It has been almost a year that I’m back on the road again. Traveling S.E.Asia. After traveling Europe and South America this was a continent I wanted to visit for a long time. And here I am, in my little beach house on one of the many islands in the Philippines, reflecting on my year of travel.
It has been a year with earthquakes, typhoons, and a hotel fire. A reasonably healthy year with only a few minor food poisoning cases, a soar throat and urine infection, nothing serious that could not be fixed by over the counter medication.
It has been a year of focussing on myself and defining myself in a new way. I’m not the youngest among the nomads on the road. But I’m certainly not the oldest. I am a genuine nomad though with no home address to return to.
My home is where I am
And that makes a lot of homemaking. After renting a few short term rentals in different locations in the Philippines I’ve come to realize that I prefer traveling over staying int he same place. I get restless when I stay too long. And I also fall into an old habit of mine: caring too much about the people around me and less about myself.
I cannot change the world nor the people living in it
I can try to change life circumstances and create opportunities, but if a person ceases to take them and use them for their own benefit I cannot do more than resting my case and walk away.
I’ve done some pay it forward projects here in the Philippines, I’ve shared my skills and knowledge, I volunteered for certain projects and that is about all I can do. In the end, it is up to the people to change their lives for the better.
I’m learning to take better care of myself
As an empath, the world can hit me hard. I need to set boundaries. Otherwise, I will drown in the incoming feelings and emotions, vibes and impressions. It literally drains me. I do not recall being burdened by it in my earlier travels, maybe my gift expanded when age increases. I have no idea. But I do know that at the age of 55 I have to learn how to set my boundaries and take better care of myself.
I need to learn more self-responsibility if I want to keep doing the things I’m doing
I skipped the 9-5 mentality and wanted less responsibility, but travel comes with its own set of demands when it comes to responsibility. And I’m not only talking about being safe, money management, following the country’s laws and applying for all the legal stuff. I also mean your personal responsibility.
Travelers need that maybe even more than those living in their comfort zone. Responsibility has a nasty ring to it. Either through your upbringing, your religious background or your lack of self-awareness, low self-esteem or habits from the past, you kind of might not like the sound of the word.
Denying personal responsibility can vary from a very subtle habit to a deep anchored believe about life. The question to ask yourself as a traveler is: Do you take responsibility for your own happiness, wholeness and therefore your health?
Taking self-responsibility is a deep form of self-respect
Through my upbringing, I was taught to respect others deeply. As the oldest child growing up in the Dutch Bible Belt I was burdened with the caretaking of my 2 younger brothers at a young age. Include an overdramatic mum in this picture and an alcoholic dad, my early childhood years were burdened. They formed me into the adult that started out her life journey without any self-esteem and no feeling of self-worth whatsoever.
Opening hours for the needs and problems of others were like 24/7
Needless to say, I ended up a lot hanging around with the wrong crowd and giving more than I had in stock. I ended up with a severe burn-out.
After my therapy, I became more ‘selfish’ as I called it.
The thing that I learn on my nowadays journey through S.E. Asia, spending a lot of time by myself, is that it is not ‘selfish’ it is self-responsible.
I close down the shop at regular hours so to speak. I withdraw in myself. I learn to say no. Even to those, I love.
Returning visitors to Leaving Holland may have read about my lover and his enormous baggage that put a strain on me. The happiness and willingness with which I jumped into the whole relationship trying to ‘solve it’ and make it work.
And the painful lessons learned when I backed out after he disappeared on me for weeks only wanting to see me when he wanted, needing me for no other purpose than his business and pleasure.
Unlucky for him he stepped into my life in the middle of lessons about self-responsibility.
I told him to stay away before he got the best of me, and that was a pure act of self-responsibility
So what is self-responsibility all about?
the realization that only you are the only person that is truly 100% responsible for yourself. I found it hard to integrate that realization and I worked on it by yoga and meditation, and my precious journaling. Because of my over-conscious mind, this awareness has a hard time to settle in. But finding my ‘trigger’-points and naming them helps me to let go of my need to take responsibility for others no matter the cost.
avoiding old habits and pinpointing them. It doesn’t come easy. One will easily slip back into those old habits and beliefs. But my journaling shows a clear picture of me and my weak spots. It has become a precious guideline to recognize my pitfall in day to day life. Every morning I write my Morning Papers and every evening I evaluate my day. And in those evaluations of the evening, I note the missed promises of the morning. My writings some days have this martyrdom-like atmosphere that I need to get rid of.
learn to let go of my need to take care of others. As the oldest child taking care of my younger siblings, caretaking is my second, if not my first nature. As a mom of 2, I kind of imprinted that role in my brains over and over again. I wasn’t the best mom, struggling with the need to find balance in me-time and care-time, but that is another story. The self-sacrificial attitude I am overcoming right now helps me to see the ‘needy’ as they are and not as I want them to see. I’m becoming aware of the fact that I cannot see their true needs. I see what I want to see within my references from the past. And although it is important for us people to show care and to love others you must also understand that there is a limit. You can do only so much to help. In the end, the bulk of work has to be done by the other person.
reclaiming the joy of my own life style and new habits. It is such a relief when you start to realize you do not have to take on the burdens of others anymore in order to be happy, feel loved, fulfilled or have a goal in life. You do not have to spend your energy on the hundreds of others, because you give to yourself first. Only then the others can benefit. And that is not selfish. The thought of that is an eye-opener, the lesson learned comes as a blessing to live a fuller a happier life, to embrace my lifestyle to the fullest. It is not selfish, as I thought it was, it is realistic. And yes, I still can nag, urge, pressure and even manipulate the other person to act, but in the end, if that person doesn’t move, that is not my responsibility. If that person does not want to take up his/her part of self-responsibility…..their choice. Reclaiming the joy over my own life is the hardest part, especially when there are people I love involved, like my last boyfriend. What will become of him? Have I added to his burden by being present in his life? It is painful to see him struggle on and ignoring the opportunities offered. But in the end, it is his choice. As Buddha once said:
Pain is certain, suffering is optional
dealing with resistance and keeping the faith. When you are in relationships with others you may notice a shift in behavior and meet resistance once you act self-responsible. People have to get used to the new you. But if people around you truly love you, you will get the liberty to say ‘no’. True relationships will be supportive instead of moving away from the new you. If people you love do move away, you must deal with letting them go. You will find that hard at first, but it will help you to imprint the new self-responsible attitude into your system. No better learning than practice, right. Keep in mind that the more resistant a person is to your inner changes, the more unhealthy your relationship with that person is. And that it is time to let go.
So one year of travel in S.E Asia, islands discovered, people met, boundaries set……..It is truly time for a celebration. Learning this lesson with my feet in the white sand of a tropical beach, and at my age, is such a privilege. I know I will slip back into old habits every now and then. I still have to learn to balance my new findings. But now, for today: let’s have cake, for I’m learning to set boundaries, I learned that self-responsibility isn’t selfish.
I love my new self.
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Jeanette, a Dutch female nomad, started to travel the world at the age of 17. Walker of beaches, shell searcher and iPhone photographer. Writer and owner of two websites
Currently, she lives in Mexico.
She is an emigration coach and works online.