There are many things traveling has taught me, but one of its most important lessons, is appreciation.
We tend to so easily forget the daily luxuries we have in our lives. Clean clothes, a shower, food, water, the internet, a bed, a safe place to live … simple luxuries that surround us every day. Exactly because they surround us everyday, we tend to forget them all too easily. They are part of the normal scheme of things, part of our lives.
It’s only when we lose what we had, that we truly come to appreciate it. It is through traveling that I really learnt that. On my journeys backpacking around the world, I’ve gotten myself into quite a few situations where I came to truly understand how lucky I should call myself for having those daily luxuries. Knowing and understanding that there are many people in the world who are not fortunate enough to have them.
While backpacking in Australia, I took part in a warrior program – or in other words, an extreme survival training program. For 8 days, I had no shower, no toothbrush, no internet, no phone, no bed, no fresh clothes. I only had the basics: a limited supply of food, some water and a shelter I made myself.
When I had finished the program, I can vividly remember sitting on the train that would take me back into civilization. Dirty as hell I sat there just holding and looking at my phone. It felt so strange and unusual; I just looked at it for several minutes totally amazed to be holding a phone. It was a funny feeling. It was funny to text my friends to tell them that I was still alive; it was funny to receive a message back and it was equally funny to see everyone else on the train on their phones – totally not amazed. I think no one was thinking or even understanding how lucky we should feel that we are able to communicate so easily with the whole world. When I was in the hostel later that day, finally under the shower, I started laughing. It felt amazing to feel the warm water, it felt amazing to brush my teeth afterwards and it felt amazing to put on new and freshly washed cloths. I was incredibly grateful for the food I cooked – spaghetti with no sauce. I enjoyed every single bite and was filled with simple, pure and unadulterated gratitude for being able to eat it. When I finally lay in my bed, I thought, we should all lose these daily luxuries for a short time. To be reminded. To be reminded that we shouldn’t complain as much, but appreciate more what we do have in life.
Traveling however, teaches us this very well. Each time I travel, I lose something for a while and learn to appreciate it at a much deeper level once I get it back again. From freezing in my tent in the German Alps; having no clean clothes for 10 days in Hawaii; hitchhiking through all manner of countries; not having food for 1 full day during a 4-day hike in New Zealand; hearing someone get shot in South Africa; … and countless other moments.
We need these moments in life. It’s extremely good and healthy to be put into these situations, where we are forced to deal with it. It’s extremely good and healthy to travel for many many reasons, but appreciation is a big one.