When Christian from Berlin turned 30, he packed a backpack and started traveling. First of all, he visited Eastern European countries. As a result of his big journey, the guy wants to start a project about the character of the people he met. How did he see Belarusians?
The desire to do something that I have never done
Chris calls himself Chris Sun on the web. This is how other travellers and hosts know him, who accept the German through the CouchSurfing platform.
Quite modest, with an experience of 11 years, with a job that did not fulfil him enough and a desire to do something that he had never done before. This is how Chris was at the beginning of his journey.
Two years later, he changed. He grew a beard and long hair. I became more confident and open to the world. I stopped judging people. He refrains from sweets, made a habit of doing morning exercises and taking a cold shower. Once I realized that happiness does not come with money, I felt myself happy.
His backpack is also different: it has decreased from 60 to 38 litres. Now it weighs 9 kilograms. With him, all the same things as from the very beginning, there are just fewer of them. Five T-shirts, two formal shirts, trousers, warm and light sweaters, a spare pair of boots, rubber flip-flops, shorts for the pool, four sets of underwear and socks, cosmetics, comb, towel, laptop, e-book, phone, Belarusian chocolate as a gift, a bottle of water.
“We live in a consumption-oriented society”
In a few months Chris will turn 33. A good age to complete the journey, settle down, find a permanent job again, get married and have children, he believes. After all, I’m ready for this now.
But for now, all his possessions are a backpack, a passport, his mind and the freedom to do what he wants. So he writes in his profile on the website of “Couchsurfing”.
In October-November, Chris visited Belarus for the second time. We met in Grodno to talk about the road and his study of the “Soul of Nations”.
In two years, Chris has visited 19 countries, some more than once. There are many former republics of the Soviet Union among them. He has visited 60 countries in his entire life.
As a child, he travelled only with his parents and not far away.
In the end, he wanted to get to know himself and his aspirations better. Initially, the solo trip was planned for 3-4 months. But it was prolonged. During this time, the guy visited his parents 6 times for the holidays.
I wanted to get to know myself better and hit the road
Chris explains that travelling is becoming more and more popular. He met a variety of travellers on his way, like himself: a 52-year-old Colombian, a 45-year-old Mexican, a 51-year-old French woman.
“People miss something. We lose our values, our identity, the good things we could have done, our friends. We live in a consumption-oriented society. We think we can buy everything. People think they’re going to be happy, but that happiness doesn’t last long,” is how Chris explains what makes people hit the road.
10 thousand euros per year
He does not want to name the amount he had with him at the beginning of the journey, since “that is not the most important.” The important thing is how to spend money. In two years, his expected expenses have halved: from 50 to 25 euros per day on average. That means, 9-10 thousand euros are needed for a year now.
“I like it simple. It was one of the goals of the journey-to find happiness in simplicity. It’s normal for me to sleep at the bus station, in the guest house. I can compare. I know what it means to stay in expensive hotels, drive beautiful cars. I’m happier now than I was before when I had these. Things are too comfortable in Germany, but how much life is in there? “, – says Chris.
– What makes you happy?
– Community, communication with people. That’s why I travel to the former USSR countries, as I hope to find more communities here where people support each other. The sun, beautiful views, and nature also make me happy.
The Belarusian architecture is close to him. The guy was born in the Soviet part of Berlin. Therefore, he says that if he sees the architecture of Soviet times, he feels like returning to his childhood.
In addition, it is cheaper to travel here than in Lithuania or Latvia, not to mention Switzerland.
Creates a database of different peoples
During the trip, the young German explores the culture of each nation. Before starting the journey, he could not find the necessary information.
“It’s easier to read What to eat, or which concerts to attend. But it is very difficult to find out how Belarusians think, what values they have, how they communicate with each other, what body language they have, what traditions are important, what inspires them to do what they do, what they strive for,” the storyteller says.
He asks local residents about this with the help of a detailed questionnaire that he developed himself.
As a result, the wanderer wants to create a database of different peoples on the web. It is planned that the information on the site will be cost-neutral. He deliberately does not want to monetize the project in order to return something good to society from himself.
“Cultures are open. We should unite instead of looking for differences,” the researcher is convinced.
Comparing different cultures helped him to become happier himself. For example, he realized that the Germans are not always right in obeying all the rules.
“Belarusians are proud of their country”
He has not yet formed a complete view of Belarus, but shared his observations.
According to Chris, Belarusians look very friendly, smile and notice each other. In other countries, especially in large capitals, people are busy with themselves, their belongings, their phone, they don’t look around much.
Belarusians are very friendly, according to Chris
The second thing that caught his attention was that people in Belarus are proud of their country.
“I have been to Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Armenia. When people found out that I was from Germany, they said: “Oh, I want to go there, I want to leave my country.” When I talk to people here, they say: “I love Belarus,” says Chris.
He believes that at the same time Belarusians may seem sad boring due to economic constraints, as they have fewer opportunities than in richer countries. For example, a Belarusian diploma of education is not recognized outside the country, or people cannot afford to travel a lot.
Chris would like to visit Belarus again.
“The fewer tourists, the more original the people. Even 10 years ago, Thailand was a more original country. Now it is tourist-oriented, like a theater for a tourist,” the traveller believes.
Relationships on the road become more intense
The guy says that the relationship on the road is different from the usual. Everything is developing more intensively-both friendship and romantic relationships.
“What I could experience in Berlin in three months, happens here in a week. There is no luxury of time in traveling. I open up very quickly. I showed you all the contents of my backpack, along with dirty things. I easily move from a superficial conversation to deeper topics. I can tell a person I met five minutes ago about my fears or other strong feelings,” Chris explains.
He has not found a wife for himself yet, although he knows about families who met while traveling.
As for old friends who stayed at home, they can be divided into two groups. Contacts with those who were united only by common affairs, work, disappeared. Deeper relationships with people with whom we used to discuss ideas and serious topics have been preserved.
“I will now return to Berlin, and it will be as if we have not parted with these people. We’ve been friends for 15 years. What’s two years compared to that?”- the guy smiles.
The road changed his attitude to life.
“I have decided that my life is good”
“I choose every day that everything that happens will be a life experience. Everything happens for a reason. I decided that my life is good. I have almost got rid of the fear of what others expect from me. I’m not angry because I see that everything has a reason,” says Chris.
He admits that he has stopped being afraid.
“I may be afraid that I won’t find a good job and I’ll have to wash toilets. It will be part of my life experience. I had a chance to travel; there will be time to endure,” the guy says.
He is not sure that traveling is the way to happiness for everyone.
“I would advise people to do what they want and what they are afraid of: whether to travel or move to another country,” says Chris.