Since I was 18 I’m not only traveling around the world with different destinations, but I’m also living temporarily abroad in different countries. I lived in Paris one year, eight months in Madrid and right now I’m staying in Mexico for about seven months. Both of these ways to travel have their advantages and disadvantages. I love city trips and short trips as much as I love to stay a few months in a foreign city or even a foreign country. Sure, there are differences between these to travel styles that I noticed but there are also some similarities that just present themselves in a different way. I thought about it a bit and came up with this little analysis of short trips and long-term stays.
When I’m not staying in one place very long, most of the time it’s enough for me to know where the most beautiful, interesting and coolest places are and where the cheapest supermarket is. That’s the basic condition for me when traveling. I’m not staying long anyway, so I can definitely live on spaghetti with tomato sauce and without my favourite shampoo during that time. However, when I’m staying in one place longer, that’s not enough anymore and I don’t only wanna know where the next supermarket is, but also for example where I can print out pictures or where I can cut my hair or where I get cheap food during my lunch break. These are all things that I don’t need on a short trip because I am bringing everything I need with me and everything else can be bought there in case it’s really necessary. Plus, on long-term stays it’s also really useful to know where you can find rooms in a shared flat or apartments, in the best case even with furniture. Or you have to cope with the telephone company because the internet doesn’t work. Or you have to register at the immigration office to get a work permission. I’ve already been through all that. Not that easy to know all of it right away. And anyway, every person has their own habits and preferences that they wouldn’t like to abandon over a really long period of time. Here in Mexico for example I notice that German people are really craving for curd which is hard to find ’cause as there is not a huge demand for it in Mexico, they don’t produce much of it. So one solution could be receiving packages from home (which is quite difficult in the case of curd) or you try to find out which shops sell that product or you’re looking for alternatives. Until one day you’re finally settled and have found your favourite café, favourite bar and the fruit shop of your choice.
Procrastination or Programme-Action?
When I’m traveling for just a few days or maybe a few weeks, I always have the urge to do as many things as possible, to discover and experience. To really take advantage of the time I have in that place. Of course it’s not possible to see everything but I always do have some things on my to do list that I would really love to see or to do. And ninety percent of the time I do all of what’s on the list. When I’m living somewhere, this is rather difficult. I’ve been living in Xalapa for two months now and I always wanted to go to the Parque de Tecajetes. Do you think I’ve already been there, just once? Nope. The same goes for hiking in the nearby Cofre de Perote or a trip to a beach at the Golf of Mexico. All of it is on my to do list but it’s not getting done. In the end, I am living here. I can also do it another time. Until I don’t do it at all. For about four years I’ve been having the opportunity to go to the labyrinth in the Berlin club Wilde Renate and after four years, when I finally took the decision to go there, it was already gone. Sure, that’s a problem of my own mindset but what I wanna say is that one maybe tends to postpone things and plans when they’re living in that place because you don’t have the pressure (yet) that you’re gonna leave soon. The only time I really had the feeling that I’m enjoying every second of every day was my year in Paris after I finished school. Somehow all of us (the interns) were so curious, so full of energy and so full of the certainty that we only have this one year, that we really took advantage of every single thing. We went to a museum or exposition at least once a week, went partying almost every weekend, saved all of our money once just to go have dinner in the fancy restaurant La Coupole, visited Disneyland, went on trips and just had a really amazing time. We enjoyed every single minute. My goal is to get back to that mindset.
Impressions and Insights
On short trips you experience so many things in such a short time that everything seems super exciting. You have to cope with all the impressions you get and they leave you happy or curious or excited or exhausted or overwhelmed or everything at the same time. At the beginning of a long-term stay this might be the same but after a while you just get settled (as mentioned above) and not everything is as exciting as at the beginning anymore. Funnily enough I notice that exactly here on the blog. While producing a five-minute-video about my week in Puebla without any problems or presenting my impressions of my two weeks at the Riviera Maya there’s not a single entry about Xalapa yet, let alone a video. And I’ve been living here for two months. Or Madrid. I’ve lived in Madrid for eight months and how many blog entries about Madrid do you find on this blog? Just one. I went to Granada for four days and wrote four articles about it. I’m not quite sure why it’s like that but I assume that the longer I stay in one place, the more my impressions of that place are changing and I’m not sure in which way I would like and can present that place.
On the other hand, those impressions are what makes a long-term stay so special because you get to know a place more profound. You see all the places, both the beautiful ones and the ugly ones, both the safe ones and the dangerous ones. And you get to know the people differently. I meet people that I know on the streets, spend time with people that I really love and work with them on projects, laugh, cry, party, debate, fight and live with them. This is how I’m not only getting to know the country from different points of views but I’m always letting incredibly amazing and unique people be a part of my life.
Freedom and Responsibilities
How great is deciding day by day what you’d like to do, where you wanna go and what you’re up to. At least that is how I feel when I’m traveling. Only doing things that you really wanna do in this moment and forgetting everything else. However, when you’re staying somewhere, only doing what you’re up to isn’t that easy any more. You just have certain responsibilities and duties that you have to fulfill. Of course I always try to combine the useful with the convenient, which is why I might be working here in Mexico, so I have certain tasks that I have to do, but it’s still a job that I really like. I enjoy being in the theatre that I’m working in. All I’m saying is that when I prefer to watch a movie for example, I cannot say „Oh, well, then I’m just not gonna go to work today“, even though in this moment I’d rather be watching the movie. You’re in a certain way limited in your freedom, when you’re living somewhere instead of just traveling around. However the most important thing should be to feel well with what you’re doing. We all have that voice inside of us trying to constantly persuade us but once we overcome that voice and even enjoy what we’re doing, well, that’s the best thing you can have in life.
Me personally, I don’t wanna decide which way of traveling and discovering I prefer. A simple short trip is as great as to stay longer in one place. And certainly there are a lot more ways to travel. Journalist Stephan Orth for example discovered Iran as a Couchsurfer and made incredible experiences that let him discover the country in a whole different way. Carina from the travel and running blog TravelRunPlay is constantly carrying her job with her when traveling around and is therefore living with a mixture of traveling and working at the same time. Author and journalist Carola Frentzen describes in her book Abyssinia how she built up a business school in Ethiopia to provide help for people to help themselves. There are as many different ways to travel as there are people in this world and I think everyone should find out themselves which is what makes them happy. And who knows, maybe I’ll also discover other ways to travel… I’m definitely gonna keep you updated! Until then let me know how you travel and what experiences you’ve made with that, I am super curious!