Travel might fill you up and leave you empty.
What have I gained after 20 countries and 8 years, I ask myself. Nothing much, is the first thing that pops in my mind. But there has to be something, I protest. I didn’t spend this time and money for nothing.
I’ve lived, studied, and worked across three continents before I turned 27.
I understand some people have seen much more, but after this journey, I’ve got a grasp on what hides behind the life on the road.
A globetrotting mentality will indeed help you build a particular character. New places breed fresh experiences. I’m a more tolerable person now. Less stuff seems to bother me. I’ve came to piece with how insignificant our existence is in the grand scheme of life.
Travel quotes took me for a ride — each one of them reinstated my internal bias. I’d love telling others how travel is the only investment that always yields profit.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” — Mary Anne Radmacher
New cultures, new places, and exciting experiences indeed changed me as a person. But have I gained anything else besides the character, few unique stories, and a bunch of Instagram photos.
Short answer; It’s complicated.
I won’t tell you that travel is wrong. But the constant road doesn’t bring contempt.
What do I feel while writing this post from China?
Part of me is empty.
Travel is a high you get before you disembark on your journey. It’s like a hit of substance that will leave you in awe for a minute and then disappear.
If you’re always chasing the dragon, it will eventually leave you feeling distraught.
Why would you feel empty?
Short answer; because you haven’t built a home.
Some might argue that home is not a place but a feeling on the inside. And I agree, partially. Home is also a place. To build something meaningful, you need a harbor.
You’ll need a place you’re willing to come back and build from grounds. You’ll need a place for your family.
Constant Travelers are not Happy
This is the truth. Look at all the backpackers of the world; they’re chill and fun, but something is not there. They have stories, but they don’t have themselves. And this is the truth.
The road might reinvent you as a person. And we’ll all need an exciting journey or two in our life. But as with everything in life, there is something as too much. Too much travel in not good.
The constant journey will make you feel like you’re a tourist in lives of others. You’re just passing by. Next week or month, you won’t be here. And nothing will truly change. Business will continue as usual. Their lives will stay the same.
Now, this is a depressing thought. You’ll have thousands of superficial friends. But how many of them might you call family?
Not too many.
The good thing is that you’ll mostly remember the good moments. Unfortunately, life is not a series of good moments. Life is more complicated. It’s a chaotic conundrum of sweet, ugly and sideways. And real families understand that.
What happened in the last 8 years? I came to realize that I haven’t build anything except myself.
Having yourself is excellent, and much needed, but not having a place you call home is sad. It might leave you feeling miserable.
I don’t have an apartment or a permanent car. Why would I? I don’t need them.
I don’t have kids, because how in the hell would I raise them?
What do I have? Stories. And a peculiar skillset.
Stories are fun and bring value to the developed infrastructure of life. If you don’t have a place you call home, those stories might be just fun, an exciting moment that will pass soon. Who will have you then?
“Life is one big party when you’re still young, but who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done” — Shaggy
Acres Of Diamonds by Russell Conwell
Russell Conwell was one of the original motivational speakers. He traveled the world and inspired people to find Acres of Diamonds in their backyards. Reportedly, he held this lecture more than 6000 times.
If you never had the opportunity to read this story, take your time now. It’s essential for any young soul that yearns to see the world.
I heard it many years ago, and it never left my head since.
There was once a wealthy man named Ali Hafed. He lived near the River Indus. The man was content because he was wealthy and wealthy because he was content. He owned a large farm with orchards, grain-fields, and gardens. One day a Buddhist priest visited Ali Hafed and told him about diamonds. He explained the riches that come with owning the shiny stone.
Ali Hafed heard about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor. And he was poor because he grew unhappy. He grew unhappy because he feared he was poor.
Ali Hafed sold his farm, left his family, and traveled around the world, searching for diamonds. He did not find them. His health and his wealth failed him. He spent his money. Dejected, he cast himself into the sea.
One day, the man who had purchased Ali Hafed’s farm found a sparkling stone in a stream that cut through his land. It was a diamond. Digging produced more diamonds — acres of diamonds. The farmhouse turned out to be one of the biggest diamond digs in the known world.
Read the full story here.
Should you start physically digging your own garden? Probably not, if you don’t want to plant new greenery.
The story points to the fact that we often dream about opportunities in foreign lands. You might forget to open your eyes to the opportunities around you.
Turn around and look at the familiar in a new way. Find a unique perspective on the old. See what you can build. Don’t look for fortune elsewhere, create one yourself.
Don’t chase the dragon. He’s already in your back yard.
I Don’t Want to Stop my Journey
New places and new people are sometimes necessary. They breed excitement. New places slow time and prolong your days.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t travel. I’m saying that you should always come back home. In the process, don’t forget where home truly is. It might be a feeling in you, but it’s also a place. It has to be a place. It’s impossible to build significant value while being on the road.
Bands don’t produce top-of-the-charts albums while touring the world.
They produce their best work in home studios.
You’re learning, developing, and creating memories. That is nice. But all of this is you, and just you. You have to stop and invest your time and energy to build for others. It’s essential to build a family. And each family takes time, energy, and sacrifice.
It’s impossible to continually travel and be content. After a while, all the bright colors of new places start to fade away. In the end, you might find yourself pacing emptily. You’ll be empty even if you lived your best life.
Turn around and see what you can build. Invest long-term.
I’ll leave you with a quote from a stamp visitors get at the entrance of the infamous Berlin nightclub.
“Don’t forget to go home” — Berghain.