While travelling I learned a lot, some epiphanies came instantly others took a while til they settled. Anyway, sometimes your brain works faster than you think ;)
Here are 5 things that I learned while backpacking that are of general interest.
1) Appreciation of small things
While backpacking you can’t rely on many things, thus I quickly knew what I missed and what was of lesser importance or even completely irrelevant. Also it showed me what I am able to endure (in most cases it merely reminded me, since I had a rough time in bootcamp during national service). This makes common things like warm water, a decent bed or a warm meal even more enjoyable, since you learned that not everything is that common every-time and everywhere.
2) Key factors for well-being and peace of mind
Additionally, I found out all the small and big things that are really important for my well-being and/or peace of mind. Note that everybody is different: I know people that need a lot of space, but care less about privacy, whereas I prefer privacy over space. Such things can be very valuable later on, when you search for a new flat or thinking about moving in.
3) Experience is King – don’t believe every bullshit they tell you
I always thought that the South America is a dangerous place, well so is my neighbourhood or isn’t it? Of course it is sometimes and somewhere, also I may have been lucky – sometimes I was for sure. I have also been scared about going into Bolivia. Then one day before entering a met a girl from Germany and she had travelled through Bolivia for a few weeks on her own without any problems – I felt like a real pussy then. A few days before I met two girls from Ireland who told me that my beloved Arequipa was dangerous! I spent about four weeks in Arequipa the year before, going out, exploring the down on my own, walking in various areas and taking photos all over the different places. Of course there are dangerous places there, but there are also ones in Berlin, Vienna, London, New York, Hamburg, …
Sometimes it is better to ignore the bullshit people telling you, sometimes it is better to ignore the bullshit you tell yourself – challenge your assumptions and be careful while you do it.
4) Monitoring and managing “emotional energy”
One thing what was pretty tough for me and took me a while til I figured it out, was my ability to monitor and maintain my “emotional energy level”. I worked as a bar manager in a hostel for 3 weeks, since I don’t drink alcohol I could afford to join my customers into the downtown nearly every night. We had a great time, sharing the best stories, dancing, shouting and then suddenly your new best friends were gone to the next city. Yet, we just developed a quite deep connection. This costed me quite a bit of energy, I wasn’t used to that, thus after a few weeks I don’t wanted to meet new people, yet I didn’t know it consciously. Something was just not feeling right. Later on, I understood and now I know when it is time to go on my own. Lately, this was really practical after I visited two intense one-week seminars in one month and joined a small company with about 50 employees. I knew that I had to get a bit more privacy than usual to balance my “emotional energy level”.
5) Learning about my own country and people
While I was travelling through South America I learned to appreciate the fact that we have 4 different seasons in Austria. We have hot summers and freezing winters, we have a beautiful spring time and the rainy fall. In some countries these seasons are way less clear or don’t even exist. Also I learned factors that are important, when it comes to economics. A taxi in Austria is really expensive, whereas in Peru it is common for most people to use one. Well, since public transportation and private cars in Peru are very uncommon, taxis are common. Things that are totally counter-intuitive provided me with a new understanding of certain situations, when I got the big picture.
This helped in many areas from the debating club to marketing, cause I know that the situation in my country is based on other assumptions that may not exist somewhere else. Hence, I can question these common assumptions or take into account the factors that are prevalent somewhere else, but nobody thinks about at home.
What are your epiphanies and experiences, feel free to leave a comment or two ;)