As the year draws to an end I find myself reflecting on my travels this year. More than 110,000 miles traveled, 51 landings, 18 countries visited, 10 visas, boarded 12 different airlines, stayed 168 days away from home, slept in 27 hotels, dealt with 15 different languages and tried to make sense of 9 distinct alphabets. But most importantly I again realized that traveling is not about having a minute-to-minute itinerary executed with German precision. It is about stepping outside of your comfort bubble, realizing that the world is so much bigger than your perspective and letting go of the island mentality which really doesn’t fit in today’s global reality.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to work in Asia and to be able to travel in this amazing continent. I want to thank my family and friends who have supported me through thick and thin.
Here are some of the lessons I learned through a few pictures.
Going vegan. Plant-based meals are healthy and anything but boring. It’s a way of life in many Asian countries and among Buddhists. Here I’m ready to have a delicious spicy vegan meal in Thimpu (Bhutan).
It is about connecting with people. It is important not to have your drinks and meals in the comfort of your hotel or among hundreds of tourists just like you. Go out. Always be careful, but go out and connect with people. Having a “homemade whiskey” in the living room of a rice farmer in Xiankhouang (Laos).
Small town travels. The world is chuck-full of cool, interesting and beautiful small towns. Yet often we limit ourselves to the big cities and forget that these small gems are out there and often at a very reasonable distance from the cities. Lambertville, New Jersey (USA), pop. 3,900.
Challenge yourself. If you are physically fit, take a brisk walk or hike. Mount Everest (Tibet) at 5,200 meters. Any further non-professional hikers cannot go. Yet this didn’t spoil the moment for me.
Challenge yourself. Hike up to the Tiger’s Nest, a Buddhist temple in Pharo (Bhutan) at 3,300 meters above sea level.
Get in touch with yourself. Buddhism has assumed many different forms derived from the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama which is compassion. Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. At a retreat in a Buddhist temple in Yangon (Myanmar).
Leave your map at home. You can have fun while walking around without a map. How else would I have bumped into these two characters on the streets of Seoul (Korea) dressed up as vegetables during the annual Cabbage Festival?
Be amazed. Angkor Wat (Cambodia) one of the World Wonders.
Machu Picchu (Peru), another World Wonder.
People watching. Don’t be afraid to sit down, and just watch people walking by and going about their daily chores. Xigaze (Tibet).
I’m looking forward to other lands and assignments in my quest to fill my bucket with mind-expanding life experiences. Ready for 2018.