The most important lessons from our rtw trip
Movies always finish with some kind of happy milestone, like a romantic wedding or the good news that the Earth has been saved by the chosen superhero, but real life - unlike movies - never freezes at this vague "ever after". And that's how I feel about the end of our rtw trip. It's been wonderful and wonderfully long, but since life doesn't stop like a movie we naturally entered the new period of our lives which will be dedicated to creating a lifestyle of our dreams. Currently we are going through the chaotic transition period filled with bringing up our very stubborn malamute puppy and exciting construction work to renovate the flat, but the good news is that after this trip we have a much clearer vision of where we want to be in a few years and now that we know where we are sailing we'll know which wind is the tail one.
Looking back upon the 2.5 years which we spent travelling the world, the biggest joy of this trip came from meeting genuinely kind people, learning unique cultures, gaining new hobbies (like kungfu, surfing etc.), picking up new languages (Spanish for me and Chinese for both of us) and eternalizing a lot of striking moments in form of images that will always let us relive all those wonderful experiences. However the most important lessons we learnt during this trip were all of a deeper - philosophical - kind.
The biggest lesson was developing a much clearer understanding of who we are and where we want to be in the future, which we think is the foundation for true happiness. While some people seem to be born with a sense of mission and some don't need it, we are in the group that is striving to find it and from this perspective a trip like this is like a giant sample book of possible life paths available for short-term rent so that you can try them on and see if they fit. We've definitely narrowed down our search range :-).
The second biggest conclusion of this trip was developing a much stronger affinity with the philosophy of following the course of least resistance. During this trip we were getting almost daily proofs of how it's always best to stay flexible and make decisions based on how naturally something/somebody came our way. The best experiences of this trip were hundred percent in the unplanned range and every one of them reinforced our feeling of how there is always intangible logic in everything that happens to us.
The third biggest conclusion of this trip was that happiness is a mental state that isn't based on comfort and stuff. Strikingly enough all around the world we've seen happiness so often confused with comfort: in the developed world people have it and don't want to part with it, and in the developing countries people strive to achieve that same amount/level of comfort living under the same illusion that comfort brings happiness. Comfort is usually sacrificed only if more comfort can be achieved (like we go to work to do jobs that we hate because it brings money that can buy more comfort than what we needed to sacrifice). The absolute majority of businesses exist to provide or enhance comfort. Comfort is a monster - in places where everything ticks around it, it wraps its sticky tentacles around people very fast. It's this comfort monster that is trying to erase out of our memory the faces of the children in poor countries who don't have a change of clothes, never had a proper shower and don't go to school because otherwise their family won't have enough income to survive, and the faces of their parents who work from dawn till dusk to simply be able to provide food for the family. But then it's the memory of these children and their parents that makes us shudder at the sight of businesses that advertise yet another comfort-boosting application for a smartphone or yet another way to stream your life to a social network. Comfort seems to be so important that we noticed that most people arriving at a country which is not comfortable enough will simply wrap themselves in an artificial money bubble to maintain their comfortable level of comfort. The thing is, comfort seems to attack the mind like an addiction: the more you have of it, the more attached you grow to it, the more difficult it's going to be to ever part with it, and the less likely you are to be genuinely kind, because genuine kindness (not pain-free money donations) usually requires sacrifice which inevitably means losing some comfort. Personally, I think the only times we really grow spiritually and mentally is when we do things that require sacrificing comfort for reasons other than gaining more comfort. Our rtw trip was in the first place a kind of rebellion against our comfortable life back in Holland, and I really hope that now that we are back to settled life (at least for a while) we'll find the strength of mind to withstand the attack of the comfort virus while building that lifestyle of our dreams I've mentioned above. But something tells me that a rtw trip being a kind of vaccination against the comfort virus, we should have much more immunity against it now :-).
Most of the children we met along our rtw path come from very poor families, yet they all seemed genuinely happy... because kids don't care for stuff and comfort as much as grown-ups do:
The older kids will usually take care of their younger siblings:
Dignity does not originate in social status or financial well-being - it's in the mind, and can eradiate from the face of a child recycling garbage in the rubbish container:
For the family to survive these kids have to work - sometimes instead of going to school:
These doorsteps are all around the world but the children that watch the world go by from the height of those doorsteps have a similar look in their eyes wide open:
Whether Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, Orthodox or indigenous, all the families in the below photos have one thing in common - striving to be happy and provide the best they can for their children:
Many times markets and tiny family businesses are these children's kindergarten, school and college:
Their families can't afford toys and consoles so with some imagination pretty much any object can be converted into a toy/playroom:
You might not have a lot of toys where these kids grow up but then again you can have a llama or a goat for a pet:
Most of the houses don't have a proper bathroom but these kids don't mind an improvised shower:
These photos will always remind us that a child can be wearing clean or dirty clothes, no clothes at all or robes - yet it will always remain a child: