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Does travelling change you?

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Yes it does!

I’ve changed, like everyone changes in a year, but this time the change seems slightly bigger.

Living, moving and working in different places, around different people, in different environments and at different paces. I have adopted the life of a digital nomad and will see where and how far this will lead me. My home has become everywhere I put my backpack down, and the inside of my backpack has become everything I own and need. ( I wonder what I will do about all the boxes in my mom’s attic…)

I went far out of my comfort zone to find out that I need very few material things in my life (like this laptop I’m writing on right now or my camera and maybe a few clothes). I didn’t know I could do half of the things I did this year and that my standards of life are actually much lower than I thought. That I am ok with the bare minimum when it comes to living conditions and that the simple and easy life in a hut in nature with ice-cold showers and no fridge or fan and daily encounters with all kinds of crawling creatures could actually suit me. That eating simple food and meditating, working with my body in yoga or dance and walking instead of driving a car would improve my well-being and make me literally “feel” much better in my body.

Social life on the road 

My social life is very different too but somehow richer because I am connected to different people in very different places on the globe and I meet new people on a weekly or even daily basis. Some stay along, some leave, some come back… Of course, at times, I miss my family and friends back home but the more I am in this traveling loop, the more I meet people who have exactly the same lifestyle and I‘m still astonished that there actually are so many of us long-term travellers.

I learned that once I let go of any desire, of any attachment of any rule or plan and any materialistic needs, the true magic happens. We don’t need much to be truly happy and everything we ask for can happen only if we are completely free of desire. Some of the “poorest” people I’ve met in slums, remote villages or in the mountain areas in Asia were actually much happier than any person I’ve ever met in a european city. Those simple encounters made me understand so much, in a short period of time. 

Being a digital nomad 

For more than half a year, I didn’t work at all… I really just enjoyed travelling around, encountering interesting people and having all this free time. It was my period of adapting to a new lifestyle. It felt very different to be able to do exactly what you feel like doing at any moment which is exactly the opposite of the system I grew up in, where there is always some goal to reach (school, job, money, housing, etc.) We don’t realise that we are in this system until we break out of it. I slowly integrated the idea that I can actually choose every day. I can choose to work, I can choose to have free time, I can choose to be in nature or in a city, I can choose to be around people or by myself, I can choose every single detail of my life. That didn’t occur to me before in the way it does now. I started to work as a freelancer after some months because it’s my passion to tell stories, approach the world with curiosity and share my discoveries with others through different media. So basically that’s what I do now; traveling and working. I am working less, because I need less money on the road but I am productive in a manner that suits me today. I’m also starting some creative work around performing arts here in India, and am still supporting NGO’s or other people of structures that can use my help.

New levels of happiness 

I can say that I am a happier version of myself today. Not that I wasn’t happy before, I actually am aware of the fact that I had and have a very happy life and I am grateful for that. I was very happy in my job, in my career, in my relationship, my home, my family and friends … BUT I’ve never felt completely free, I was stressed out about the future and my life wasn’t balanced. It was either full on, giving all my energy and passion to my work or other creative projects, or completely off and I was going out to have drinks and party. The scale has set somewhere in the middle now and that’s when a constant feeling of happiness and freedom started to grow.

I went away and found myself again somehow. I met myself a long time ago, when I was a child eager to be happy and when that was the only thing I wanted. But I forgot about it throughout the years. Music made me purely happy, arts, creativity and later on filming and capturing the moment as it is. When I am in the flow, nothing else matters in that precise moment. I am just doing exactly what I am supposed to do. This happens to me in different moments, for example while practising yoga, meditating, diving, singing or filming, recording, trying to tell a story. A story of an other human being, how he sees this world, in what condition he is in and why that made him the human that he is today. I feel alive when I‘m moving, I feel alive when I stay in a place until I feel it’s time to move. I feel alive when I can do just whatever feels right in that moment.

Travelling in Asia and especially in India for one year and seeing how other people live and in what conditions they are brought up, made me understand how lucky I actually am. Growing up in the western world I had all the support I needed.  I didn’t have to fight a lot to be where I am today. Of course everything I did had an influence on where and who I am now, but if I recall right, most of the things always worked out for me. In mine, just like everyone else at times ; I’ve had bad luck, experienced deaths of loved ones and witnessed how cruel and selfish many people can be in the world. But still, I would say I’m one of the very lucky ones, because even in my saddest moments something ALWAYS came up that made me understand what was going on, what it was I could learned from this situation, and that, by simply accepting everything and letting it happen, I would grow.

No plan is still the best plan 

Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes our minds try very hard to rationalise what it happening around us. In those moment we are not in synch with reality anymore, we are questioning what is happening, we are trying to find a purpose… but the purpose isn’t important. The only thing we need to truly follow all the signs we get every single day. They might be very small at some times, like a song playing on the radio with just the right lyrics, a funny matching email title telling you exactly what you need to hear, random coincidences of seeing the same people or object ever and ever again and which are connected to an emotion, a direction, a way. Like a recurrent theme of a boat, is maybe indicating that a boat journey is ahead, or even deeper than that; that you have to let the safe harbour go and just follow your dreams. There are not many ways to follow your purpose or dream in life, but by listening carefully inside ourselves, we can achieve the unbelievable, and we can get wherever we have to be in that particular moment in time. Once we realise that, life get easy.

One year ago I wrote : Where will I go? What will I see? Who will I meet? How will I handle seizing the day and having no agenda whatsoever…?

I’m still finding answers to those same questions every single day and it’s great! 

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2 responses to “Does travelling change you?”

  1. Hello says:

    Hey Sarah, by chance and through facebook I landed on your page and it is so nice to read this text as I just came back from 10 months in Latin America 2 weeks ago. I usually do not comment blogs but I felt I had to, as I am from Luxembourg as well and share the same thoughts/feelings while I travelling. I agree with so many things you wrote, for example that you did not expect meeting so many long-travellers on your way, that you don’t need more stuff than what’s in your backpack, that the only expensive item is your camera and laptop and so on. But I also agree on some feelings you describe and I love that you live day by day, you’re active in some NGOs and you’re not making too big plans in advance. One comment from me is that you should think about whether you changed once you’re back because now that I arrived back in Lux, everything feels normal again, I start taking old habits again and I wonder if I changed or not..? I am still figuring it out and this is a weird task. The environment around here makes you take your old habits again eventhough I don’t want to take them again, for example buying a new item of clothes every other week eventhough I do not need to! I did not buy clothes during my whole trip and I felt right/good. It’s difficult to explain but I would be interested how you feel when you get back home, I try not to compare/relativiser( in french) while back in the country now. well, I wish you a nice continuation and keep up the blog 🙂 greetings!

  2. Sarah Cattani says:

    Hello and thank you very much for this feedback. I’m happy to read that I am not the only who feels and thinks in the same way, and very nice that you are from Luxembourg too. Where have u been in Southamerica? I can only imagine how it is to be back home and of course that shifts the changes into a very different life. I hope you will not fall into ALL the old habits 🙂 but it’s very difficult because the people and society around you do live in those patterns, and we all tend to follow.
    Of course my experience will be very different once I visit Luxembourg again, and I will be happy to share that, whenever that may be 🙂 For now I’m still on the road. THX a LOT!

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