Half time – taking stock

After the first half of my trip is over, it is time to reflect and look back on the amazing 2 1/2 months that have brought me from Berlin, Germany to Saranda, Albania. I will do this in English so that all the people I was fortunate enough to meet on my trip can follow for once without using google translate on my blog.

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

Every a-quote-a-day-calendar is full of truisms that all come down to the ancient Latin motto of “Carpe Diem”. In my life, I have most always failed to free myself from worries about the future. The question of what it is that I want has always been a matter of great presence in my mind, in my way of thinking, and I always struggled hard to achieve whatever I thought at that time to be the answer. I realize now that I don’t have to know the answer now. An Australian girl in Mostar put it in these words: “Right now, all I am worried about is where I am going next. This is a problem I like having.” I wholeheartedly share this view, and it puts my mind at ease to for once be able to live in the moment and be who I am without regard for who I might want to be tomorrow or who I was yesterday.
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
This way of living in the moment alerts you to your surroundings much more than a daily routine ever could. We have so many automatisms in our lives, things we do every morning or every day after lunch time. We don’t question them anymore. It is impossible to fall into those behavioral patterns when you are traveling. Every day I wake up and ask myself where I am, and more often than not the answer puts a smile on my face because I realize that my journey has brought me, almost without any fault of my own, to a new exciting place. People often ask me if I have booked hostels or flights or trains. I have nothing booked. My greatest pleasure is the fact that I can stay wherever I like to be and that I can leave wherever I am unhappy.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
People also ask me how I like traveling on my own, if I do not get lonely or bored. The latter strikes me as quite incredible. It is impossible to be bored in a world that has so much to offer, in a world that I do not yet know and will never entirely see through, but can only strive to understand better and better. I am happy with myself when I am strolling along a main boulevard in a foreign city, reading my book on a bridge over a green river, or sitting on a hilltop castle in the sun. What is much more important, however, is that I am never really alone. More than anything, the people I have met on this trip have taught me new views on life and the world.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Different people have contributed to the most important insight I have made for myself: that nothing i set in stone, and that I do not have to have my life planned out at the age of 25, that I can always try to do one thing and then change to another, and that I am capable of living a stable life without staying in the same career field or city forever. I always thought I needed stability. Never would I have thought that the knowledge that I can choose a different path in my life at any given day, even if it requires massive change, would put my uneasy mind to rest and give me the stability I was looking for. I owe this insight especially to Roni in Rijeka, to Bata in Mostar, to Lazar in Novi Sad and to my travel pal Aussie-Steve. I am blessed to have you in my life.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
I have done things on this trip that I would not have thought I was capable of. I have seen amazing things, heard amazing stories, smelled unknown scents, and found new loves. It is an experience without which my life would be incomplete, already now when I still have the same amount of time to go. I wish for me to never arrive at a place again, but to always look at the world with the eyes of a traveler, because
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

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