What remains of a journey? Which scenes keep popping up in your head? What stories do you tell others? What makes a journey a success for me? What and how do I experience?
The following words and thoughts are an invitation to you to take a closer look at travelling. Perhaps you will find the thoughts inspiring. We would also be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us 😃
We set the framework for your trip with a customised tour plan. It tells you where to go. But it does not determine every minute of your journey – and so you are completely free to experience your trip within this framework. It’s good to have a framework, as it eliminates the need for considerations and decisions so that can save your energy. But it is also “just” a frame – depending on how big it is (in total, but also as a frame width), the more space can be filled.
Our travel frame offers security, but also free space for your own content
I use the term “travel-bliss” to describe the unforeseen small or large experiences that cannot be planned, but which give you a feeling of happiness. It is in the nature of things that we cannot build travel-bliss into your tour plan. But we can increase the chances of you experiencing something like this! By not scheduling the tour plan too tightly, by being open to flexible changes, by our guides being open and attentive, by planning lots of hikes and walks. Only those who have time, leisure and curiosity as well as open eyes, ears and an open-minded nature will experience the small or large encounters that make up the flavour of a trip. This could be a shared laugh at a comic situation with a shopkeeper, an unannounced ceremony in a monastery, a warm invitation to tea, a touching life story, a surprising natural beauty, a hidden hermitage, a spontaneous game with children or something else. Are you curious? We are too!
An invitation to tea and something to laugh about – what more do you need to be happy travelling?
Travelling is a good opportunity to push your own boundaries. Or even just to push them more often. This can happen on a physical level (you can usually do more than you think – and that gives you a good feeling for the next challenge) or on a mental level.
A small example: a group traveller said that when she arrived in Delhi and the first few days afterwards, when she was sitting in the car in what she saw as completely chaotic traffic, she kept seeing accidents approaching and was completely focused on the situation. As the days went by, she realised that there was no accident after all and that the traffic followed different rules to the ones she knew. And then she was able to see what was behind all the cars, which shops were on the side of the road, which people were walking or doing other activities there, what the entrances to houses looked like, etc. Her view had been limited and then broadened.
It is very interesting to look at your own thoughts and interpretations, especially when something cannot be immediately categorised as familiar. Couldn’t there be other explanations?
And thirdly, we can of course try out new things for ourselves. Here is another example from a group trip to Ladakh. When asked at the end about the highlights of their trip, everyone replied that it had been conquering the 5,000 metre pass – except for the eldest. She was proud to have bought something on her own at the market without knowing a word of English. Bargaining included.
Some boundaries are not as firm as you might think
But limits are also very important! As you are travelling with a tour operator, we have to set boundaries for your safety. In a legal sense, we are often responsible and therefore guides must prevent you from doing something that would be your own responsibility in another (travel) context. Why do we mention this here? Because some guides complain that travellers want to resist their safety-motivated instructions. This rarely happens, but is sometimes noted by guides, so we think it makes sense to mention it here.
You must set other boundaries yourself! Too much strangeness can turn into defence, too many encounters with people can be exhausting and make you withdrawn, too many impressions can no longer be sorted and processed, too much effort can lead to injuries – in short: if you don’t take care of your own limits, you run the risk of not being able to enjoy your trip. And our destinations are challenging – not only physically but also mentally. I once guided a great, very open-minded and friendly group of women through Rajasthan. They were curious and open to the many new and unfamiliar people. For the last day, I offered them a choice: look at dead stones or meet living widows. I was so sure that they would choose the second – and they decided in favour of the dead stones. I was disappointed. But only shortly – afterwards I was joyfully proud: they had recognised their limits! There were a lot of encounters with strangeness – and one more could have turned over the positive mood. And I know it myself, and not just from my first years in India: sometimes I have to “get out” myself. Sitting alone in my hotel room with a German book or something and recharging my batteries for all the impressions. So please take care of yourself!
A perhaps sensibly set limit so as not to get lost in the infinite landscape
Resonance is actually a term from physics and comes from the Latin, translated as echo. It means that something I encounter triggers something in me. This can be one-sided (e.g. mountains through which I hike evoke a sense of lightness and happiness in me) or reciprocal (after a good conversation, I not only feel good, but what has been said and the atmosphere of the conversation continue to work in me – and in the person I am talking to). The more resonance I experience on a journey, the more vividly and positively I will remember it. What does it take to make this resonance resound? Inner peace and openness to my surroundings.
A good idea: pause and reflect in a monastery
Interdependence is a central concept in Buddhist philosophy. Nothing exists independently and on its own, neither people among themselves nor nature and that which is newly created. Thanks to globalisation, we at least have an intellectual idea of the immense network of relationships in this world. But it is always something else, not only to know but also to see/experience. A journey in particular cannot be undertaken in a vacuum, something is constantly happening in contact with others. All our decisions have an effect on others – and their decisions have an effect on us. How much money do I spend on what, how am I perceived as an individual and also as a representative of a group, how do I react to others, especially in stressful situations, how many and which resources (water, paraffin, electricity, food, etc.) do I use – it is sometimes worth being more aware of your own decisions and mentally playing through their effects. You can endeavour to make decisions with positive effects – but you will never succeed completely. In addition, it is not always clear what should be seen as positive. Quick effects can turn negative in the long term or if you extend the circle of dependency. Stopping travelling during Corona had a (short-term) positive effect on air pollution, but a negative effect on people working in tourism. Or is it positive for them because they can start making money in other fields?
Good thoughts from Buddhist teachings that you encounter when travelling
One of my favourite Indian public figures is Arundhati Roy. I have read various books and essays by her and one point has stuck strongly in my mind. Unfortunately, I can’t find the passage again, so I’ll quote from memory: “We cannot be without being guilty”. What she means is this: we live on a planet with finite resources and endless environmental problems. Modern (consumer) societies in particular consume at the expense of the environment. But even as a “self-sufficient forest dweller” who integrates herself into the natural cycle, I could be guilty of my fellow human beings to whom I cannot offer the usual social interaction. Furthermore, economical resource consumption does not protect me from potentially being a “human arsehole”. But we can make choices. For example, travelling by air is definitely an unecological decision. On the other hand, it generates income in other countries, can contribute to the “global community” and to our own satisfaction. Because only those who are happy with themselves can be happy with others. What weighs how much? We leave that up to you!
For us, we live and work in tourism according to the maxim: act to the best of our knowledge and belief and allow travellers to make their own decisions. As a tour operator, I have only decided in favour of one thing: I do not offer sightseeing flights. My eco-heart bleeds too much.
Many thanks for your visit!
There is the concept of the ecological footprint, which is supposed to make it possible to measure how environmentally damaging you are. It’s an aspect that plays an important role in the public conversation when it comes to travelling and the resulting environmental damage. And it means that you leave something behind with the people and the country you have visited. However, travelling not only has an ecological component, but also a social one – especially when it comes to countries in the global South. This is where racism in particular lurks. In general terms, there is an imbalance – while the Western passport makes global movement easy and the finances of relatively many Western people make long-distance travel possible, it is not the other way round. We travellers usually belong to the culture that has the power to define and the power to misinterpret.
So when we travellers come into contact with the people in the area we are visiting, this also has an effect on them (see the topic of interdependence). How do they perceive me? Will I be remembered as a friendly, likeable, polite person or a know-it-all, a nag, an ignorant of local conditions and people, an arrogant person, a stubborn person, a hygiene fanatic who tells others that they are dirty? Do I tend to judge everything I encounter (strangers) or can I look at them with neutral interest? What does that do to the other person? What human impression do I leave behind? Not just me as an individual but also as a representative of a group (of travellers, Westerners, etc.) And what does that do to “the ones being travelled to”?
A small example: a large German tour group (not mine) was at a Resort in India for a cooking demonstration. At first, the teacher’s cookery steps were commented on mostly negatively (so much fat? That’s unhealthy. The spiciness is not good for our stomachs. It needs to be cooked better etc.) When they tried it, surprised faces: oh, it tastes good. And at the same time, people were thrown back into fantasies about what they would serve the cooking teacher from their own kitchen. A potato salad like this, prepared like that, she would be amazed! – I asked the cooking teacher how she felt about it. She shrugged her shoulders: she was used to it. But sometimes really interested people are there too.
My own social handprint is not always a caressing, supportive one. My hand also sometimes blocks or waves around. I was/am not aware of some of the arrogance and ignorance. Travelling offers me a chance to learn.
Note: The terms “social footprint” or “social handprint” appear in public communication to date – but they are filled with different content than the one I have described. I would be delighted if my interpretation prevails – or if I find a more suitable term.
Handprint/press – important how it is done