Accepting myself without make-up/ Travel Insights Series #1

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am taking the time to go through my old reflections that I had during my trip. They are from my private Facebook or my journal.

Part one will be my reflection on not wearing make-up anymore. I stopped with it about 1.5 weeks into my trip. I had started in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and then moved on to volunteer on a farm.


Below is my old post, followed by my reflection.

Even though I’m not really into make-up, there’s this certain ‘touch-up’ in the morning, just like brushing my hair.

Working on a farm and being covered in mud and dirt daily made it pretty unnecessary 😛

So the first morning when I walked around without make-up, I felt really self-conscious about what my face looked like. It’s so rare for me to be around other people without make-up. I didn’t really like what I saw in the mirror. I thought I looked bland and not pretty.

Almost three weeks later I looked into the mirror this morning and suddenly felt satisfied and happy with what I saw.

I got used to seeing me this way day after day. And I started feeling more confident. So here’s a rare (make-up free) selfie just because I felt like sharing! *(edit: I am going to leave out the picture for now..)

Will I stop wearing make-up? No, because I enjoy its look for certain occasions 🙂

Do I think it’s awesome to be ready so much for faster in the morning? Totally 😀

What did I learn: besides accepting myself for what I look like one other important thing:

You can learn to like your look by repeatedly ‘confronting’ yourself with it (look into the mirror). It’s like creating a new habit: at first it feels forced and uncomfortable but over time, it will start becoming natural. ❤️




Reflecting on this status, I can say that I have not worn any make-up since October 2018 and almost forgotten what it feels like applying it every day.

I noticed coming back that in our everyday life, I was coming across a lot more people wearing make-up. When backpacking, many people will eventually ditch their make-up because there is little reason to apply it when you’re at the beach, hiking or turning beds.

In ‘normal life’ I became a little more self-aware of people’s faces and their make-up. I still think that it can look really pretty on people, I definitely understand why people wear it!! And for a minute I thought about going back to my old me, who wouldn’t leave the house without my regular make-up. And then I felt that I wanted to see how I’d feel if I continued the way I had been doing it for the past year.

Every time I met a friend I thought someone would comment on it. Nobody did. Admittedly, I had never worn heavy make-up, so it might not have been that noticeable.

The most challenging time was when I went to job interviews. I actually thought it might be something of a prerequisite to apply make-up, just like the fact that you’re supposed to wear a suit to certain companies to be ‘well-groomed’.

So I was incredibly nervous when I went to job interviews, feeling self-conscious and expecting to be judged. 

Nevertheless, I didn’t feel any different reaction from other people in that setting despite not having applied any make-up except for some concealer to hide a bad night’s sleep due to nervousness 😉

The one time, I still feel self-conscious these days is when I am displayed on video-chat. In a way, I can see why people put a lot of make-up when on camera – it does highlight your facial features and make your face look more engaging. Having said that, I do believe that it is another aspect to get used to and I’m still at the beginning stage of this path of acceptance. 

And this is another reason, why I am sharing this post today: 

Just like the last sentence of my reflection as well as my Facebook post, I have a feeling many of us are (forcibly) creating new habits and routines these days. And many of us will struggle and dislike them. I am hoping though over time, these habits will settle and you will feel less resistance and more acceptance. And when the time comes, maybe the reverse effect will happen, and you’ll go through a reverse ‘habit shock’. Change takes time to get used to, but it’s worth hanging in there!

Long-term travel insights applied back in ‘normal life’- blog series

So I’m having a lot of time writing these days which, I cannot say is a bad thing.

I finally get the chance to do something that’s been on my mind for a while. 

Finishing my 14-month trip through South-America, I had struggled to understand who I was, now that I finished my journey.

In the first two months of this year, I saw myself as a failure and deception. I saw myself, who had spent over a decade realizing the lifestyle of her dreams – living abroad permanently and then suddenly found herself in her home country with no idea where to go. I had planned to move elsewhere in Europe, but I suddenly felt uninspired to do so. I didn’t feel inspired to live the life I had lived. I did not recognize the person I impersonated in Germany. I could not believe that the self-knowledge I had aquired through so much personal work during those 14 months seemed to have stayed behind in South-America. Everyday life seemed to have caught up with me and Germany seemed to bring back the me I had tried leaving behind over a decade ago. I started to think that the way I felt about life and myself while traveling was only because I was set in the backpacking scene, among free-spirited people and little responsiblity. I wondered, whether I would be able to incorporate anything that I had learned into my new and somewhat ‘normal life’ or whether I should dump all of those new beliefs as they felt as if they belonged into a different lifestyle.


It took me a while to overcome my frustration and confusion. Eventually, I decided that I should not ignore these experiences and find out how to reconcile them with my life now.

So, I decided to look at each of my ‘long and reflective’ Facebook posts (that I had published at the time on my private profile) and analyze how I think about those thoughts now and whether I can, will or do apply them to my current life. In a way I want to prove to myself and others that though the backpacker lifestyle might have something of an ‘escape from the real world’, there are ways to reconcile the two.

I’m not sure totally sure what I’m going to find out along this journey, but I hope you will enjoy going on it with me!

Part one will be my reflection on not wearing make-up anymore. I stopped with it about 1.5 weeks into my trip. I had started in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and then moved on to volunteer on a farm.

You can read it here – Accepting myself without make-up

What 14 months in South-America taught me

I spent 14 months in 2018 and 2019 traveling around the whole continent.

Having ended that trip a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to do a little reflection on what lessons I learned from traveling through these countries. I am glad that I had so many opportunities to live with host families and locals who’ve given me an authentic look into their life.

In no particular order:

Patience

Calling myself a patient person might still be an exaggeration. But there is something about things taking more time, whether that is the bus ride, your friends arriving for a party, the queue at the supermarket or the repairman that was supposed to fix your internet and shows up a week later. It has taught me that life will get things done when it thinks they should get taken care of, not when you personally believe it should be done.

I’m not going to lie, I celebrated the speed of German cashiers when I came back, but I hope this experience will leave a trace of ‘patience’ in me in our fast-paced, ‘time-efficient’ world.


Unusual ways to fix things

This was something I first smirked at, and later highly appreciated. I encountered so many situations where something broke, and instead of quickly proclaiming – ‘That’s it we need to buy a new one,’ I saw people going at lengths and with great creativity to repair things. From what I saw, I got the feeling that people care a lot more about keeping an item functioning and in a good state than simply replacing it with a new one.

Making things from scratch

I’ve always been a person who liked to make food from scratch. I find the ready-made meals and other products full of ingredients I don’t want to put into my body. There are times though when I’m happy to simply get something from the deli, something to take out from the supermarket. That wasn’t the case in most countries in South-America. In most countries, except for Brazil – and surprisingly – Paraguay, there weren’t any deli sections, and you had to make all food from scratch (unless you went out to eat, of course, or went for fast food).

I learned how to make legumes from scratch, having previously mainly purchased them in a cooked form, mostly canned (I really never learned to make them except for lentils before…).

Haggling

This is something I used to absolutely hate! I remember being in Asia for the first time, 10 years ago, and I realized that you had to haggle to get the item for the price you ‘should be paying.’ It was agonizing for me, and I felt ‘betrayed’ and ‘ripped off. These days I’m almost assuming that through a friendly chat, I might be able to get a better price for something, and I’m proud when I manage. I have seen how you can find prices that are fair for both sides, so I now take it as it is (when it’s applicable in a country, of course).

Small talk

Small talk – something I will probably never completely get used to. I can definitely hold a bit of small talk; however, the German in me will always think that it’s so inefficient and not necessary.  I really had to force myself at times, when instead of merely paying and leaving a place, people wanted to chat for a second and ask me questions, make some comments about the weather/what I was purchasing, etc.… I wouldn’t say that I love it, but I have accepted how it can be part of some cultures and that in order to appreciate this culture one might have to work a little on their small talk skills 😉


Being careful of reviews

The last year taught me to be wary of reviews. I always really believed in rating and reviews for restaurants, tours, etc.… and in a way, I still do. However, I realized how a lot of businesses give their customers incentives to leave them with good reviews. Many walking tours I went to, for example, would urge us, in the end, to leave them a rating on TripAdvisor. I was on a tour where we were brought into an office, given wifi, and promised a keychain if we wrote a review right there on the spot. Talking about customers’ honest and unbiased reviews here…

Also, you really have to be careful of people who give you travel advice. Most people do want to see the same things more or less, but you still have different tastes after all. If someone tells me that I absolutely have to visit a city because it’s great and then I find out it’s because it’s great for shopping and nightlife, two things I’m not super interested in, then I’ll not take that review too seriously.  

The importance of family connection

Family time. People here are big on their family gatherings, being with the family as much as possible, even if it means just dropping by for a few minutes to say hi and have a quick chat.

I’ve been brought to bus stations several times after workaways with the whole family standing there, seeing me off. Young adults still live with their parents if there are not married, and it seems very normal. Sundays are for meeting up with your family, having a BBQ, chatting, catching up on the latest gossip…

People were always shocked when they heard about how little I see my family. Also, compared to their families, our extended family would not constantly spend time together as many people live in different places scattered around the country.

I don’t feel homesick most of the time, but it was interesting for me to see how close families can be and how much they depend on each other. Personally, I like how independent I am, and most of the time, I don’t need support from my family, but it taught me that that is not the case for everyone, and it helped me to understand where people are coming from a little better.


Nature can provide you with so many helpful resources

Another thing that especially my workaways (work-exchanges) have told me is that nature provides you with so much more that you could even think of.

At one of my workaway, I learned that there are so many edible plants that we are not aware of, and that could enrich our nutrient intake at no cost (because people see them as weeds, flowers, or grass). When I was in the Amazon, I went on a hike through the forest, and we were shown a tremendous number of different trees and shrubs that had medicinal, nutritious, constructional value (up to ants that smelled like an insect repellant!)


You don’t always have to fly to cover large distances

Flying between South-American countries is expensive. Domestic flights not so much, but still, how could you resist the cheap bus prices as a backpacker?! Where I was agonizing about an 8h bus ride before that feels like peanuts right now. Once you’ve done 20h in a bus and survived, everything else feels ‘fast.’ 

I’m also glad that I can travel without having to pollute the environment so much. My dad had always told me from a very young age (before this was all over the internet), that flying is very bad for the environment.  Therefore I really tried to limit the flights I took over the last year, knowing that I could go by bus to pretty much any place (without cities in the Amazon, that you HAVE to fly to (Iquitos, Peru; Leticia, Colombia; Tabatinga, Brazil..)


I found gratitude for having grown up in a country where recycling is the norm.

I have spent many months walking around areas where I felt that recycling and not throwing trash on the ground/into the river/ocean was not totally ingrained in people’s heads (though I definitely noticed efforts in certain places to educate people!).

This was very upsetting for me, but I also found gratitude that I grew up in an area where I was aware of these issues from a young age. I am proud that I was taught to take a reusable bag with me to a store, always politely refusing the plastic bag that my groceries were supposed to be bagged into. In South-America, I would try and always bring my own water bottle and reject all the single-use plastic cups that were offered to me (I would instead fill up my bottle with water, even at parties, BBQs – I did not want to support the trash!). I always told park rangers who would point out that we were not to throw trash on the ground that I would NEVER think of doing that. It was a given for me to either take my own trash with me and dispose of it later or to take it to a trash can (really not a given in most countries in South-America, sadly…). 

Realising the necessity to speak a foreign language

Whenever I asked Brazilians whether they spoke Spanish pretty much, everyone said ‘no.’ To me, this was shocking as pretty much half of the continent, and 90% of the countries on it speak Spanish. So why wouldn’t people learn it?!

I realized it was about (not) seeing the necessity of learning it. I do feel as if in Europe or at least in Germany, people are more aware of the fact that speaking another foreign language might help them in their future than on other continents. My idea is that we see the need more as there are so many different languages on the European continent. As soon as you start spending your holidays outside your own country, meaning maybe just a few hours’ drive away you’d wish you spoke French, Italian…. Or at least English.

I do think many people realize the need to know English; however, I was surprised that that was the sole focus.



Lastly, I wanted to say that I have felt a lot more shifts in my mindset, and I am going to write more about that once I have acknowledged them fully and seen them manifest outside of my travel lifestyle.

Edit: I’m currently writing on a travel insights series, reflecting on my old (elaborate) Facebook posts and what these thoughts mean to me back in ‘normal life’. You can find the first post here or an overview here.