I don’t own a flat, have a mortgage nor a car. The only furniture I own (not counting the ones which came with the rented flat) are a desk and an office chair. I don’t have a permanent job nor a master plan for my future. I have spent the last three months travelling across Southeast Asia with just a hand luggage. And I’ve never been happier and more calm than I am now.
It wasn’t always this way. Before I left, I constantly compared myself to others who had more (there will always be people who have more and social media make sure we don’t forget about it). I used to spend money on things which I thought would make me happy, but in the end they altered my mood only for a moment. I asked myself about the purpose in life. I often felt lost.
Here are five things I learnt during my travels.
1/ A different approach to life and material things. Now when I’m tempted to compare myself to others, I remind myself the smiling faces of the Burmese. According to the western standards, they have nothing. According to their standards – they have everything. “Everything” means to them: family, a shabby house to sleep in and food for tonight. “Everything” can mean completely different things to us. But it’s up to us if we decide to be happy with what we already have or complain that we always don’t have enough.
2/ People live different lifestyles and it’s ok. I have understood that ambition is relative. For the Burmese or ethnic minorities in Thailand, the biggest happiness is to stay in their village and continue their parents’ hard work in the fields. Most of them will never visit a big town, won’t go to the university nor get a degree. Not because they can’t. It’s because they don’t want to. They have their way of life and they are happy.
3/ The most important thing is to live in the present. It’s one of the elements of Buddhism, which is the most popular religion in Southeast Asia. You can see it in their faces. It’s not worth to constantly worry about the future or analyse the past too much. By doing so you loose the precious minutes of today. If you don’t know what to do with your life yet, try being grateful for what you have right now. Open yourself to new smells, people, offers and the relief to your worries will eventually come.
4/ Stepping outside of your comfort zone is always worth it. Even, if it’s very painful (most of the time it is). Each new experience brings us closer to who we really are. It helps us learn about the world and ourselves. Always.
5/ Appreciate what you have. When I lay my head on my comfy pillow after a 24-hour journey, I felt overflown with joy. I live in a friendly, clean city, with lots of opportunities. Women have equal rights as men, sunbathing topless is socially acceptable and you can throw toilet paper into the toilet bowl.
This travel has taught me as much about the world and cultures, as about myself.
I don’t regret a single penny I spent on it. The only thing I can regret is that I didn’t go travelling before. And although I still dream about my own flat, a baby blue Vespa and a new iPhone, I now know that the only purpose of those things is to make our life easier. We have to make ourselves happy.
I don’t want to tell anyone how to live, but if you already have “everything”, and you’re still not happy, perhaps today it’s time to buy that ticket to see this paradise island, which dreamed of when you were little.
However trivially that sounds…
You only live once.
PS If you agree with this post, share it with your friends. Let’s inspire more people to travel!