Last week I finally managed to get the pictures from my travels over the last 2 years developed and this made me reflect a little on travelling and living abroad.
See, I was born in a small town called Braunau on the Austrian periphery, bordering southern Bavaria, so basically German periphery. (Paradoxically, this spot is referred to as the centre of Europe, geographically mind you).
Now, this area isn’t exactly known for being open. It’s a rather rough and conservative area. Austria’s notorious freedom party was founded there and people still love to vote them.
I was always a rather curious kid and when I was 17 or 18, I was lucky enough to be sent to the London International Youth Science Forum for a couple of weeks by my high school, where I met students and pupils from pretty much all continents. Contrary to what the title of the event might suggest, this isn’t a pure nerd convention, but also a massive exchange of arguments about who brews/distills the best [insert alcoholic beverage here] in the world and other discussions like that. Anyway, the point is, it’s like a massive cultural fair, where you are shown 1:30 trailers of all kinds of countries, their culture, what is important to them and so on. So after that, I always wanted to travel. However, I didn’t only want to travel, but ideally also wanted live there at least a while to understand what’s going on and not only “look at” it.
And I spent a bit of time in Tanzania, doing a lot of the above.
Of course, these were all great experiences, among the best of my life, really. They made me smarter and wiser and culturally more aware and I miss them. I want more of them. (And I miss the sea, goddamn it.)
But upon reflection, I realized that all of this wasn’t all that brave or cosmopolitan or whatever of me. From the beginning in London, to Nicaragua to Budapest, there were either friends or other Austrians that travelled with me, or as in the case of Budapest, an Austrian planner was already there. (Ok, not in Tanzania, but that was just 10 days.) And ultimately, I always had a safety net, because all those stays abroad had a termination date. I knew that after this month in Nicaragua, I could go home and start with my university degrees instead of having to struggle with life there. I knew I didn’t have to live in Hanoi forever, but would fly back to cosy Vienna after the summer university. I knew I couldn’t stay in Vancouver to work or do a PHD or stay Budapest, because I “had to finish my studies” at home.
It’s not like I ever packed my things and moved to really live somewhere else. So I’m curious how my urge to travel and live abroad will feel once I’ll have removed the university parachute.