When I dragged my 30 pounds of luggage bag with me to the bus station two weeks ago, I said to myself, “on the road again”. It is a mixed feeling, leaving my $950 dollar shared apartment behind and getting into a completely new environment. There is a part of me that just wants to stay in the routine, but another bigger part wants to explore. The mere act of carrying camera all the time has kept reminding me that travelling is not about destiny but the journey itself.
Not all parts of travel are enjoyable. Cramped legs during the long flight, the annoyance during transits between cities, the noisy neighbors in the dorm, and the occasional exhaustion. But all of them fade away when the sense of exploration and freshness kicks in: seeing things that I haven’t seen before, reading things that I would otherwise not read, tasting food that I may never try, listening to music that I haven’t heard, meeting new people that I never thought I would run into, and ruminating some thoughts that I would never give the time to think over.
Every time I pack my earthly belongings before moving to the next city, I had this strange thought that all I need to survive is just this less than 30 pounds of luggage, plus a backpack with my laptop in it. To have more is unnecessary.
I found myself become more and more introvert as I get old, spending more time reading and writing during the trip instead of talking to people in the hostel. Although I still enjoy the short exchange of greetings with each new fellow traveler I met, such as “where are you from”, “where have you been”, and “where are you going”, and also the occasional surprise it brings, such as “ahh, I have been there too, it’s a great place”, I become more interested in the people who have passed than the people who are present. I felt a deeper and stronger connection exist between the people who have been there and me, through the thoughts they wrote, the arts they created, and the things they used. Particularly in places like Goethe’s house and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Such a connection transcend time and space, and won’t die away after I leave.
One of my favorite effects of a trip like this has been the fresh look it gives to the ordinary daily routines. It gives a new perspective from the standpoint half a world away: the priorities reshuffle; trivialities, no matter how urgent, disappear; the truly important become more evident. One of my favorite moment of the trip has been the long walk with Geoff, my PhD mentor, around an old castle near Karlsruhe. Among many other things, we talked about science. The specifics are less relevant here. Rather the sense of perspective it provides when we see a field a century later and judge who made the most important contribution, and whose work are truly lasting. Such a perspective provides directions in life and the priorities in scheduling daily routines. It keeps me reminded the put the most important things first in my day to day life and work.
Finally on Geoff. He is the one who truly lives according to the motto: “Home is where I work and I work everywhere” by Alfred Nobel.