Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.Anthony Bourdain
Someone once told me (…or did i read it somewhere?), that after a long trip one should take time to come home. Because the soul takes longer to get back. But now, that all my options for a slow return had been “destroyed” by the Coronavirus, I was more or less left with the plane as a the preferred mode of transportation (I originally thought about Transsib or a container ship for my way back, although i have to admit that i didn’t really pursue this option during my trip…). Anyways, i boarded this plane on May 30th, 7 months and 7 days after I took off in Frankfurt, Germany (yes, i believe in magic numbers, lol).
In the end my stay in Bangkok, 71 days (!), had been somehow part of my return trip. I had a lot of opportunity to reflect on my trip and to prepare myself a little bit for the return, mentally and morally. Fortunately still being able to experience new things, but no longer in real travel mode. Looking back, i’m really grateful for this time, because it made it easier for me to say goodbye and being not too melancholy.
In fact, i have been back to Germany since a week now and i am enjoying my 14 days of quarantine, which is still mandatory for travellers from non-european countries. But luckily at home sweet home…
And what is left of such a trip now?
I don’t know why, but when i look back at this trip i always see myself sitting on a scooter, driving myself or with someone in the back (thats why i chose this cover picture for the blogpost, by the way…). Probably because it is such an essential and omnipresent means of transport in the cities and on the islands of Southeast Asia. And, of course, it also embodies this feeling of total freedom, which i was allowed to savor for a few months. The feeling of independence, but also of “not-belonging”, when you drift through the world like a cloud. How i hold on and the wind blows towards me. How the landscape goes by. It is sometimes excruciating, sometimes liberating and sometimes a spiritual experience. I think that’s what I will always remember.
Usually people make this kind of trip in a different phase of their life, after highschool or after their studies (i’ve met these guys and admire them for their self-confidence at the age of 21, when they go on such a trip alone). Somehow I missed that opportunity or had not even considered it at that point in my life, either because of a lack of money or a lack of time or the lack of courage. But doing it now, at a time when you “shouldn’t” do it, is actually much better. Because you know the debilitating routines of a professional life and you are more receptive, hungry for adventure and more grateful to travel through the world than at any other time.
In short: it was a guilty pleasure!
You might not always be aware of that in every moment, but retrospectivly i definetly can say that, and i’m very proud of myself to have dared to take this step.
It’s not just good days on a long journey like this. I had my ups and downs, no question! Anyone who has traveled longer than one or two months knows that such a trip is not a vacation in XXL. It is a challenge, an imposition and not infrequently a form of masochism. Long-term homelessness combined with constant change of locations – and not just the change from always paradisiacal places. That goes to the forces. Physically and mentally. Thats the reason why i try to avoid all those typical travel-blogger- and influencer-phrases, like how happy and blessed i’m each day and how i live my best life etc… I dont need to always point the finger to that, as i think and hope that my pictures and writings are much more authentic and speak for themself.
I’ve seen places that I always wanted to see or that i didn’t even know existed. And i met a lot of great and, well, sometimes strange people, who had one thing in common: self-confidence and self-composure. Very different from our typical stereotype of shy and reserved asians, in my opinion. But that’s what travelling is about! You start with old prejudices and come back with new ones: They are just like us! They are not like us at all! A shock in both cases, but a healthful one.
What will remain as well is this great map of my trip, that i have created during the lockdown in the last few days in Bangkok:
Making this general map, i was inspired by my ongoing love for cartography, by tropical plants and some kind of colonial style. It shows the course of my trip and the means of transportation that i mainly used.
When i look at the map like this, i sometimes think: wow, what a trip! And then I think again: in 7 months, couldn’t you have done much more, been able to see much more?
But then I remember the words of a belgian girl I met in Manila, who probably had similar thoughts or experiences. And she said it is always important not to compare yourself to others (other backpackers in that case) and to remember why YOU are actually doing this trip?!
Because it is your journey, not theirs.
Last but not least, i’m very proud to have kept this blog reasonably up to date and to post something regularly. As i mentioned in an earlier post, it’s more work than one might think. I don’t want to stop writing, now that the trip is over, because i also enjoy it and i already have ideas on how to continue with the blog. So stay tuned… 🙂