Three countries in 3 days, what does that mean?
Have we started traveling faster and faster?
Actually, we have slowed down a lot since we started exploring the world back in 2018.
However, the past week has been full of travel days and complete changes in cultures and traditions, and my mind could not avoid making some profound reflections on them all.
Travel inevitably brings you to think constantly and question everything you have grown up to believe as your truth, while instead, you soon realize it is the truth of that little section of the world where you grew up, but there is so much more out there!
When our travels started…
In 2018, when we started moving around the globe, there was so much excitement in what we were doing that we weren’t paying attention to certain details of the path we had set out to explore. We were taking in everything we saw! Just like a person lost in the desert who finally finds an oasis and can’t stop drinking the water without even noticing the large amount of sand in it. We were thirsty for more!
There was so much to see and so much to do that sometimes I felt my brain couldn’t take it all in. That is one of the reasons why I took so many photos. I wanted to keep those memories alive forever, and when the memory of that moment disappeared, the image had the power to bring it back.
We were speeding through countries to take in as much as possible before ending these big adventures. It was planned as a gap year, but we extended it to a non-specific end date shortly after setting off. As you keep on going, you always wonder if it will end at one point, so a small part of us still wanted to keep taking in as much as possible, just in case everything would end sooner than expected.
Can anyone relate to this feeling? Do you ever feel you don’t want to waste time or opportunities to see as much as possible? Otherwise, you might never have the chance. But do we need to see everything, or simply what feels important for us?
The change in our way of exploring
Once COVID happened, our way of traveling and seeing the world changed. Unfortunately, this new pandemic had profoundly changed the world around us in a very short time. A new fear had crept into everyone’s life, and now what we had in front of us was not the authentic cultures we were seeking to learn about but a modified version of something that used to be, where the priorities changed. The lack of trust was at their base, and they feared we could bring this new sickness to their home country.
This was understandable and inevitable, thanks to the fear-based information we were bombarded with daily. For a while, we had to seek places that welcomed us anyway and didn’t see us as dangerous. There were some, and they were the ones we explored, although this new world pandemic greatly influenced the culture in that moment.
At this point, a change happened to our way of traveling: we stopped speeding through places.
This was when we realized that our choice of leaving our home in 2018 was in preparation for this historical time.
In fact, during our time in our cozy apartment in Patan, Nepal, we looked at the world from our little balcony, waiting patiently for the day when we would be free to return to explore. We started truly appreciating the opportunity to be together 24/7 in this small but welcoming home. We made the best of that moment and have lovely memories.
We started looking at the everyday little things with new eyes during this time.
The lady across the street from us would stand in front of her window balcony every day at the same time and look at the empty street, probably wondering when the busy life would be going through them again.
Every morning, we woke to “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which our neighbor would play pretty loud and without other noises interfering, such as people and cars; this beautiful sound would fill the streets.
Every morning before, the little square under our apartment was filled with fruit and veggie street vendors until 8:30 a.m.; after that, we were all forced to go back into hiding inside.
This is when we started paying attention to the details rather than limiting ourselves to the general picture. The details of those moments filled our days and made us love even more a time that was so difficult for many to live through. The memories of those moments make us love Nepal dearly, not just because we explored part of the country but because we felt welcome and safe in such a difficult moment in the world.
We still find ourselves going faster in some places than others due to visa limitations or sometimes time. However, the truth is that now we tend to stay more in one area instead of trying to explore the whole country. Why? Because we want to have a deeper connection to that place rather than superficially seeing it all. So if we feel in balance where we are, we will extend our stay as long as necessary.
3 countries in 3 days?
After all this long introduction time to talk about our last 3 days of travel, more days were involved in this travel moment; we changed 3 countries in the past week!
First of all we spent 40 days in Türkiye. We mostly stayed in Fethiye on the Aegean coast. We needed some time off to solve some things and breathe; our summer up to then had been a bit busy and costly due to our campervan breaking down! Fethiye helped us gain our balance back and recharge.
Finally, on September 1st, we got on a bus to Istanbul. It was a 14-hour drive, and believe me, it wasn’t fun! The bus stopped a gazillion times during the night, so sleeping was practically impossible! Finally, we made it to Istanbul, where we spent a few days returning to some of our favorite places.
On September 6th, we boarded a flight to Doha in Qatar and spent 24 hours exploring this innovative city in the desert!
On September 7th, we were back boarding a 10-hour flight to Bali in Indonesia. Let me say it was a long week!
Of course, we were tired of all this moving around from one place to another, but what hit me most was the significant changes we underwent during those days: language, cultural, meteorological, and architectural. Türkiye, Qatar, and Indonesia are so different between them!
We are familiar with Türkiye because we have been there already 3 times, so we are used to the country’s and the people’s ways.
Qatar was new to us. I did notice similarities with Dubai when we were there in 2019, but also a whole new country that came out from a poor background and is now here to show its greatness to the world. As we walked through the heated streets and sat on the traditional dhow boat looking at the growing skyline, I could feel this. Religion is intensely tangled with their culture, and you can easily perceive it as you move around the city.
Bali is not a new place to us; it is our 4th time here! Here is where we officially started our travels! It is an entirely different vibe from where we just came from!
These are three different worlds; many will put themselves on a pedestal and judge based on the aspect of that culture they disapprove of. Whether it is the religion, the food, the way they dress or what they believe in, or the way they do things.
Why do we always feel the need to judge?
What gives us the right to do so?
Are we more important than them?
So here I am reflecting on these 3 different places where I just spent time questioning myself on how much I am judging their ways based on where I come from and what my truth is.
It is so hard to be accepting of everything you see. It is so hard to remember constantly that you are a silent observer in a reality that is not yours, and you have no right to say that their ways are wrong.
However, you have the right to say that their ways are not in tune with yours, but respect should be at the base of travel. You should set foot in a new place with an open mind. If you give power to your beliefs and mental constructions, you will be unable to truly appreciate the beauty of what is in front of you. But most of all, you won’t be able to see that we are not all the same. There is no better or worse, but simply different ways of living.
What may seem absurd to us might make complete sense to others, and what is normal to us might seem utterly crazy to others. What makes us think that our ways are superior to others?
Maybe from now on, when you decide to book a trip to a foreign country, you should leave your mental constriction at home. There is no need to seek your home in the country you decided to visit, but arrive there with an open mind to connect with the culture and ways and appreciate the opportunity to have an insight into a reality that may be so different from yours. This will also be the biggest gift for when you go home. If you were humble enough to see all this, you will go home with a bit of added value inside of you, a new possibility. That is where change starts to happen.
One important example
One story I always mention that is so fitting to this post is one of my first adventures in Thailand alone with my 3 kids in 2017. Mass was attending a workshop there, and we went to the beach for the day. On the way back, I was told there was a market nearby, so I decided to take a different way home. Shortly after, I got lost.
I was in a foreign country with 3 young kids; I didn’t speak the language, it was so hot, and we were exhausted. I stopped at a little booth on the side of the road and asked for help. They barely spoke but understood that my kids were hot and thirsty. They gave us water, and a man looked up our hotel and offered to drive us there (I had gotten us pretty far). I didn’t think and just accepted. Once I was sitting in the car, fear took over; all my “what-ifs” started going through my mind.
“Oh my, I accepted a ride from a stranger in a foreign country with my children; what if something happens to us?”
I still cannot believe the mental drama I went through in my head during that 5-minute drive. Until the kind man stopped in front of our hotel, pulled out the stroller, helped the kids out of the car, and said his goodbyes. He didn’t ask for money. It was a simple act of kindness from a stranger.
All my mental constructions made me fear and doubt him, while they should have only focused on the kindness and humanity of that moment.
How many of you have similar stories? Doesn’t it make you think, how often do we limit ourselves? How often do we limit our connection possibilities because of mistrust and misconception? I think of it so often.
The lady who spoke to us about Islam while visiting the Blue Mosque in Doha made me think of this. She was extremely clear and engaging in discussing prayer, their religious beliefs, and traditions. I was accepting and open to listening until I felt she was insisting too much on their beliefs. Then, my mental constructions connected to past negative experiences caused me to shut down on our conversation. I was still polite and respectful but felt it was time to go.
So, sometimes it can be challenging to sit through something that doesn’t sync with your beliefs, but you should still be open to listening because my conversation with her caused me to make this long reflection and observation. My uncomfortable moment with her brought me to an uncomfortable and hard-to-accept reflection.
Explore the world and see new cultures and new realities, but leave your structured mind at home.
If you decide to fly all the way to a new country, maybe an unconscious part of you is asking you to connect to something new. We all need to remember that the world is enormous; while I’m typing this in my room in Bali, billions of different things are happening everywhere in the world.
But in the end, we are all connected, whether for a simple drive back to a hotel in Thailand, a chat about religion in a mosque in Doha, or buying fruit during lockdown from a vendor in Patan. At that moment, we are linked; there is an exchange of lessons between us, more profound or not, but they are there. You lose a valuable growth moment when you decide to judge that moment instead of opening your arms to it.
Remember, we never stop growing; we never stop evolving; every moment is an opportunity waiting to happen on our life path, so savor those opportunities and make them yours!
**Would you like to learn more about our favorite way to travel? Check out this blog post!
***Would you like to know more about our the lessons we learned during our travels? Check out this blog post!
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