Lifestyle

Traveling Long-Term is not just Coconuts and Jam Sessions

Alright folks, I’ve got a confession to make.

Uhm well, I confessed it already in the headline.

Or to put it this way: There’s a dark side behind rainbows and unicorns in the world of constant travel.

And despite random people as well as friends who keep telling me I’m “living the dream” or “I wish I could travel as much as you do” – I do want to paint an authentic picture, and make some things clear. Let’s try to look a little behind the scenes, shall we?

So, sit down, let me grab you a virtual cup of tea and follow the story.


Disclosure: Before you think I’m just a teary emotional whining prat, also grab a snack and check out the links I put on the various destinations. And you’ll see, I actually had quite a bit of fun as well. Really. After all I’m still traveling. And I’m definitely not masochistic, I promise.


How it all began with that year abroad

My desire for travel and adventure all started back in 2011. I was 17 and full of the most fantastic dreams about my life after graduation. I was freshly in love, I had an amazing bunch of friends and family around, and I just started to become interested in photography.

With a new glaring red suitcase that contained way too much stuff my few precious possessions for the next year, and an afraid yet curious heart, I left. I lived and worked a year abroad in New Zealand and subsequently traveled Tonga. I worked out my passion for photography and after a year had my harddrive exploding with over 20.000 pictures I had taken. That was all I shared with most of friends and family back home, the pretty side they’ve got to see.

Long-term travel is not just happy adventures - but it's still the source of my happiness.

Now however, try to imagine this. A still rather dependent soul somewhere on the verge of a girl and a woman, as far away from home as possible without leaving the planet. A country whose language she just understood. Three children and a household to take care of, and torn apart by lovesickness, by fear that distance would destroy everything.

Looking back, I missed out on a lot when my heart was not present, but back home. Not saying, I would like to change what happened. I’m a strong believer in things happen as they’re supposed to, leading me the path I need to go. But I was filled with grief throughout almost the entire stay.

… and continued with studying a term abroad

The next time I was away from home for a significantly longer time was my term studying in Sweden.

I had studied psychology for two years in Hamburg by then, and paused for this exchange semester as well as time for internships. So off I went to my 5 months long home of choice Örebro – a cute little town two hours west of Stockholm. Miracously, there was a bunch of girls, we all met for the first time at the very first day, and we became closest friends for the entire time and beyond – and believe me, we had a blast discovering Sweden together!

Yet again, no matter how truly amazing the whole Erasmus life surely was – it also resulted in some of the hardest times I ever had. I lost focus on where in life I wanted to go, I let the whole … spirit drive me, keep me partying too much, let me go on trips without keeping an eye on my budget, let me skip lessons I would actually have found interesting.

It also made me see how successful many of my fellow students and travelers were, and made me so incredibly afraid of failure, made my efforts seem unworthy. Imposter syndrome at its best.

And it let me lose my relationship out of sight. 4 years, gone, leaving wounds that are still present years after.

How I reached a peak in feeling lost

Earlier this year I traveled to Thailand for a month, of which 2 weeks I was wandering north Thailand alone.

And again, I dived into the vibes surrounding me, almost without thinking. I lost myself between drinking, partying, meaningless affairs and the seeking of fitting in.

I forgot whose word to value, I completely lost focus on my own values. It all piled up and left me sitting at a hill beneath that giant white buddha statue, drenched in tears, feeling desperate and aimless and incredibly lonely.

The next day, I left for a Thai monastery and lived there three days – which was the wisest decision I could have made, luckily. I found the tiniest slice of closure, and although it was too short of a time to heal, it certainly pushed the reset button in my head.

This movement is still going on today.

Long-term travel brought me to live in this monastery in Northern Thailand for a while.

… and realized it’ll always be a constant up and down

Then I went on this stupid little crazy road trip a couple of weeks ago. Because I realized, I still wasn’t going anywhere in life in general.

I knew my HR job wasn’t what I was gonna do. I knew Frankfurt, or even Germany was not my place. I knew that I didn’t want to study a master’s degree. I knew that all my possessions tore me down instead of enriching me.

So instead I drove 1.000 km for a day in Venice.

Haha.

Well, thing is, I just reached a peak of this restlessnessand within 20 minutes, I decided to just leave. While most comments I received were either “You’re completely insane!” or “Oh we all dream of just spontaneously getting in the car and leave!”

– I felt devastated.

Half the drive I was crying, the other half lost in deep thinking. I had to come clean with a lot of things, to let go.

My professional life was not going anywhere my family hoped for or what all my fellow students followed. The lost relationship was in fact still haunting me 1,5 years after, while my constant moving around had prevented me of forming anything beyond short-term affairs.

Now I had to prove to myself how I could ultimately handle things on my own.

And in the end, I had this moment.

This moment, when I was sitting on this square just as you would imagine Venice, with the perfect tunes playing along to the scene, and me enjoying the most ridiculous, most expensive (freaking 9€ for a cappuccino #yolo), most emotional and yet best coffee I ever had.

So, traveling long-term and solo does get lonely

It does drive you to tears and puts you in situations you feel not capable of enduring, beyond your limits.

It does confront you with your fears, at times it does mean to rely on a stranger’s kindness because you’re utterly lost or blank or broken. It does break friendships and relationships and screw up your career.

It does let you forget your daily life, let things slip out of your focus. It lets you believe you’re wasting your time and what you do is all nonsense

Sorry, no sugarcoating here.

However that’s exactly what will ultimately let you grow

Today I’m on the verge of finishing my half year long corporate internship in Frankfurt. And again, there’s a huge gap in front of me, and I can’t tell you where I’m gonna be in two months (apart from roughly the Middle East). I have spontaneously jumped on a flight deal for 7 weeks Israel and Jordan and who knows where. Maybe I’ll even extend the stay.

It does look like previous attempts to find my way, like it was just happening all over again. However, I don’t think so. Each part, each new trip contributes to a whole.

Cause you know what? I did travel thousands and thousands of kilometers around the world. But the inner travel, my journey within, was a way bigger one.

After all, how are you supposed to find the people who are made for sharing your path if you yourself are on one that makes you unhappy?

For me, traveling is not just discovering the unknown, letting my curiosity explore the world, within and beyond. It’s the journey of development, of confronting myself with my fears and challenges and feelings and weaknesses.

To realize, I’m good and happy with myself. I love my friends, but also I really don’t need everyone to like me, nor listen to all the bullshit some people try to sell me, and that I can fix my problems myself.

I needed to let go of what was expected of me, to regain my passion for writing, and maybe one day making it a profession.

To realize, I’m valuable. And the work I do is valuable, and appreciated.

To get the perspective I need to talk again to a long-lost friend and to fall in love again.

About losing and finding myself. My strengths, my values, my dreams, my passions.

And well, sometimes rainbows and sunsets and sipping a coconut in paradise actually do happen.

 

Traveling long-term is not just coconuts and jam sessions

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    10 Easy Tips For Your Spontaneous Road Trip (& how I ignored them) | birdwinks
    June 13, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    […] crying to excited curiosity to furious rushing to plain happy smiling. But I know this had to be part of my journey […]

  • Reply
    Vishu Saumya
    December 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Amazing write up for people who want to travel not just for the sake of traveling but for the experiences garnered through traveling!

    • Reply
      Christina
      December 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks heaps! That means a lot – not that I was “just” able to learn and develop, but subsequently able to help others with those experiences.

  • Reply
    Vishu Saumya
    December 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Amazing write up for someone who wants to travel not just for the sake of it but for the experiences garnered from it.

  • Reply
    The Monthly Roundup: November - DORO HENRIETTA
    December 3, 2016 at 9:45 am

    […] I could totally relate to what Christina is talking about, but you better read her full blog post here instead of me trying to paraphrase […]

  • Reply
    Alberto C
    November 27, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Great article. I also see travelling not just like a form to discover different countries, but also a way to learn something about myself and sometimes even make important decisions. I always find it much easier when I’m put outside my comfort zone.

    Thanks for sharing the other side of travelling and being so honest!

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 28, 2016 at 10:47 am

      Thanks for your words, that does mean a lot to me, to find them appreciated by others! And yes I can relate to the important decisions haha. I actually applied to university while in Tonga on a small tropical island – where I actually was lucky to have had a more or less stable internet connection.

  • Reply
    Bella WW
    November 26, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    An extremely honest and open article. I believe that, although we don’t like to admit it, we sometimes travel to escape problems or to take a break from them. However, you’re right, traveling means more than exploring the unknown, it means discovering yourself.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 28, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Yes, it might indeed be related to that. And of course it’s easy to just go away, and then be overloaded with new impressions and experiences and kind of ignore whatevery lays behind. But then it’s also a great way to get a new perspective on things, and if you take enough time, look at things from distance. And sometimes, that is just necessary – just have to keep the balance and be conscious about it.

  • Reply
    Juliette | Snorkels to Snow
    November 25, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    What a wonderfully honest and raw post. It’s refreshing to read. I often believe that sometimes you have to be broken in order to be put together in a better way. Challenging times in your life as a solo traveller aren’t failures – just learning opportunities and the chance for growth. If it was coconuts and jam sessions every day then we wouldn’t learn half as much on our journey.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 28, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Juliette – wow thank you so much for your words. They’re really heart-warming and encouraging. And exactly what I think – although that is hard to keep in mind in the more difficult times. So I’m glad to find like-minded people like you!

  • Reply
    shayan Naveed
    November 25, 2016 at 7:47 am

    To be honest, I can’t really relate but I can understand. I could never travel continuously. I like having a home to call home with friends and family (sometimes I wish I away from family more though). And also, I’m not gonna try to fit in and say I travel to find myself…bcuz i travel to get away and go on adventures and experience life other than 9-5 job, same old boring stuff.

    But wow, you actually stayed at a monastery. I’ve lived in Thailand for 21 years and I’ve never done that.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 25, 2016 at 9:17 am

      I think you just made a really important point – there are so many travelers, long- and short-term, and bloggers out there, but it’s way too easy to forget, that there’s a very unique human behind each one. With his or her own feelings and goals and comfort zones. We all have this what keeps us moving, and we shouldn’t judge others on their behavior, if we don’t know them. I’m glad you found your happy place in traveling this way! And oh yeah, can only highly recommend the monastery!

  • Reply
    Punita
    November 25, 2016 at 5:21 am

    Every journey is unique and only we can understand and appreciate our own journey the best. That’s the key to enjoying it deeper.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 25, 2016 at 9:14 am

      True – reflection is what we need at all times!

  • Reply
    Lerato
    November 24, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    I love how real this is, I can totally relate. Going away doesn’t sort out all your problems

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 25, 2016 at 9:11 am

      Makes me happy to find people who can relate – thank you!

  • Reply
    Lydia@LifeUntraveled
    November 23, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    It’s ironic how travel doesn’t make all our “problems” go away but at the same time it enables us to grow in a different way than if we stayed home. Glad you found your way (somewhat) but you’re still young – take your time and don’t fret too much. 🙂

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 25, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Haha that’s true. Guess it’s somewhat of a generation’s problem to try see and experience everything at once. But it’s proven well indeed to just pause and appreciate for a moment. Or two. Or however long it takes..

  • Reply
    Cori
    November 22, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I love posts that give us a real inside look at what “we” collectively is living the dream. We all only see snippets of each others lives. Thank you for sharing the dark clouds.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 25, 2016 at 9:10 am

      And thanks to you for your kind words! Hope I was able to give a little larger, more realistic snippet!

  • Reply
    Sridhar @InterludJourney
    November 22, 2016 at 6:40 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. love the way you tell about some secrets. It’s amazing information the places with wonderful pics. I love your blog post looks and easy to read..

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Wow thanks so much for all those kind words! I’m glad readers can actually relate to it, to provide some kind of value. As you’ll know it can be a struggle to make your voice heard – the happier I am it seems to succeed.

  • Reply
    Abigail
    November 22, 2016 at 4:15 am

    I love you being candid in this post. Traveling might seem so glamorous and adventurous when you look at the pictures. But there are a lot of ugly sides to becoming a digital nomad that a lot of people who don’t live this kind of life get to see. Being in a foreign country is so tough; you don’t know anyone and can’t speak their language. It can be a very alienating feeling.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Very true. I think, every lifestyle has it. I just feel uncomfortable in the 9-5 office live that so many of my friends choose – it’s not necessarily bad and I can see its advantages. Just it makes me feel miserable, so I choose another option. But that one results in a lot of fancy pictures that foster unrealistic images, and it’s rather unknown to most…

  • Reply
    Doris
    November 21, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Wow Christina I loved this post, since I permanently live abroad I could relate to a few of your struggles. It’s a beautiful that you share your personal experience with all the up’s and down’s. As people tend to think being away is the bee’s knees. However, it can be very lonely… even if you are surrounded by tons of people. You are so right this journey is all about self discovery! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Doris, thanks so much for your compassionate comment! I never came as far as to actually live abroad permanently, but as you could read my longer overseas stays were already making quite an impression on me. It’s just all the happy pictures we produce to send to our loved ones that easily make it look so … easy from the other side. The happier it makes me to meet fellow bloggers and travelers thinking and feeling alike, able to relate 🙂

  • Reply
    Nomadic Foot
    November 21, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    i like the way you explained your story here. Not so many people dare to speak about them self so frankly. Come to India as well soon.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      Exactly this is why I did… in an effort to draw a more realistic picture of how this lifestyle is actually like. Thanks for your appreciation – and the invite! One day, for sure 🙂

  • Reply
    Suz
    November 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Christina you are so brave to write so honestly about travelling long term. I’ve been feeling this way but also alone – so many people think that it’s exactly what you said, just rainbows and butterflies. But there’s so much more behind it, which you said so eloquently. Your post really resonated with me! I love your writing and voice.

    I appreciate how you say that your travelling has helped you on your journey of development and confronting your fears and challenges. That’s what I want out of travel, but not many people want to hear about. They want to hear about all of the good times, beaches and drinks and castles (maybe because they’re so sad you’re gone and want to make sure you’re having fun?) which can be exhausting to keep up when all you want to do is share some honest reflections.

    Anyway thank you for sharing your thoughts and post! They’re always so inspiring 🙂

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Susan, again what can I say but thanks HEAPS for your so priceless feedback! It really warms me from my deepest inside to see how you can relate to my words and stories, that someone actually reads and likes reading my words!
      But most of all, it feels so good to meet fellow bloggers and traveler who can resonate with those problems, who turn their head on because traveling long-term, just chilling and partying all the time would get boring, because they know to appreciate a quite second, one to let all your feelings flow.
      I’m so excited for us to finally meet!

  • Reply
    Emma
    November 21, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Great insight on the home sickness side of travelling. I too have felt it and realised that I missed out on a great deal of what New Zealand had to offer as I was desperately missing home – I was much younger at the time. It’s tough to travel solo and definitely not as glam as it seems!

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 8:10 am

      It means a lot for me to hear people traveling NZ have felt the same – cause I sometimes just felt so incredibly foolish. Today I know, it’s meant to go this way.

  • Reply
    Sara @ All Aboard the Skylark
    November 21, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I loved reading your story here. You’re brave to be so honest. I also loved that you drove 1000km to Venice and had the best cup of crazily expensive coffee! Enjoy your travels in the Middle East.

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate your words! I think it is not necessarily about being brave… but about taking a step towards being human and showing it, towards reconnecting with my own voice instead of keeping some fake image up 🙂 It’s what I believe in.

  • Reply
    Stephanie at Adventures in Aussieland
    November 19, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I love the transparency of this post. You’re so right. Not everything about long term travel is unicorns and glitter. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Reply
      Christina
      November 22, 2016 at 8:06 am

      It makes me happy to see you can relate to it – thanks!

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