Not only does it bring you out of your comfort zone, but it challenges you in a way that will make you stronger, wiser, and more understanding of the world and other people.
On top of Observatory Hill in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains, I found myself in tears. Happy tears. I couldn’t stop smiling and giggling to myself as this indescribable elation took over my body. Above me, a million, brightly coloured prayer flags waved in the wind; bells and chanting filled the air as I embraced a euphoria that connected me to this profoundly spirited, ancient land and filled my soul.
I sat there surrounded by monks at a holy sacred site for both Buddhists and Hindus trying to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible. Then, a young Indian boy stepped in front of me wearing a sweatshirt that read, YOUR HEART IS FREE JUST FOLLOW IT. How perfect, I thought. Here I was in India, a country never on my radar growing up, but the first country I ever travelled to—and I knew it was exactly where I was meant to be.
Travelling, wandering, backpacking—whatever you want to call it—is truly a life-altering experience that I believe everyone should do at least once in their life. Not only does it bring you out of your comfort zone, but it challenges you in a way that will make you stronger, wiser, and more understanding of the world and other people.
While backpacking across India, I allowed my heart to be free. To open up to a foreign place I knew so little about. I yearned to learn about the cities and countrysides, but also about the locals and their ways of life. I was astounded to discover these people who had so little, expressed so much joy.
I grew up in a society where having material possessions was meant to equal happiness, passing strangers on the streets of Chicago who looked more miserable in their high-end suits than did the thousands of beggars I was now encountering in India. In these humble homeless, I saw genuine joy, and it’s where I found it for myself.
I learned more in five months of travelling through India than in four years at a university. I love more, and fall in love with not only the many incredible people I encounter but this insanely beautiful planet we are truly blessed to call home.
Waking up with no plans for the day was a little unnerving, but once out the door getting lost in a new city soaking up an unfamiliar culture, I soon realised the greatest gift of travel: making friends with people from across the globe and creating memories no amount of money can buy.
I grew patience, acceptance, and awareness. I realised that I am in control of my life, not some office job who won’t remember me in a year nor the bulk of society who says I must settle down, start a retirement plan, and get a mortgage. I am in control, and I’ve never felt happier.
If travelling is truly what your heart craves, don’t hold back. Give in and take chances. I promise if you do, the world will open its arms to you and you will find your truest self.
Author - Viktoria Steinhaus
Born and raised in Chicago, Viktoria Steinhaus fell in love with traveling five years ago when backpacking through India and hasn't stopped since. She is now enjoying the laid-back Kiwi life in New Zealand and spends her time road-tripping in her campervan with future plans always on her mind.