ON MY WAY is a new category about the journey as well as the life of a traveler. I will talk about what it means to be on the road, how difficult it is to cross the invisible border between two people and what I learned when I talked with strangers about what counts in life.
After two months of traveling, I’m finally in New Zealand and maybe it’s the right moment to reflect on what happened so far and time to share something about me. Until now I haven’t shared anything about myself as I didn’t want to portray my view in this project, but rather focus on the stories of the other people.
Through feedback I learned that without my perspective, I am not really existing in the project. The journey and my person are the two things connecting the stories told in the interviews. To show this connection as well as delivering background information, so I decided to introduce the new category ON MY WAY.
Initially I started this project to get some answers. At the end of my study I asked myself numerous questions: Do I want to stay in Austria or should I go abroad? Maybe I could start another education or should I take one year off? All in all I asked myself what components I might need to become happy. So I started this project to ask other people about it. I wanted to know about other people and how they got to where they are today.
Surprisingly I already received the answer within my first month in South Africa. Far away from home, continuously moving from one place to the next, carrying around half of my life in my luggage, I soon realized what’s missing. On one hand, it is the work I can identify well with, even if it’s hard at the beginning. But on the other hand, the more important thing for me is to share my experiences, apart from virtual networks and travel companions. A small office in Graz together with my closest friends, instead of a great career in the big city of New York, might just be what I need. This might be exactly what makes me happy. I realized that my social surrounding is more than the whole world could offer me.
At the beginning of this project, I worried about how to find the right interview partner. Later on, I realized that the challenge was to establish the contact and to ask for an interview. Somehow I put myself into situations, where there was no other choice than to ask a stranger to tell me the story of their life. So I find myself in the situation of observing a stranger, that seems to be at the right place.
Every time the same thought comes up: If I do not cross the invisible border that divides us, nobody would ever know. Each time I’m afraid of being refused or being incapable of providing a justification for entering a foreign life. Surprisingly I made the experience that it’s always worth it. Nobody ever reacted defensively. On the contrary, people tend to open themselves up.
From from one moment to the next their facial expression changes from being reserved to a warm hearted smile. So I conclude for myself that it’s always worth it to approach people. Probably the best thing I learned is, that the invisible border between us not just disappears, but instead of it I feel kind of a connection to my interview partner. In any case I benefit from every exciting dialogue, especially regarding interpersonal connections.
Beside 10 kilogram of equipment, I brought reading material with me, including the book “Songlines” written by Bruce Chatwin. The book contains a lot about the original culture of Australia, which now tends to disappear. The majority of the book are notes and quotes about restlessness. He says that people should always be in motion as our origin is to be nomads. Also nature shows us that we should keep moving: The earth is rotating, the sun rising, the moon crescending.
After three months of moving I can declare: I slept in 46 beds, including bus seats, airplanes, night trains and camper vans. No need to tell that they are miles away from each other. I had created mixed feelings toward these conditions. On the one hand I need to admit, that I kind of suffered, if we stayed longer than three nights at the same location. On the other hand I’m quite sure that the reason was not the impulse to move on, but homesickness that came up.
I think we all agree that permanent residence provides security. Nevertheless I think that being permanently on the go, can sharpen the understanding and make one more receptive. On the journey I did learn a lot. Probably through the interviews, but I can’t stop thinking that the constant relocation played a considerable role. I could never ever imagine a life as a nomad. But what I take home is that if the feeling comes up that every day is the same and I get stuck, I probably should start moving.
I never knew how I would finish this project. There are so many people out there to meet, and still so many countries to visit. Yesterday,we were sitting together on my last evening in New York and simultaneously the last evening of my journey. We ate and talked about how Bushwick, the district where we were staying had changed within the last months. We discussed what it means to come as a white person into a black neighborhood and now it’s like creating a white ghetto within a black ghetto. I was sitting there and the usual thought came to my mind – we should do an interview, everybody should get the possibility to hear this story. But it was my last evening and there must come a time, where I need to put the Project to rest. Somehow my usual life needs to continue and I need to learn that it is enough to listen,without recording everything.
The journey provided me with many memorable moments and new connections to great people, that I could never even dream of. Possibly the only thing that really changed was my point of view, and not my environment. What I can take with me is, that it’s always worth to think out of the box and to to reduce judgement by doing first and foremost one thing: listening.
There is no need to turn every good talk into an interview, but it might be a better way of human interaction to be friendly and give every person, who’s path crosses mine, a chance to get to know me. Before the journey I believed that I have seen at least some parts of the world. Now I feel like I do not really have any idea of what is out there and how many exciting things are waiting to be explored. Maybe the size of my world just changed a bit.