Travelling is a great passion of mine. The anticipation of leaving the known behind to engage new adventures makes my heart beat faster. According to me, nothing beats broadening my horizon by travelling through unknown, exotic countries, populated by colourful dressed people that have been shaped by a profoundly different culture than mine. Apparently, I am not the only one enchanted by the charm of travelling; complete tribes are roaming the globe in search of cultural exchange. Or could it also be an attempt to escape, an addiction to new experiences or an irrepressable impulse to explore the rest of the world?
But what is it really, that makes travelling so attractive? Apart from the submergence into a different environment to enjoy the beauty of nature and culture, there is more...Whenever you travel consciously, it can enrich your life, inspire you and open your mind. You become more flexible and wiser by absorbing the knowledge and different worldviews of the cultures that you encounter. Confucius already pinned this point thousands of years ago, when he spoke his famous words: ‘It’s better to travel one mile than to read a thousand books’ (but then in Chinese of course). The great part about travelling is that you don’t just learn about the civilisations and people that cross your path, but also about yourself.
Shinso hit the nail on the head with his quote: ‘No matter what road I travel, I’m going home’. A wonderful side-effect of travelling is that it makes you come home, over and over again - literally as well as figuratively. You really get to know yourself (and your fellow travelers!) whenever you are bound to each other when leaving your comfort zone. However, travelling is not just fun of course. It can also be draining, confronting, lonely or absolutely horrific. In my experience, it’s never dull at least.
People often ask me which place on earth I find most beautiful. This seems a difficult and unanswerable question to me. How on earth can one compare the timelessness of Greek temples on an azure oceanfront with the experience of being peddled across the surreal Titicaca Lake by an Uros Indian? Or how can one compare walking side by side with Tibetan pilgrims on the roof of the world with crossing the perfectly wind-shaped sand dunes of the Sahara desert by camel? I am convinced that the whole earth is scattered with the most amazing landscapes and sheer endless expressions of human beings; from nature tribes to highly developed civilizations. One would think I have seen enough after over 100 travels, but strangely enough it seems like the more one travels, the more travel-inspiration one gets!
It amazes me, that there are always fascinating, unknown countries and areas to be explored, according to the enthusiastic stories of locals and other travelers. Even though I am not done travelling, I picked up the art of writing to share the knowledge, experiences and insights that I have accumulated over the past years. I have learned a lot from developing countries -most of which boost incredibly rich cultures-, like the value of integrity and co-operation. As well as living in the moment with room for spontaneity.
To me, the flexibility and positivity of many people in Asian countries in particular is very inspiring. They seem flexible as bamboo and take responsibility for their own lives by eagerly taking every presented chance for growth and development. Besides, I am strongly attracted to the non-dogmatic Asian philosophies of life. In particular to the Taoist concept of going with the flow of nature, and Buddha’s rebellious advices to think for one self, to transcend the ego and to never take anything for the truth, except your own findings.
Apart from all of this, travelling has shown me the astonishing beauty of cultural and ethnic diversity, and the importance of cultural exchange and the preservation of authenticity in a fast globalising world. More room for appreciation of the positive aspects of each others cultural background can be achieved by attaining knowledge of it. This comprehension is also essential for the much needed nuance. In my opinion, it is truly important to realise deeply that, despite the many apparent differences between countries and people, there is so much that binds us all.
Every human being knows the same hopes and fears -despite being strongly shaped by its local culture and traditions-, and experiences the same field of consciousness. However, the development of this consciousness can differ significantly, per person as well as per culture. My many travels have not only taught me much about other civilizations, I also came to see my own culture with different eyes. I have realised that the wealth, the freedom and the gender equality that exist in the west, seem like Utopia for many people in the world.
In my eyes, great value lies in the open and free characteristics of many western societies, where there’s no dominance of dogmatic and suppressive belief structures, and where great importance lies on the legacy of the Renaissance; the activation of the rational and creative forces within human beings. Apparently, we are not always aware of this. It seems on the other hand, that the extreme materialism and ongoing individualisation that also define our culture, lead to nowhere without sustainability and higher, collective goals.
By now, it is crystal clear to me that there are only a few countries in the world like the Netherlands, where one (especially women) can freely fulfill its own potential and shape one’s life. In my eyes, this precious freedom also brings the responsibility to live your best life. Whenever you wish to pass this freedom and these opportunities on, you can support the Girls First Project of Plan. The solution of many world problems seems to lay in decreasing the lagging behind of many girls in developing countries. Whenever they can go to school and develop themselves, this will have a very positive effect on not just their own wellbeing, but also on problems of poverty, overpopulation and sexual exploitation. More info on this can be found at http://plan-international.org .
How fantastic would it be if the inevitable process of globalisation can make people aware of their own culture, so they can use this ‘world consciousness’ to transcend their limiting cultural and religious conditionings? Then, the road is clear to fully express one's own individuality and potential, maybe even with holding on to valuable cultural traditions. I am convinced that, by combining the best from the world’s traditions with the creative and progressive forces that are strongly manifest in western culture, together we can find a way towards a free and better future. In conclusion and as inspiration to travel consciously, here’s another beautiful quote, from J.R.R. Tolkien this time: ‘Not all those who wander are lost’.