Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Jeffrey (23): “I have a growing aversion to the shackles forced on me by my study and society. That is why I am considering giving it all up and going backpacking. Is that a good plan?”
Ingrid: In the Dutch television programme Ik vertrek (I’m leaving), we see people going abroad to find fortune. Paula and Peter, for example, started a rural campsite in Denmark and Bart and Christa bought a small French hotel. The reason for such a step is almost without exception the need to spend more time together and a slower pace. The viewer, however, sees how the adventurers suffer one setback after another; they spend all their days running from here to there or finally end up earning a living as a postman. Nevertheless, all of them say that they should have done this years ago. So should we follow their example and sell up and move away? No. As far as I’m concerned, this is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance. This is a psychological term for the discrepancy between thinking – we should never have made this move – and moving – persevering, staying. The emigration, after all, has cost a lot and all Dutch bridges have been burned. This discrepancy causes tension. Revising your opinion and saying that this is something you should have done years ago, is the solution. You are justifying your behaviour. Tension is released.
Emigrating or backpacking, it is not a condition for living the life you really want to live. The question is what are you looking for and is it really necessary to go off into the world to find it. Quitting your study, winning the lottery or a holiday home in Spain do not necessarily lead to a better life. If you are troubled by something, then you will take that with you. Wherever you go. I am convinced that even now, while you are studying, you could live a life that is based more on what you want or value. What you need to do so, is not a trip around the world but an internal journey, so that you find an answer to the question what is important to you and how you can get more of it in your life.
The Persian Sufi Shams Tabrizi (1185-1248) phrased it beautifully in one of his 40 rules of love, which are a kind of life lessons: ‘Whatever your destination is, make sure that for every journey you make, you also make an internal journey. When you travel internally, you travel the whole wide world and beyond.’