I learned that when you travel the world, and visit different cultures, it is important to let go of everything that is going on at home, and just take in what is happening in the present moment no matter where you are. Being away from friends and family is hard, and homesickness can always occur and often does, but it just ruins the experience of traveling and learning. People at home only understand a part of what you are really experiencing, and misunderstandings often occur. These misunderstandings are hard to resolve since communication is the toughest part about being so far away. Don’t spend all your energy trying to please everyone, you are by yourself, and they are too far away, it is not worth trying to hold on to something that you have no control over. Be free, live in the now, not the past, and get excited about the future.
So much has happened the past 4 months; sometimes it feels like it was all just a dream. I turned 21, saw 13 countries, sailed through 3 oceans and 4 seas, met amazing people, made new friends as well as good networking connections, engaged in different cultures, expanded my comfort zone even more, and I really learned a lot about myself!
How do you summarize traveling around the globe and to 4 continents? I would summarize it in: sensory overload! I am exhausted, because I’ve seen things that I could never have dreamed off, ate things I probably didn’t want to eat, talked to people that have never seen a white person before, got into difficult situations and had to rely on my intuition, oh and I also had a full time class schedule!!! It was amazing, and I loved every second of it!
I learned more about other cultures and saw real poverty. I learned more about meditation, how to control my thoughts and the benefits of it. I learned how to be peaceful and not stressed and just breath even in difficult situations. I learned how to eat properly, work out and to take care of myself. I learned more about time management and to take advantage of accessible resources. I gained more confidence, independence, and I expanded my comfort zone. I made amazing connections with awesome people, learned a lot from Unreasonable at Sea entrepreneurs and made friends for life!
Some countries impacted, shocked and surprised me more than others, and every country and experience was unique. There were a lot of things that I did not expect or that changed the stereotypes I unconsciously had in my mind!
I was surprised by how friendly Japanese people are, and how reserved Chinese people came across. I was shocked by how many men in India, Ghana and Morocco would just come straight up to you, talk to you, touch you or make weird comments; they were scary! Burma really surprised me because it was not influenced by tourism or the west at all, everything was really unique and cultural. Singapore surprised me because it was so modern and did not fit in with all the other Asian countries we visited. The Taj Mahal in India, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Cape of Good Hope in South Africa were some of the most beautiful pieces of earth I have ever seen, so peaceful, beautiful, natural and amazing! South Africa felt like home and it was easy to let your guards down, however, it also has the highest crime rate, which did not fit together in my opinion. I thought that Burma would be the poorest country we visit, given that it was closed up to the west for so long and has a really bad economy, however, Ghana was actually the poorest country. It was exactly like I imagined a third world country to be, I just did not expect Ghana to be one for some reason. The lack of running water and electricity in the villages almost made me cry, because it just made me feel super spoiled! However, this experience just inspired me to find my own way to help out.
I realized what a great impact religion has on so many countries and cultures. If you are not religious in, well actually most countries we visited, but mostly Burma and Morocco, you are being looked down upon and an outsider. Being religious is not only a faith, it is a lifestyle; people don’t even doubt the existence of a higher power. This might be because of tradition, family and community values, and the lack of education. I noticed that the poorer the country is, the greater is the religious influence and the stronger is the belief.
It shocked me not so much how underdeveloped some countries are, but how much power men have in most countries we visited, but especially India and Morocco. Women often have not many rights and are limited to the role of wife, housewife and mother. However, this is changing with the newer generations, due to the influence of the west. People realize more and more that they have options and that they can be more and do more than their parents and community tell them. The world is becoming more and more global.
I also noticed how many men in the different cultures wear clothes that are similar to dresses or skirts. Men in Burma wear logis, which are wrapping skirts; men in India, Ghana and Vietnam also wear either full body cover-ups or skirt-like clothing. Well, of course all of them also wear western clothes every now and then, but the traditional clothes include a skirt-like fashion.
Another thing that shocked me is how some countries skipped some important developing steps. For example, in Ghana, instead of having running water and electricity, most people living in those poor villages have cell phones and Internet. How does this make sense?
Most importantly however I learned that you should never compare other countries to the western world. Europe and America are more modern, have different values, are used to different conditions, are more influenced by the media and politics and are often a melting pot of cultures. Cultures in Asia and Africa stick more to their traditions and rituals, value community life more and independence less. When visiting other countries we should not go in there trying to change everything to what we are used to in the west, people might not like that. If we want to help developing countries to overcome poverty and increase life satisfaction, we need to ask the people in the country what they need from us! Don’t visit a developing country thinking that you are better, just because you are from the west. People in developing countries are just as happy as we are, they are used to having less and often they don’t even know how our lives really look like. However, the key factors to increase life satisfaction, life span and to decrease poverty would be to invest in better education and medical care, that’s actually all they often need. Well yes, to build a water supply is also important, but the key is to teach developing countries to help themselves!
When I think back at the past 4 months, I just start smiling, because the things that come to my mind are the late-night talks I had with my roommates, and all the stories and advice we shared. I also remember the woman in Ghana that came up to me with a tampon in her hand asking me what this was for. I remember the smile of the little girl in the township I visited in South Africa. I remember standing in front of the Taj Mahal thinking about how much this guy must have loved his wife. I remember hitchhiking in Hawaii and how we could not stop laughing once we got back to the ship because we couldn’t believe that we just did that. I remember living in an apartment in Shanghai, looking out of the window and thinking that I definitely prefer rain to smog. I remember sitting in the car in South Africa, driving along the oceanfront, feeling free, happy and without any worries. I remember walking down the streets in Fes being surprised by how undeveloped this area was, but not in a bad way, it was just like going back to medieval times. I remember waking up to the beauty of Ha Long Bay thinking that I have never seen a more peaceful and beautiful piece of earth!
This trip has really changed my life. It changed the way I look at the world, at poverty, toilets, people, races, classes, religion, traditions and it also changed the way I look at myself as a member of this community called planet earth!
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end!” – Greenday