Review and conclusions

So, after two years of traveling Western Europe, Thailand and Indonesia – are we not happy, or at least happier?
I guess I can only answer that question for myself, and even that answer will probably evolve over the years.
Our hopes and expectations were not very clear, but among them were the hope to find a new place to call home, to get to know myself, to spend a lot of time with my kids, to dive into the beauty of nature and into different cultures.

Concerning finding a new place to call home: well, I was picturing this beautiful community reachable by night-train from Germany, with a free school just around the corner, mountains with a lake in the back and a beautiful view of the sea ahead. We found places that fulfilled parts of this, but never a place that had it all. So in the end, my mother in law’s offer to let us move into a house in Adlershof, where we would be able to get family support with the kids, a good public transport connection to eastern Berlin, a lake in cycling distance and a reasonable primary school turned out to be the closest we found to this vision. This comes down to the wisdom of Janosch’s Oh wie schön ist Panama, where in the end Tiger and Bear come home and simply integrate their newly discovered passions into their former home.

Concerning getting to know myself, we have (re)discovered things that we like (animal spotting, bonfires, kid-sized cargobikes, growing food, watching movies together, listening to podcasts, reading good books), and I suppose we have also discovered some things we can happily live without (for me: faraway beaches and dive spots, hang-overs, too much activism, becoming a dive master or yoga teacher). We have furthermore made a lot of interesting friends.

We did also spend a lot of time with our kids, whereas my wife would probably say she would have preferred to have more time for herself, whereas I often fled into reading about raising kids rather than spending my days really doing that. Nevertheless I think I did spend significantly more time actively engaged with my kids than I would have done in normal life. But I also realized that rather than real obligations, it may often actually be our smartphone and our potentially unconscious expectations towards ourself that keep us from spending our time with our kids and wisely in general.

Diving into the beauty of nature was definitely taken care of, but for me that often happened during the little trips I undertook alone (under water) or with friends (hiking to Dôme du Glandasse, canoeing into the Havel sources, hiking in Nepal etc.) rather than with my family, simply because wilderness is not an easily accessible environment with toddlers.

Diving into different cultures was obviously easier when there was a common language and when we spent more time in a place, which we didn’t often do. In the future, I am definitely planning to spend more nights at home-stays, because that felt indeed like couchsurfing but with a fairer contribution to the “burden” that one imposes upon ones guest (which is obviously greater as a family than as a single traveler).

Further learnings:

  • I don’t get bored without labor (DE: Lohnarbeit).
  • Traveling with kids can be great, but so is traveling without them.
  • You can travel with a family minimizing your footprint, but it takes time and it may not always be in their immediate interest. If they want to cycle to Asia with you, you may very well be able to do that when they are out of school. If you take good care of yourself and you aren’t unlucky with this precious good that is your family’s health. And if our governments manage to not completely fuck up our future meanwhile.
  • Compromises concerning travel plans aren’t necessarily the wisest solution when wishes for traveling differ significantly – it may be more enriching that everyone does what s/he really wants and actually gets that. One obvious reason for that is that good relationships rely on taking care of oneself, and spending your precious free time doing things you don’t like may therefore compromise your relationship rather than nourishing it.

Was the trip necessary for these findings? Well, I guess we might have ended up in Berlin anyways. But as Tiger and Bear, we would probably appreciate it less now that we have gone out and verified that happiness may actually come more from becoming aware of (and eventually fulfilling) your expectations rather than from seeing a maximum of faraway places.
Diving into the beauty of nature gives me the confidence that my fight for more ecological mobility is worth the hassle, and if it gets too much, I know where to nourish my powers.
Diving into different cultures allowed myself to understand better where I come from, and that many things can be done very differently in order to achieve the same results. Nevertheless, there are universal values like in particular respecting other beings’ dignity, that we may never neglect when we try to understand other people’s values: Nobody is too different to respect mother nature and their fellow beings. If they do, it’s not just because they are different – it’s because they are selfish and greedy.
I felt like long-term traveling would allow myself to detach from the numerous obligations I was committing to in this ever more disastrous world, and it did. Now that I’ve fulfilled this long-term dream, I openly turn towards the future, without the feeling I am missing out on my greatest dream. That gives me a stronger sense of peace which will hopefully help me facing the struggles that I have chosen to take up in my profession as a consultant for sustainable mobility in a car-addicted society.

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