Wisdom From Around The World
By, Lydia Gitsels
They say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. What you gain from traveling is entirely up to you. Traveling, per definition, is stepping out of your comfort zone, but how far out of that zone is your choice. You can go to an all-inclusive resort or swing on your backpack and go rogue and everything in between. I went a different route and chose We Roam, for a work and travel program around the world.
Before I share my gained knowledge and wisdom from around the world, I’d like to share what got me to travel in the first place. In October of 2016 I had already made my new year’s resolution. I wanted to spend more time abroad than in my home country. I had no clue about how I was going to make all this traveling happen. I didn’t have a savings account that could finance this desire, nor did I want to quit working as I was enjoying building up my own company. But I was set on traveling and wanted to get away from an environment where settling down was the biggest goal. I wasn’t longing to buy a house or start a family like my peers. There are so many beautiful things to see in the world and cultures to learn from, and I wanted to collect new experiences and to broaden my view of the world. With We Roam, my mission could be — and now is — accomplished. Let me tell you about my experience…
First stop: Florianópolis, Brazil
From a cold Dutch winter to sunny Floripa, and from a colder more individualized culture to the warm and embracive Brazilian community. Although I can hardly make a general comment about the Brazilian culture, what I found is that Brazilians love to love. The first person that awaited me in Brazil was our city lead Mari. She is the sweetest person ever and I am very happy that in that short period of time we got to build a friendship that’ll last a long time. Interacting with Brazilians, in my case with guys, showed me that there is no taboo on expressing physical affection quite quickly. The people from the US I’ve traveled with called this behavior ‘aggressive’, but I did not feel any negative or violent vibe in the Brazilian’s approach. Because ‘no’ was also an acceptable answer. Later on in my travels, in Split, Croatia, I coincidentally got to meet up with a Brazilian friend and his friends whom I just briefly met in Floripa. Seeing and experiencing the love shared within that group of friends and with other people confirmed and strengthened my understanding of love and loving from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity.
Second stop: Bogota, Colombia
I have never been in a country that is so colorful and diverse as Colombia. As pretty as it is, living in Bogota was also challenging for me. I became more aware of my roots in the lowlands because of the city’s 2500m altitude. The weather that month was a little grey, which reminded me of Holland. But going to Medellín for a weekend gave me insight into the wonderful colors of Colombia. My biggest lesson here was that people have a different mindset, one of survival of the fittest/fastest/baddest. Survival regardless of whether this results in victims or not. Even though I don’t approve of surviving at someone else’s cost, there is no judgement on how this mindset came about as the country suffered through rough times with ruthless drug cartels. And I can only applaud the people and government of Colombia for building up their nation and culture again and making it a livable and safe place for inhabitants and tourists.
Third stop: Rabat, Morocco
I was very much looking forward going to Morocco as we have a large Moroccan community living in The Netherlands and one of my close friends in Moroccan. Where I come from, the Moroccan immigrants are often labeled as old-fashioned and conservative. Interacting with the people in Rabat, especially with Ilham and Hassan owners of the co-working space 7ay, but also the people at Elite gym, I was surprised by the vibes and rise of creative, intellectual people who want to push Morocco to evolve to all it can be with respect for, but not limited by its culture and traditions. You can feel the energy that sets about change, just like you can still feel the love and care for the community through all the shared couscous meals.
Fourth stop: Barcelona, Spain
Going to Barcelona and thereby returning to the European continent felt like coming home. It is more familiar to me than the previous three countries that we visited and I noticed that it costed me less energy to get settled. For example, I already knew that Spanish/Catalan customs included siestas, long and heavy lunches as well as late and heavy dinners. The social scene is built around good food and wine and beautiful Barcelona with all its arts and artistic architecture provided the best scenery for it. For me, however, it got me questioning my diet and how much energy I got out of the food I ate and drinks I drank. As I visited my friend, the beautiful and talented tattoo artist Sara, on Ibiza and stuck to her vegan diet for the four days I was there, I realized that I had to change my habit in order to regain the energy that is necessary to live the life I want to live to the fullest. How happy was I to find out that next to the meat and cheese heavy cuisine, Barcelona also housed some amazing vegan restaurants like Theresa Carles and Flax & Kale.
Fifth stop: Prague, Czech Republic
I have been to Prague before and I remembered how much I enjoyed the architecture in this city. Both the pastel colored buildings as the gothic cathedrals. I was fortunate that I got an apartment in the Praha 3 neighborhood, in which many small festivals were organized and farmer’s markets were held several times a week. I was fortunate, because we also experienced that the Czech culture is not welcoming as there is still a lot of skepticism due to the Soviet era, or so I have been told. This experience makes you review your own culture and how I can’t and don’t want to relate to that. The Dutch are very friendly, until you reach their front door. It takes a lot for a Dutch person to invite you in. The people in Prague were sort of alike. For reasons that I don’t judge, but I know that I personally feel better in an environment that is more open and focused on sharing.
Sixth stop: Split, Croatia
It was all about tourism, vacation and having a good and relaxing time at the Dalmation Coast. Personally, I needed exactly the vibe that this city and its coastal line had to offer, which was a chill and slow paced life. Talking to the people from Split I noticed that they were proud of their beautiful spot on this planet, but tormented by the exploitative impact of tourism. As I was a tourist in their city as well, I was afraid that I would be seen as part of the problem. This could not have been farther from the truth. The Croats stood out to me for being extremely helpful. No question was too much and every question you asked was responded to with the utmost care and they went beyond what you’ve requested. I’m not one that asks for much, simply because I don’t want to bother people or come across as ignorant. In Croatia I was almost afraid to ask anything, because inquiring about the best ferry to take to an island would result in a fully researched travel and itinerary package. This made me realize that I too sometimes ‘suffer’ from the fear of being exploited. But my life is good and therefore I have so much to share without it having even the slightest negative impact. I can do with less clothes, less food, less money, a lesser apartment, so why shouldn’t I give from a place of abundance and go the extra mile without someone asking for it?
Seventh stop: Belgrade, Serbia
Have you ever been to a place and just feel so in tune? A lot of people fall in love with the obvious cities like Paris, Rome, New York, Tokyo, etc. And I totally get that. But what I love is being taken by a city by surprise. Stepping off the main road and exploring the grittier and under the radar places. Belgrade just clicked. There’s history, art, beautiful parks, funky clubs on the water (“Splavs”), and so many nice people. What made my month even better is that after seven months of traveling I developed close friendships and I was able to share the happiness that this city ignited in me with these friends. I lived together with my partner in travel Rachel, and we lived in the same street as our male equivalents Sari and Justin. In our little hood we had a coffee shop where we worked from and a bar where we got our night caps. Sharing is multiplying, especially when it comes to happiness. This month I was incredibly grateful for all the amazing people that I could now call my friends and explore this epic city with.
Eighth stop: Seoul, South Korea
From traveling with a group of people that became friends and close friends, I switched to a totally new group (Polaris → Lyra) in a totally different environment. I wanted to visited Seoul because South Korea is one of the most innovative countries in the world, which, from a business perspective is very interesting to me. At first, I was a little underwhelmed by the city. It was very Western and therefore did not have the foreign feel I expected. However, I definitely did feel like an outsider. The South Korean people are a bit stand-offish at first. Nevertheless, I know that first impressions are there to be adjusted or proven wrong. The culture grew on me throughout my stay, even though it’s reverse from the culture I’m used to. The Dutch are very friendly acquaintances, but don’t have a sense of a close community in which sharing is very important. The South Koreans take a while to warm up, but once you’re in, you’re in. Sharing is the norm.
Eight months of traveling later, and now back to Holland
So now I’m back in the country I’ve called home for such a long time. Realizing that I have a home in so many different places and that my new friends will always have a home with me. I never felt as rich and yet humble as I do now, knowing that there is still so much that I don’t know, don’t understand. That there are so many more places to visit and cultures to explore. My greatest wisdom that I got from my travels with We Roam is that I learned about giving and sharing from a place of abundance regardless of the number of material goods that you possess or the number of digits on your bank account. Life is good and even better when shared. And feeling rich trumps being rich every time.