After my studies, it felt too early to start with the world of work. I had this strong feeling of experiencing something before having an 8-5 (or maybe 7-7) job. Even though I had travelled all my life, previously with my family and at the age of 15, I started my first solo trip to England – a summer language school. But I was hungry for more.
Since my first trip there hasn’t been one year that I haven’t hit the road, and even though the three-month summer break from school offered enough time to see some part of this amazing planet earth, I never felt completely free because there was always the deadline of going back to school on a certain date.
I started off by hiking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage crossing Spain over 750 km – a very important milestone in my life -, the end of something and the beginning of something new; I worked as a teacher in the primary school I attended when I was a child – giving me a different perspective of being in a classroom, understanding the difficulties of this job and showing me what has changed from when I was a child until now;
I volunteered with Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi and Pakistani refugees in Greece and, therefore, was part of this humanitarian crisis; I hiked close to the top of the world – to Mount Everest Base Camp; I volunteered in a rural hospital in Nepal; travelled all across India, lived with nomads in the desert, biked on the highest motorable roads of the world – in Ladakh, which was simply “Heaven on Earth”, and immersed myself in the world of alternative medicine.
All this changed me. In many situations I was forced to overcome my fears, to be stronger – physically and mentally, to be an example for others, to put others first, to laugh even though I wanted to cry, to understand both sides of a situation (e.g. the perspective of the refugees who are trying to save their lives and the perspective of the government overwhelmed and unprepared for the situation) and to see what looking in the face of death really means (e.g. not knowing if your family in Syria is still alive since you are not able to contact them, seeing your child suffering because of a severe disease and not being able to get the help you need, having a ruptured appendix and not wanting to go to hospital because you are too scared to miss your chance to cross the border, being on a dinghy on the open sea in the middle of the night with high waves around you and the boat slowly filling up with water and the only thing you are left with is seeing people die around you…).
During my time in Greece I saw these eyes: eyes of fathers, mothers and children who have faced death and I will never forget about that. When I talk about it my voice still trembles and a harsh shiver is going down my spine. War is terrible and what these people have been through is even worse and for many of them it’s not over yet.
I spoke with many refugees and everyone was desperate; often I heard the sentence “I don’t want to live anymore, I just want to die”. But I know that now, from the people I am still in contact with, almost all of them have been relocated to a different country and got a home and are happy (as happy as possible). When I got such news it filled my heart with so much happiness – they really deserve it and I hope they can find some rest and peace now.
We should also never forget that there will always be EVIL in the world, but GOOD as well – it’s like the Chinese yin and yang theory (dark & bright; opposite forces are interconnected). Being able to work together and alongside with people donating all their time and money to help out “strangers”, some for months or even years, was the most precious gift for me!
I really could feel THE GOOD all around me. At the end of the day, the feeling that you did something today, that you helped your brothers and sisters, that you made somebody smile – even if it is just a small thing, is priceless. This is what makes us human and everyone should show more of THAT and not close their eyes in the face of misery because of being too busy with ourselves …
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail
Ralph Waldo Emerson
PS: Stay tuned for the second part of this article 🙂