Landschlacht, Switzerland, 28 January 2017
As those already acquainted with myself already know, I earn my income in two ways: I am a Canadian, resident in Switzerland, working as a freelance English-as-a-second-language teacher and part-time Starbucks barista.
And while both physical and psychological health remain I wish to continue to do both jobs for a while longer, for I find that both jobs are quite educational and inspirational.
Not only in the sense that it is my duty and pleasure to educate and inspire others, but as well in the manner in which these two jobs educate and inspire me.
I have recently acquired a new student from Beijing whom I teach twice a week at a private school in St. Gallen.
“Jaja” hopes to study Business Administration at the University of Zürich and needs to pass an English entrance examination to be able to be allowed to do so.
Her English needs a lot of work in a short time and her German even more, so I find myself during our lessons inserting commonly confused “false friend” words that show the close linguistic connection between German and English, thus creating words that look identical yet whose meanings are completely different from one another.
Somehow the word “Wanderlust” came up and explanation became necessary as to the differences between “to wander” (to travel without a specific destination in mind) and “Wandern” (German: hiking).
And both of us so far from our home and native lands of Canada and China, strangers in a strange land, began to speak about what it is to travel and how difficult it is to readjust to normal life once we have returned to our original countries.
Just five days ago I was inspired.
Like any civilised animal of the West, I occasionally connect myself to social media with marked preference towards Facebook, for it, unlike media like Twitter, allows me to expound my thoughts fully rather than being restricted to a mere set of characters.
I subscribe to a number of newsgroups and one I enjoy immensely is the closed newsgroup Nomads: A Life of Free/Cheap Travel.
A fellow had commented on how difficult it was for him to adjust to life off the road back home and I responded:
“In response to… and to discuss what has been on my mind since I read his and others’ dissatisfaction with life when not travelling, let me share my thoughts on the matter:
I am a 51-year-old man, married, a Canadian teacher resident in Switzerland.
Prior to settling down in a committed relationship I did a wee bit of travelling on my own:
I have walked thousands of kilometres, hitched tens of thousands of kilometres and have lived in Asia and Europe.
And I have not regretted my life choices before I met my wife or since.
I speak only for myself.
There was a time that I feared the familiar and embraced the unknown, and that spirit of adventure, that thirst for travel, is never quenched but it can be channeled.
Some things must be clearly understood about travel.
To quote Carl Franz, of The People´s Guide to Mexico:
“Wherever you go…there you are”.
Whatever mindset, whatever emotional baggage, you possessed before you begin travelling is not shed or left behind by hitting the road.
The road distracts.
The road teaches.
But the basic character you were before your adventures still remains mostly intact.
Coming home you once again face the demons you thought you abandoned and though you feel somewhat transformed by your adventures, those who did not accompany you will still view you as you were before your travels.
And that image of yourself may not always be pleasant.
The experience of travel is as restrictive as you make it.
Money often seems a restriction and, yes, you might not always be able to afford to jump on a jet and speed away to faraway places with strange sounding names as soon as you might like to, but consider this…
Where you are is strange and foreign to someone else.
And many folks travel to far-off places without considering exploration of their own country or their own neighbourhood…
Many people don´t realise the magic of the here and now where they are…
Try to imagine you are researching and investigating your neighbourhood for a foreign visitor.
What is unusual and interesting about where you are?
You have feet.
Walk around and explore.
You have eyes.
Read and learn as much as you can about where you are.
You have speech and hearing.
Bathe in the adventure of humanity by reaching out to others with a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Here is a result of history and heritage.
Everyone you meet has their own unique story to tell.
You are superior to every one that they can learn from you.
Everyone is your superior that you may learn from them.
Travel isn´t just the act of dashing off to an exotic locale.
Travel is your interaction and interdependence with that magical thing called Life.
Life is a contact sport.
Life is all around us.
No two sunsets are exactly the same.
There is always something to discover wherever you are.
Whenever money does not permit travel to faraway places, I strap on my walking shoes and explore the countryside, visit attractions tourists would go to, visit the library and explore the Internet to discover things that interest me and possibly others.
The street where you live…
Where did it get its name?
The stream you walk over everyday on your way to school or work…
Where does it flow to, where does it flow from?
What is special?
Every day has its potential to bring magic.
How we profit from that day, equally given to everyone, makes the difference.
And never forget your observations, your discoveries, are simultaneously unique to you and similiar to the rest of humanity.
In the entire history of the universe there has never been anyone exactly like you with your unique life story, thoughts and ideas.
In the eternity of time that lies ahead, there will never be another person as unique as you.
Travel, whether near or far, is not just an exploration of a geographical landscape, but as well the discovery of a psychological landscape.
I refuse to believe that individuality is accidental.
Life, for each one of us, has a purpose.
Travel is that search for that purpose.”