I think I haven’t really realized until recently how much we’re changing while traveling on a long term. But I’m also thinking in the same time : is it the travel on a long time base or is it simply the life ?
The other day while I was speaking to locals and relatives, I suddenly got it. You know THAT moment where suddenly it’s becoming clear in your head ?
Well, I decided to go traveling just to go away from my life, which was sucked in my opinion. I had everything to be happy : family and friends around me, I was living in a cool city (Brussels !), I had a long term job with a good salary but I was feeling this emptiness in myself.
It wasn’t a big thing to put everything in boxes, to sell my furnitures, to say goodbye. Fortunately I’m used to move away. We moved several times when I was younger.
It has been now almost 3 years that I’m not living anymore in Europe and it always, yes ! great to see more about our world, to learn about different cultures, to meet other people, to make new friends, to learn new languages… But sometimes you’re simply observing how fast the time is flying, just by the way your « long term » journey is transforming your relationships.
« Love stories » turn out to be shorter, simply because you’re always going from a country to another one. One day you’re in Australia, the other day in Malaysia – or simply the person flies back to his country. It’s like permanently having a summer crush and all what it goes with, if I’m trying to put an image on it…
Friendships : speaking about the new one. Some last only few days, few weeks. Others will last longer but at the end you still meet them while both of you are traveling and what’s the chance to see some of them again ? Honestly ? And when you see them again, most of the time, it’s months/years after AND both of you changed, or it’s simply another person in front of you… Lucky we are, nowadays, we have Internet. Lucky ? I’m not so sure anymore. I remember that time when we had no Internet, when we just started to have cellphones… While I went to Germany for a year back in the early 2000, I used to go to the phone box, few streets away from my home to be able call my friends, my grandparents… and the more I’m comparing nowadays with these days, the more I’m thinking that that time was maybe more authentic. Isn’t everything becoming fake with all this Internet story, like the « facebook friendships » ? But ok, I need to admit, it’s helping us to keep contact with our new friends and also with our old ones.
But the more longer you stay away from your « old life », the more the gap between their lives and your is getting bigger. And of course it’s natural but they are some days, where you simply wish it wouldn’t be like that ! You thought friendships are stronger than the distance (kind of like we say love is stronger than the distance) but no, at the end, we are all changing through the years and that’s simply how is the life. But that reality is hard to understand when we’re far away from each other. Maybe just because you’re used to a new life now ? As a « long term » traveler », we just always want to explore new places, to take the time to know a place, to get into the local life… = you don’t have a home anymore (your home is your backpack) and on the other side, your friends just wish/want to build their lives/family and you need to learn how to deal with the facts, that you’re missing their weddings – that you’re not on their side, when they need you, when they’re sick, when they’re having babies, when they’re loosing one for their relatives – that you had no possibility to see friends/relatives a last time, to speak to them, before the worst thing you couldn’t imagine happened… That’s not easy to be away ! And you’re more alone, that everybody think, that you would even think !
Everyone thinks that it’s just a break, because you’re « traveling » but it isn’t ! It’s also your NEW life. You’re not coming back from where you left (in my case Belgium), because that the decision you took : to go for another life and you’re simply not coming back.
I’m like a beaver building my own way through the places I like to visit/see… The planet is my river…
With the time going on, I’m learning to detach myself to that I « should have » model / to this conventional life : be married, have a carrier, have kids : (all of that of course before you turn to your 30’s) and to just appreciate the chance I have to simply live the life I choose. The more you’re spending away on your own, the more easier it’s becoming – but of course you’re also always (most of the time) ending to have that « life » at one certain point. How long after you’re started to travel – nobody will knows, it’s up to us… But one thing I’m also repeating to myself : I’ve got only one life, so if I don’t like it, it means that something need to be changed !
The old friendships, the ones you had before you started traveling are melting with along your journey, the distance and the time. And that’s stuck ! I’m used like I said to move to new places, to start a new life, to make new friends so I’m used to see this evolution in my friendships and to know with who I don’t want to spend time to try to be friend, that going away is hurting, as you’re loosing all your marks and will need to start from the beginning once again.
But today I’m quite sad, because after almost 3 years away from home, I realized that the choice I made to travel and to have this life, that my slowness of answering emails + my laziness of not writing often to my good friends + the fact that we are now looking in two directions eat away my old friendships. We’re simply living in two different world where we having difficulties to understand each other point of view of the life itself. They don’t understand my choice to live « on the road » and I can imagine myself returning to my old life. For sure, we are still friends but it’s more like pen-friends I’ve got the feeling (and it’s sad to say it like that), because I never get a chance with all the crappy Internet connections, with the time difference to speak with them directly and that’s also one part of my reality today ! = I need to deal with the minimum I’m receiving. Each email, each sms, each messages are becoming like gold, because they’re so rare.
I’m very emotional and that doesn’t help neither : I can’t avoid to feel sad, to feel alone when I got some good old friends, who tell me on a short message that they got married months ago, that they moved to another city, country, that they started a new job, who got pregnant (and I’m learning it like months months later)… Of course we’re not so close anymore to explain why we change our jobs…. the distance doesn’t help at all, and both of us have these days, where you can’t answer this gold email from your old friend, because you just had an exhausted day… but I feel sad because I know that in a way, it has also more to do with me. For example after a day in India, where you took 3/4 rickshaws, where you spent your time to bargain everything, where you got these people starring at you like you’re an alien, you just want to have a rest from the society and don’t want to spend hours on email…. Plus, your friends, who are living in a western way, and who never came to India won’t really imagine how real is everything what you’re describing. = 2 different realities.. You’re in India and they are in Europe. It’s like a discussion with two cultures, whereas you came from the same place at the origin… And that’s my reality also. Traveling is not always fun, cool… You also have these days, where you just want to be around your best mates but it’s impossible because of the time difference, because of our different lives…
But the positive in a journey is that you always have only one day of these feeling and the next day you move away, you meet new people, the smile on your face is coming back… This morning for example, I had such a nice day, while I was on my own : listening to Jean Ferrat in the subway, having a chat with my nice bank counselor, with the employee from the subway, having a laugh with my students and that’s also the wealth of my new life : small details I forgot to see when I was back living in Belgium, but details which make me happy.
I went to Nepal to be volunteer – you know that good action you want to do in a poor country as a westerner ? – but I wasn’t expecting, that being in Nepal would change me so much, change my perception of the world. I was thinking they would need some help but in fact, when I first arrived to the country, I discovered a country where the citizens are happier with less than we have by us.
Teaching in schools there made me realized how spoiled we are ! How spoiled the kids are in some countries ! It’s just unbelievable.
Some of the kids will come to me and say « I can’t write, I don’t had any place anymore in my copy book » or « I can’t, I don’t have color pencils ». Some of them just don’t have enough money to buy a copy book and it’s a battle for some kids to be able to come to school with enough materials. They write with one centimeter long pencil ( and are still happy to have one! – I tell you, we need to send our kids from europe there to teach them how privilege they are !!! ), they will ask you if they can go to the other class to ask another of their school mate after an eraser or a sharpener ! YES after an eraser or a sharpener !!! They play with the dust, with broken badminton rackets, balls made of rubbers but they don’t complain. You don’t need to battle with them playing with their cellphones under their desk because they don’t have any. You don’t ask them to be concentrated, because they know they need to be good at school to be able to have a decent job and maybe the possibility to leave Nepal for another country (starting by the first step : university).
They were funnier than I wouldn’t have imagined, they got this art of answering you with jokes that you just can’t stop laughing, they smile the all time, that you understand that coming to the school for them is actually something they really like and want 🙂
Make me thing of my friend from uni who described me one day that her little boy was crazy about playing with cans in her kitchen 🙂 yep this is it ! Why would we need to spoil our kids with so many toys, expensive cloths ? Why do we need to say Amen to everything they want ? Oh darling you want a playstation ? No worries, you get it, you were so good at school last week….Why ? And when I see like yesterday people queuing in front of the Chanel shop here in Singapore, oh god !!!!
Nepal taught me how much valuable is everything, from the human contact to the possessions you have. The Nepalis just have what they need to have and they are the most happiest people I’ve ever met. They will try to speak to you by starting with one of this famous Namaste, guessing where you’re from… And when but when you’re answering them in Nepali, oh god ! suddenly and it’s always the case, their faces are like full of happiness ! This is also one of the reason I always wanted to improve my Nepali knowledge since I arrived in Nepal !
I wasn’t expecting that when I left Belgium in oct 2012. I just wanted to go away and have a break from everything. But while I was walking along the lake in Pokhara, I realized how much precious is our life, and most important how much precious are all the people you get to know during it ! All the people you get the chance to live with in another country are teaching you about the life, about yourself… and you’re just not expecting that at all when you’re starting to travel !
So yes, the more I’m now traveling, the more I’m learning about people (friends and others), about myself & about the life in general. You’re always around people but you’re more learning than never before how to deal with yourself. One thing also every traveler will confirm you : the only person you can rely on, when you’re traveling around the world is yourself !
I haven’t write anything about my journey in Nepal so far and I’m really late about the impressions of my time in India but this post in English is just a kind of « putting on paper » what I just wanted to say for a long time now. I’m not saying I would love to stay for ever on the road and away from friends and family, I’m just trying to describe you with words how much we are changing ourself during a journey and that more than we would ever expect ! And by changing ourself, we’re also changing our relationships. We never know how they will be after months/years away and that the risk we need to agree : to loose some of our good friends while traveling ! Even if I’m used to that, it’s always kind of disappointed to see that some friendships are ending little by little, with the time going on. But that’s life 🙂