Today I blew out 34 candles. ALL IN 1 TIME!!! I guess that means I’m not THAT old yet 🙂
That’s definitely how I feel anyway: as if I still was 26 but with a lot more self-confidence. I don’t feel any limit to what I can or am ‘allowed’ to do because of my age, even though many people think it would be time to get a ‘real’ life now. I don’t care, I do what I want, when I want it, when I feel ready for it, and not because someone decided now would be a good time to do it. 34 – or any age in your early 30’s – is however an age where you start looking back every once in a while to ‘evaluate’ your life and see what you’ve accomplished until now.
For me, it’s all positive.
I don’t regret anything I’ve done (well, maybe that time in college… but my parents are reading this, so let’s talk about something else. Mom, dad, I’m just writing this so that people think I’m funny, REALLY!! Hum hum OK let’s go on… ;)) and – even more important – I don’t have any regrets about things I wish I would have done but didn’t.
I think that’s the most important question we have to ask ourselves. We shouldn’t ask ourselves “Should I be doing this? Won’t I regret it later?” or tell ourselves “maybe I shouldn’t have done that” about things we’ve done in the past. Ask yourself ”Is there a chance I’ll regret NOT doing it? Will I look back later and say “if only I had …””. If the answer is “yes” or even “maybe”, than go for it – no matter how crazy the idea might be or what other people might think about it.
One of the things that has always had a big importance in my life – and even more so over the last couple of years – is traveling. It’s always been my greatest passion and I don’t regret ANY of the sacrifices I’ve made in order to be able to travel.
So on this day of my 34th birthday, I thought it would be a good time to sit down for a while and write down all the reasons why I travel. Not because I have to think hard to find them, but to look back at all those great memories from 34 years of living my life to the fullest. Here they are!
1. I travel for the beauty of things. To be amazed. For the places, moments and people that turn this world into a magnificent place. For the things that make me take the time to just stand there to stare and say “waauw”.
Left: a hike in Khao Yai National park, Thailand / Right: Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
2. I travel also for the ‘ugly’ side. For imperfection. For the things that touch me and make me cry. For running out of a place shaking and with tears in my eyes. For anger and for sadness. To dig further than what I see at first sight and get to see the real and honest version of things.
3. I travel for contrasts and contradictions. To see American veterans of the Vietnam war being worshipped like the greatest heroes of all times while the horrible images I’ve seen in Vietnam haven’t left my mind yet – and probably never will… To see people who have NOTHING being more grateful than most Europeans I know.
4. I travel for sacrifices. Because you can’t have everything in life and for that reason travel becomes a choice. Travel is not all roses. But it’s always worth it.
5. I travel for the things that make me want to slow down, stop hurrying and really enjoy the moment.
6. I travel for the things that make me want to get more of them. To be left with a feeling of ‘not enough’.
7. I travel for the constant learning process. For the way traveling makes me curious and for the lessons it teaches me. Because I never feel like I know enough. About the places I visit and the people I meet but even more about myself.
8. I travel for the way it changes me. For the way it helps me become a better version of myself in so many different ways.
9. I travel to realize I have no control over certain situations and even more to be able to accept that actually is a good thing. To realize that the only control I need is to be able to say “this is the life I’ve chosen and I’m living it to the fullest”.
10. I travel to forget all my daily habits and to learn to let go of things.
11. I travel only for myself, and will never stop because of someone else. I don’t care if people think that’s selfish. It doesn’t mean I don’t care for others or that I’m not willing to do huge things for the people I love. It only means I can’t imagine how the people who love me would be more happy knowing that I’m not, just because I decided to do them the ‘pleasure’ of staying at home.
12. I travel for emotions. ANY kind of emotions. Happiness, joy, astonishment, pride, enthusiasm, satisfaction, comfort, but also sadness, frustration, feeling lost, exhaustion, pain, anger, fear, panic, … Anything that makes me feel like I’m really living!
13. I travel for the excitement. For my heart that beats faster every time I think of my past, present and upcoming adventures. Every time I meet new people. Every time I discover a new place. Every time I live a new experience.
14. I travel for anxiety. Because it scares me a little bit every time I leave for a new adventure or set foot onto unknown grounds. And I love it!!!
15. I travel for comfort and for the lack of it. To be confronted with myself every single time.
Left: from Bangkok to Vienna in business class thanks to a special offer / Middle: waiting for a bus for 2 hours, soaking wet and so cold, followed by a 2 hours’ bus ride with maximum airconditioning (so even colder!!) / Right: exhausted after a night on a sleeping bus
16. I travel to be lost and found, in every possible way.
17. I travel because it makes me realize and accept there are no certainties in life. That if you keep on waiting for ‘tomorrow’, it might just never happen.
18. I travel for inspiration. To be inspired and to inspire others. To convince myself and others that ANYTHING is possible!
19. I travel for heartwarming messages found under the windscreen wipers of my rental car.
(our rental car was registered in the state of Washington)
20. I travel for passion. To feel passion, to send out passion. Because what’s life worth if there is no passion?
21. I travel for the journey. For long train rides in 3rd class and for talking about life with my Cuban taxi driver for over 6 hours. For that time I spent 12 hours in a way to short sleeping compartment on a night bus in Vietnam when all of a sudden I got a shiver because I realized how lucky I am – just like that.
Train ride from Ayutthaya to Pak Chong, Thailand. It was around 37°C but I had to wear a scarf because the sun was burning my skin the whole time (about 4 hours). But still smiling and making funny faces! 🙂
22. I travel also to realize that actually it doesn’t have that much to do with luck. I’m lucky to be born in Belgium, I’m lucky to be intelligent enough to have a great diploma and a good job, … That’s luck: having opportunities because you were born in a certain country or with certain talents, but it also is as far as that goes… What you decide to do with your luck isn’t called luck anymore. It’s called choosing priorities, making decisions and taking your life in your own hands. That’s what I do, that’s what I’m most proud of.
23. I travel for the stories. For the “oooohs” and “waaaauuuws” and the feeling of total happiness I get when I tell them. For those times when people tell me how they love the sparks in my eyes and the genuine smile on my face every time I talk about my adventures.
24. I travel to be able to do things I’d never get to do at home. Because there’s less constraints but also because some situations simply wouldn’t happen at home. I don’t think I’ll ever get to bribe a Belgian police officer to avoid being arrested for a fake traffic violation (you try that in Belgium, you’re in double trouble!) or have 45 people standing around me in a circle just staring at me because they think I’m sooooooo beautiful or soooooooo special or soooooo like nothing they’ve ever seen before.
25. I travel not only to see things, but to feel and live them. New things, different things, unknown things.
Man I’m starting to wish I was 25 again… No, just kidding, let’s continue! 🙂
26. I travel for the experiences, and to realize there’s no such thing as a bad experience (*), only life lessons that teach me things, make me push the limits of my comfort zone and make me realize I can handle almost anything. I don’t travel in spite of the ‘bad’ experiences, I travel because of them.
(*) Unless you get violated, injured or things like that.
Picture: On the road in Thailand, after the 57th scam of the week with my leave-me-alone-and-don’t-you-dare-take-a-picture-of-me-face. Two minutes later, I was smiling again! 🙂
27. I travel also for the people. To see how they are all different and identical at the same time. For the way they impact me and for the impact – even if it’s just a tiny one – I hope to have on them. To hear their stories and to write my own.
28. I travel for that moment when I discovered there’s people who don’t even know where Europe is. For discussions with people that are so stuck in communism, the simple fact of asking them “why” is something they’re completely unable to handle.
29. I travel to see with my own eyes that many of the things us Europeans take for granted are only a dream for so many people. To see what happens when you take away democracy, human rights, equality between men and women, the freedom to believe whatever you want, … I travel to be humble and thankful.
30. I travel for long conversations with strangers and the feeling like I’ve known them all my life.
31. I travel for smoking cigars, drinking cocktails and dancing salsa all night with the locals. To get to know them, stay at their place and eat at their table.
Getting to know the locals in Viñales, Cuba
32. I travel for restored faith in human beings. For the kindness and warmth I get from complete strangers. For the help they offer, even though they have ‘nothing’ themselves.
33. I travel to feel home at 10.000 miles from where I live.
34. I travel, and I would travel even if I didn’t have the 33 previous reasons to do it. I travel because it made me who I am. I travel because it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I travel because it makes me happy, and that’s all that counts…
So that’s it! I could probably come up with 34 more reasons, but you’ll have to wait for that untill I’m 68! 🙂
So, up to you now. Why do YOU travel? Let me know in the comments!
And me? Well, I’m going to check out that other birthday present I got now… 🙂
Panasonic LX100 silver – Source: Panasonic