My life right now feels like a rollercoaster. Everything goes by way too fast. I’ve lost perspective. I’m holding on to everything I can. I’m enjoying it, I really do, but everytime the ride stops for a second, just right before it dives down into a big loop or a crazy “free fall”, I think about how exhausted I am, how I miss my home and how soon it’s all going to be over. But those seconds are so short, I forget about them when the ride goes on. And it goes on and on and on.
Covered in merchandise of your university. Being so proud that you are a part of this community. Getting lost while running around campus hoping to get free food/ drinks/ plants/ anything actually.
Being friends with people after seconds because you were standing in the same line at some bookshop and you talked for 10 minutes. Sitting on the grass after class with your free food & drink (today a bagel and a package of timbits) reading the free book you got from the reading club.
Life is so exciting. No day the same. One freezing cold doing yoga in the park or dancing at a pep rally, the other crazy hot laying in a dress in the sun and getting a sunburn.
Your friends live either 15 minutes away in another residence or sometimes even next door. But that doesn’t really matter because you don’t spend any time at home. You’re too busy exploring and participating in all the activites. Sports, clubs, talks, drinks, dances, tours, readings, theaters, murder mysteries, walks…
Walking in a crowd of 25’000 students, going to interesting classes, studying in the library. You’re finally a part of something so big it blows your mind. You’re one of them. You’re a gryphon, proud, loud and happy. Smilingly you walk around campus, sun in your face, wind in your hair, the keys dangling on your chest, a uni mug filled with cheap coffee in your hand, a “gryphon facts” T-shirt tugged in in your jeans and you’re humming a song from valley.
That’s what you came all the way over the wide ocean for. That’s the feeling Marina Keegan described in her article in The Opposite of Loneliness in the yale daily news:
“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.”
In a foreign land, way too far away from home I find myself walking into bookstores to feel less lonely. Books give me a sense of purpose, something to do even if the place I’m visiting is shitty or it’s raining or way too hot. Books distract me from the discomfort in dirty hostels, accompany me at breakfast, lunch and dinner and allow me to dream of different places.
Bookstores or libraries no matter the size or the language relieve me from stress immediately. I can spend hours reading the back of books, walking along the aisle of different topics and getting to know different writers.
But my favorite part about bookstores/libraries is to look for books I’ve already read and loved a lot. Once I found them I reread my favorite lines and feel a sense of familiarity and happiness. Even though I might be miles away from home and everything that I know, reading those lines makes me realize that I’m not alone. I can feel the books physically, read the lines with clarity and I feel at home in a different way. At home in a way that is not geographically defined.
And with that sense of familiarity I walk out of the bookstore with a smile on my face, more bravery in my heart and go on exploring the unknown.
Everybody always told me how much fun they had while they traveled and how many cool people from all over the world they have got to know. Friendships that stayed for a lifetime, love that brought people from different continents together. But then when I was actually on the road I felt really lonely. No one was talking to me and vice versa. I fell back into a “dark memory” of mine, being known as the “silent girl”.
To overcome this state of unhappiness and loneliness I wrote down a few tips for me and you on how to talk to people while you travel:
- Talk to your roomates
The easiest tip is always talk to the people in your room in your hostel. Start off easy with questions like “Where are you from?”, “How long have you stayed in this hostel/city/country?”, “Do you have any tips for the city/country?”
- Go on free walking tours
The best mix of historical backround about a city, local tips and strangers you can meet in one package. And you can even pay/ tip as much as you want. The perfect opportunity to meet people and have little conversations while you walk around the city. You could start a chat with “That looks beautiful! Have you ever seen something like that before?” or “Hi, where are you from?”. And after the tour you can ask the nicest person of the tour what they have in plan for the rest of the day and if you can join them.
- Have a conversation in the kitchen
While cooking you’re usually more relaxed. So in the hostel kitchen you can always say “Ooh, that smells nice. What are you making?” or simply wishing someone “Bon Appétit”.
- Join activites from the hostel
Similar to the free walking tour, but the activities differentiate more. Some hostels make a pubcrawl, others a movie night, bonfires, hiking trips… there it’s pretty easy to get into a conversation. And if you’re still shy there’s a big chance that someone else’s going to talk to you.
And when you made the step to talk to strangers, embrace the awkwardness, don’t feel weird if a minute of silence comes along. You’re still not far from being strangers, and that’s totally fine.
Make those life long friends from all over the planet! Enjoy becoming best friends with strangers in just a few hours, appreciate the deep talks, the open conversations and the immediate connections. Because in the end that’s what really matters about traveling and what you’ll remember forever.
For me leaving is physically and mentally painful. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I’m so emotional and want to hide in my room forever. Saying goodbye to my bestest friends, to my sister, my parents, my pets is heartbreaking.
Then why are we still leaving, if it is so freaking hard to do? Why do we push ourselves and hurt ourselves even though we know how painful it is? Why do we leave our home, our family, our friends, our jobs, our unis, our pets, our hometown, our comfortzone when we don’t have to?
The answer stays unknown to me. But even though I don’t want to leave at all right now I frequently suffer from “Fernweh”. The well known German word for sickness of the foreign life. The opposite of homesickness. The need to go abroad, away from home.
I think John Green captured the matter about leaving really genuinely in one of his beautiful books “
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”
Effortlessly floating besides fishes, crabs and dolphines. Free from all the judgement, the cruelty and the pressure from above the water. Peacfully swimming and thinking without the expactation of saying something meaningful. It is her happy place. Where she feels like her true self.
Sometimes other mermaids or acquaintances would join her on her daily trip. With them the underwater world didn’t seem so scary and lonely. But at the same time she needed the space to be alone some days. These days it was hard to find a space alone.
Even when the current was rough and waves were crashing down, leaving a white foam. Or when hundreds of boats were on the water, it was quiet and peaceful down there. She couldn’t hear them shouting, partying or awfully singing. All she could hear was her heartbeat steady and healthy.
With her eyes wide open she swam through nights and days. Thinking about problems and possible solutions, making to do lists or singing a song. And sometimes, just sometimes she could even turn her thinking off and just float with a blank mind. Those were her favorite moments under water.
A while ago I was walking past this crazy expensive Tesla when I heard two people shouting at eachother. I didn’t hear what the argument was about but it made me think about happiness and the expectations of it.
As a child I always expected to be extremly happy on my brithdays, on christams and on holiday. I put so much pressure on myself to have the time of my life. And when the event actually happend and I didn’t feelf as happy or fufilled I was dissapointet.
This way of thinking still hunts me in my early 20’s. I have all these wishes and expectations of my exchange semester, solo traveling time and my birthday party 7’000 km from home. But besides my expectations of certain events, I additionally have it for reaching milestones. For example I expect me to find an amazing job/ internship once I graduate or once I move out I’ll imagine myself to have lovely flatmates and home parties every month.
The truth is I will never reach those expectations. The reality is always different from my dreams. And I know that but I can’t stop myself from imagine what I wish the future would be like.
Looking back at this couple in the Tesla, it’s not just events or milestones that come with expectations, it’s also material things. For example the car or a laptop, a dress or a book. Those things might make you momentarily happy but in the long run you must find happyiness in yourself. From feeling content with your mind and body. And with the people you surround yourself with.