Recently I had a chat with a friend – one of those people who miraculously transform from „this guy I met travelling“ to an acquaintance you keep infrequent facebook contact with to someone you see again when revisiting their city to a person you really love having in your life – and all of a sudden they are a friend. So we were sitting over beers, discussing life in general, travel lessons, relationships, dealing with loss and failure. At one point he asked me: „Do you have regrets?“ I looked him straight in the eye and said: „None!“ And I meant it.
Like so many other bloggers who have written their travel regrets post, I try to live life in a way that won’t make me have to regret anything. Erin of The World Wanderer, who was so kind as to tag me for a post of three travel regrets, put it very beautifully indeed, referencing the indescribable Edith Piaf and summing it up saying: „It’s all about forgetting what happened in the past, the good and the bad, and starting fresh.“ Read her whole post here. And also, follow her on twitter @TheWrldWanderer because she is awesome!
I think all of us who travel try to avoid regrets. It is like Mark Twain has put it in this quote that so many of us have on our blogs:
„Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.“
The fear of being disappointed, of regretting, is what drives many of us out there and has us on the move, keep looking, never shy away from the new, the exciting, the unheard-of. When I am out there travelling, I am very much a gut-person. My intuition is my everything. If I want to do it, I will. If I don’t want to do it, I won’t, and later probably won’t regret not having done it – as long as I was honest with myself in that moment when I made the decision. This philosophy has allowed me to paraglide and cliff-jump, to go on road-trips with strangers, to literally leave the beaten track to discover hidden gems, and to sing in quite unusual places. Like here.
And inspite all of this, I finally came up with my three regrets too, although honestly, it took me a long time! In tune with Mark Twain’s quote above, my regrets are not really about things I did do, but rather about things I didn’t, couldn’t or can’t do for various reasons.
1. Not having done any busking while travelling. [YET!]
This one I fully intend to change. It is on my Bucket List to go busking in a couple of foreign places. The main thing to keep me from it so far has been that I don’t play an instrument. I have just my voice, and a capella busking is fairly tough, or so I imagine it to be. Also I have been a little cowardish in the past when it came to choosing a place. The German in me thinks: „But what if I need a permit? What if you aren’t allowed to do that here? What if the police come and get really mad at me in a language that I can’t speak well enough to defend myself?“ I really have to get over this and just do it. But before that, I’m learning guitar. At least enough for me to play a few funny chords with my singing.
2. Not having recognized my own strength sooner.
There are several reasons for this regret. For one, I wish I would have started backpacking while I was in college and had so much more time for it. I thought, back then, that I’d have to be braver than I felt. In fact I was plenty brave and could have easily managed it all. Closely related is the fact that for a long time I thought I would need a travel companion. I wish I had understood sooner that travelling alone would be more rewarding than anything else I have experienced until this day. I also wish that in some situations I would have been more confident to go for something I wanted. Rent that car. Climb that mountain. Kiss that guy. Then again, I know today that I needed time to gain the strength and confidence I have today. I couldn’t have done it sooner or faster. Absolutely no use in fretting. It is all good.
3. Not being able to have it all.
It is one of my deepest conflicts when planning travels: Do I discover a new country, a new city, a new culture – or do I go back to a place that I loved truly? I really hate having to choose, because I want it all. I want to visit the friends I made throughout the world. I want to go back and see more of some countries and cities, or I want to go back and see the exact same things again, because they were so heartbreakingly beautiful the first time around, or because they might have changed and show me a new, different side now. But then again there is so much out there that I haven’t got the faintest understanding of yet. There is so much to see and learn. I really wish I never had to choose. I deal with it by not choosing just yet. I plan by that other great travel quote:
„I haven’t seen everything. But it’s on my list.“
These are my three regrets. I have to say though that really cannot even feel bitter about any of them. It all came this way so that today I would have this exact drive, this ambition, this curiosity and these exact dreams that keep me going. I feel very, very fortunate to be at peace to this degree. And I blame it on travelling.