Who am I?
My name is Katharina, Kathi, Xenia, Xuscha or just Xu. How does that come about? I am a so-called "Russian-German". This means that although I was born in Russia, my ancestors originally came from Germany and moved to Russia more than 200 years ago. In 1995, at the tender age of four, my parents decided to move to Germany (back to the German origin, so to speak) with my older brother and me. So I grew up as a matter of course between two cultures and always had the challenge to find my belonging and thus my identity. It didn't really help that when I got registered in Germany, Xenia suddenly was changed into Katharina ;).
In the time since I am very grateful that I got this gift of two cultures, languages and worlds. Sitting between two chairs and being constantly confronted with prejudices has also made me sensitive and open to other world views.
It has also given me the intrinsic motivation to look at the world through my own eyes and not let the media or politics pre-define my judgments. I take a natural pleasure in continuously pushing myself out of my comfort zone and having my worldview challenged. As a result, travel has taken a high priority in my life.
While family vacations were less possible in my childhood, I made up for them many times during my 20s while studying business administration in Bremen and later in Münster. I could just as easily enjoy accounting, taxes and finance abroad, I thought to myself at the time, and so I decided to spend a semester abroad in South Africa, much to the distress for my parents. No one knew then that this was just the beginning. My studies took more and more a back seat while I really flourished during my time with AIESEC. This international student organization sends young people around the world for internships in the spirit of cultural exchange.
I have used every opportunity to discover the world by myself. After South Africa, I did work & travel in Australia, backpacking in Southeast Asia and Latin America, volunteering and living with host families in Colombia, internship in Bahrain, Vipassana in Nepal, yoga teacher education in India and long distance hiking in the Balkans. All the while, I had a strong desire to dive even deeper into the cultures, to get closer to the locals and not just scratch the surface. I slept in tents, surfed on couches and was warmly welcomed by seemingly strangers. Have I been scared? Over and over again. Did I know what I was getting myself into? Never. Had I been prepared? No.
I always learned to deal with my problems only in those situations. Nothing at home could have prepared me for challenges abroad: Explaining myself without knowing the language, using buses that don't have designated stops, dealing with food poisoning on my own, explaining my dramatic condition to the doctor in broken Spanish, staying silent for 10 days in a Nepalese meditation center without ever having endured more than 5 minutes before, doing a yoga teacher training without ever having seen the inside of a yoga studio, to sleep in a tent without ever having set up a tent in Germany, to go from a surfboard to an surgery table within an hour, to be robbed on a moving scooter and still fly to the next country without a cell phone or credit cards, to find a job for room and breakfast at the last minute with only 20 Euros left in the bank account. .. I have never developed so quickly in such a short time as during my travels. The more difficult the situation, the more impactful the learning experience.
As diverse, adventurous, educational and impressive as these trips were, they had one thing in common:
They were quick and had a deadline. My trips always had a defined end.
Even the most amazing semester abroad has an expiration date, the visa runs out, the master's program starts, the summer vacations end, the job start is coming up, the vacation passes. And I wanted to see and experience as much as I could in a short time, and then say "I was there". My eyes were only interested in the big, famous and obviously beautiful things. The world was spinning too fast and the senses are overstimulated. After you've done your sightseeing tour or taken that one photo, you start to get bored and look for the next special thing. For the little things I usually had no eye, no time, no patience or maybe I have become numbed at some point.
1. Slow Traveling - With this trip I want to approach things differently. Slower, more conscious, focus on the simple and seemingly boring things, look at the world from a new perspective and be open to everything that comes, no matter how it comes. No plan, no clue, no predefined deadline. I want to take the speed out of the day. Because as Seneca wrote it 2000 years ago:
"It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough and it has been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things."
For me, it's not just about escaping the daily grind. I want to know what it feels like to really let go of the leashes, to let the boat leave the safe port and sail into the ocean. I just want to feel free, with all the beautiful and difficult sides.
2. Facing personal fears and growing from them - When traveling slowly, I hope to not only rediscover culture and nature, but also myself and my relationship with Joscha. With freedom comes insecurities, of course. And I want to dive into it fully, into the fears, into the risks, into the full spectrum of all possible emotions and personal limits. Because for me, these contrasting experiences mean feeling alive.
I want to create more space for trial and error and failure. Because only when I have learned that I don't have to prove anything to anyone will I be truly free. I've been working on breaking free from others' expectations for a very long time. I would like to use this journey to dedicate myself to this topic even more intensively.