Me and my best friend landed in Egypt late at night. It was the end of November, but still much warmer than the snowy place we had just arrived from. Our flight had been delayed, and when we were greeted by our driver outside of the airport we apologized for making him wait, but with a smile he said that it was alright – this was his job. On our way to the hotel, as we were driving past palm trees and stores which were still open in the middle of the night, we talked to our driver about the city we had just arrived in. He was from Cairo, but was working in the tourist resort of Hurghada as a form of coordinator. He would pick up people from the airport, organize activities, answer the questions of confused tourists. It turned out that we had a mutual interest in soccer, and we discussed our favorite teams. Like many other people who hear that I’m from Sweden he was excited to talk about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. When he dropped us of at the hotel where me and my best friend would spend the next two weeks on our first trip together, he told us that if we had any problems we could call him whenever we wanted – because he never sleeps. This might just have been true; because a week later when me and my friend got up in the middle of the night to go on a six hour bus ride to Cairo (a bus ride which deserves its own blog post), our driver was yet again there to pick us up and take us to the bus station. It seemed as though he was always working.
Our view in Hurghada
In life, it is so easy to get caught up in our own bubble. Most of us have a set group of people which we spend time with regularly, perhaps a job or studies which require us to have a routine, and it is easy to forget that there is more to life than what we know. It’s not surprising that many people become ”set in their ways”. And while this way of living – having a routine – is a tremendous source of comfort for many people, it can be difficult to realize that our own lives are just one version of reality. If we only have a few friends and remain in the same area throughout our lives, our frames of reference and ultimately our world becomes quite small. Having that kind of sheltered existence makes it very easy to blow things out of proportion when they go wrong, to be so stuck in your bubble that you lose perspective and consider things to have more impact than they actually do. I myself am guilty of this, I often find myself being freaked out beyond all reason if I’m struggling with an essay or miss a lecture, or perhaps if a guy I like doesn’t text me back, even though in the grand scheme of things these events are pretty trivial. In these moments, when I feel very consumed by my own life in a way, I like to think of people whom I’ve met during my travels. The more people I can recall in my mind, the more my world grows. Our driver from Egypt is one of those people. Thinking about him brings me a lot of perspective, because I realize that my existence is only one of many. I am most definitely not the centre of the universe, and if someting were to go wrong in my life than it’s not a disaster. Life goes on. Everyone’s life goes on.
Visiting my friend who was working on Majorca
Another person I tend to think about in these moments is my old co-worker in Bavaria. As an 18-year old I packed my bags and left for Germany, and for six months I lived there in order to learn German and work in a Biergarten. My contract was quite good, I worked for six days per week and only for about five hours per day. During this time I also lived at the Biergarten, because they allowed me to rent a small room, with no kitchen or bathroom, on the top floor of their building. Though my hours were good I quite struggled at my job there. I didn’t like being a waitress, and though I realize that being a waitress is a job as good as any, it really wasn’t for me. Or maybe it was due to the fact that for the first time I was not only living alone, but in another country where I did not speak the language. At the end of my shift I had no one to go home to, which might have contributed to the feeling of sadness. But I did however really like some of the people I worked with, one of them being the ”main” waitress at the Biergarten. Much like our driver in Egypt, this woman also seemed to work constantly. Not only did she work ten hour shifts every day, she also lived in one of the rooms of the Biergarten and only got a few weeks off every January. The Biergarten was virtually her whole life. Her commitment to the work was clearly larger than mine, yet I never once heard her complain. She was always very kind to me, which was something I was very appreciative of at the time (and still am, of course). And as she is yet another kind person which I have met during my travels, I tend to think of her as well during times which I feel like my world is becoming a little too small. During days when I am intensely writing essays for hours on end, and I get a bit too caught up in my own life, I like to think about her and wonder what she is doing. And remind myself of how no matter how bored or frustated I am with my life, I am most definitely not the only one to feel this way right now.
One of the upsides of living in Germany
I am endlessly grateful for all the kind people I have met in my life. The hostel worker in Marrakech who brought me painkillers and tea when I was feeling ill, the wonderful taxi driver in Białystok who drove me all the way to the Belarussian border and gave me a free tour of the place, and who also helped me translate when talking to the border control and when getting insurance, the wonderful women who let me and my friend sleep on their couch outside of Amsterdam and offered us free dinner, the couple in London who went out of their way to show me how to get to the bus when I had gotten lost in the middle of the night. Having met all of these people is a great reminder of how vast our planet is. The more people I meet, the more expanded my horizons become. All of these people have their own lives, jobs, habits, dreams, families, friends, and knowing that (and being able to think of specific people whom I’ve met and know things about) makes it so much easier to regain perspective of my own life. Though I am struggling with certain things in my life, I am still a very privileged person. And no matter what any of us ever goes through we can always rest assured that we are never truly alone in what we’re dealing with. The world is filled with wonderful people who are all fighting their own battles, and at least in my world that is a very comforting thought.
Having lunch by Lago Maggiore with my host mom
Have you ever met any inspiring people while traveling? Do you think you have been an inspiration to others?