying to control the really uncontrollable being that is called life, instead of just enjoying and living the moment, engaging with our environment, helping others, and just sometimes letting things happen and accepting them as they are.
And so, the final conclusion of my journey: It put me on the right path, and it is this path I want to stay on. I do not think that without the journey, I would have found the path, because I never took the time. And it’s only up to me to stay on the path.
I would like to ask my friends to remind me of this if they notice that I am straying :).
One last advice at the end: There are many people who’d like to go on an around-the-world trip, but think they just can’t. You can do much more than you think – I never thought I’d have the courage. All I can say is: Do it. And if money is your concern, but you are prepared to do a bit of work, there are many opportunities to work for food & accommodation, such as Wwoofing, workaway or helpx, to name but a few.
And that’s true not just for travel, but for all dreams in your life, do not wait until you regret not having done something on your death bed, which may not be as far away as you think right now. The motto is simple: Just do it.