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If Only…? On Regrets and Making Peace

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.

Jump, Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina

Yes, that is me who just landed in the water there

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.

Singing, Blagaj, Bosnia and Hercegovina

The fortress in Blagaj, Bosnia and Hercegovina. The hoard of construction workers found it pretty great that I knew a Bosnian song. Photo courtesy of the lovely Aasa Marshall.

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.

Train Journey between Germany and PolandI would love to hear thoughts on this from these three talented and inspiring bloggers:

Maria of Blue Snail Travels
Suzanne of The Travelbunny
Ulrike of anischtswechsel

21 Comments

  1. Great to see that you have so few travel regrets. I do think you should check out the license requirements before busking. Don’t want you locked in a cell; that would make quite a blog post though!

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Haha, actually I think that would be fun! It probably depends very much on where you’d wanna busk. I wouldn’t try it in front of St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome or below the Eiffel Tower. I can think of a lot of places in Eastern Europe where it should be fine though.

  2. What a great post, beautifully written as always. 1 – this is do-able! 2 – I’ve not back-packed at all let alone solo so I admire you for this – travelling teaches you to grab opportunity when it comes along. 3 – I always choose ’new‘ because that first time is always priceless and you can’t repeat it.
    Thank you so much for the nomination 🙂

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Thank you, Suzanne! You are right, the first time is priceless – and when I go back it is never my intention to repeat it, but to enrich it by deepening my understanding of a place. Also, I have to say that by going back to places bonds with people have strengthened to degrees that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d never returned – like I wrote, people have turned from acquaintances into friends. But then there is so much curiosity in me for the new and unencountered… Too much to see, really!

  3. Great post as always. I really love that picture of you jumping inside the water, so cool! And wow, busking, well I have to be there when you do it so I can take video and pictures of you :)) You are so awesome!

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Hehe, Aggy, your comments rule my world. I’m not sure if that’s a valid English expression, but in German I’d say: Your comments let the sun rise. I’d love for you to document my busking experience. Let’s put that on our list, shall we? xx

  4. This is such an interesting topic. I’ve been on this earth a lot longer than most of you, so I could put zeros on the number of „regretful“ things I’ve done or not done. At times I envy those of you who travel the world discovering new places, but I’ve found that looking back with regret can be an unhealthy practice.

    Sure, I would change some of my past decisions, but the unique path I took to get here also molded the person I became. Every decision has trade-offs. If I had traveled the world after college, I probably would not have my wonderful children. If I had selected a career earlier that was better suited for my interests, I would have given up many of the unique experiences that shaped my current perspective of the world. I also would not have met many of the people who enriched my life.

    So now I see each day as an opportunity. An opportunity to experience something new. And I can’t take advantage of those opportunities if I spend too much time looking back.

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      I very much agree, Alan. Looking back is a tricky thing – both with regret and with longing! As I think I have mentioned, I am fascinated by concepts of nostalgia – I think it’s an equally productive and destructive phenomenon. I like to think that if I had done something different, it would never have been better – just that, just different.

  5. Great read, Mariella. You used some of my favorite quotes.

    I can relate to #3 – I want it all too! Sometimes I feel like I need to borrow another lifetime just to keep traveling to new places! But I have a few favorite ones that I need to go back to, otherwise something in me is restless. It’s true especially with Europe – after 12 months away, on the clock, I feel like something’s missing…

    I had to laugh at the „German in me“ comment!! 😀

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Thank you, Pola! I have the same phenomenon you do with Europe as a whole with Eastern Europe and especially with the places I call my „Sehnsuchtsorte“ or Places of Desire. Too long without Krakow, Mostar, Istanbul or Gdansk and I will feel queasy.
      The German in me… yeah well I’m a German by birth and on paper (and in the moments I describe in the post! :)), but my soul speaks in all sorts of different cultural identities 🙂 I wil write about that soon.

  6. Marielli, you always have the right words, I so think you make the most of life with discovering so bravely all those places – showing me by the time now and in my feelings now that there is far more than what I wish for right now 🙂 and – I have to confess, I just have that „I want it all feeling“ – unfortunately it is sLOVEnia vs. Finland. Have never been to Slovenia and as always trust your travel advices – on the other hand I haven’t been to Finland for quite a while…too long I suppose, feeling kind of „homesick“ and unfortunately the amount of holiday-days is just soooo limited once you are in the „real-busness-working-world“….

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Julia, I am glad my words have found you in a moment when they were fitting! Funny how the moment of being torn between new discoveries and old loves is so fitting for you right now. When you asked me for travel advice, I never thought Northern Europe because you said you wanted sun – so I’d still stringly advise Slovenia. But of course I understand your craving for Finland since you love it so much. Whichever you choose, the other one won’t be gone. You could still do it. It sounds like either choice could make you really happy 🙂

  7. Great post! #1 should be lots of fun. Maybe you can team up with someone who has instrument-playing skills and do a doubles busking session?

    But overall, it’s just so lovely that you don’t have any bitter regrets, and the ones you do have, you’re happy with them. Sounds peaceful and happy 🙂

    I’ll start working on mine!

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      Thank you so much, Maria! Yeah, I may just have to find myself someone who plays guitar with me. Or else Imay just have to put some batteries in my keyboard and try and take it with me 😀 that would be fun! Anyway I’d love to learn guitar. There will definitely be busking at some point in time. Thanks for your sweet words of appreciation as to my happiness. I feel very grateful. Can’t wait to read your post on this!

  8. Great post Mariella! I love number 2 especially, „not having recognized my own strength sooner“. I think us „late bloomers“ have more strength though and we can fully appreciate what we see and do. I know that if I would have backpacked/traveled in my late teens/early 20’s it wouldn’t have meant as much as it does now.

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 20, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      Thanks, Sarah! Yes, I am sure too that my appreciation of travel could only come with time, and really I am so happy to be at the place in my life I am in right now – and everything that has happened has brought me just here. I’m very much convinced that it all happened for a reason.

  9. Great post. I also sometimes feel like I have not seen enough or I am afraid of not being able to see everything I have planned to explore. I try not to regret anything when travelling 🙂

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

      That’s the only way to go, Agus 🙂 I think they key is being grateful for what you have seen instead of regretting what you haven’t.

  10. Nice page indeed. Thanks a lot for having what you’ve got in here. Impressive indeed. We all have our own experiences. It definitely teaches all the lessons we need to learn! Traveling provides an education in life that you cannot obtain in any other way. so keep the travelling, it gets the creative mind flowing!

  11. You are an inspiration. If you need a second guitar I can play.

    • bridgekeeper

      April 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

      That is a very big compliment. Thank you! As of now I’d still need any guitar at all 🙂

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