Does traveling make you happy?

Why traveling might not make you happier 

It’s no secret that I love traveling. I think it’s definitely made me a better person and has shaped me into who I am today. I’ve always loved the idea of exploring unknown territories, meeting people from all over the world and doing things that I would never do at home, such as bungy jumping or hiking to volcanoes. But many people often ask me if traveling makes me happier. It does, to some extent, but it won’t solve my problems and it’s not like I’ll be instantly happy just because I travel. I think happiness comes from within and it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you are the only one that can change your mindset. 

Once, I was setting off on a long backpacking trip that I was hoping would solve my problems. I was heartbroken, I was confused about what to do in life and I was not happy. So I thought that by jetting off to new countries, it would automatically solve my problems. But never before have I felt that lonely and isolated from my friends and family. I felt so unhappy but I disguised it well. I told myself over and over again how grateful I should be for this opportunity and that I should be happy about my situation. I met people, I did all the sightseeing and I looked happy on the outside. But on the inside, there were still all of these issues that I still hadn’t resolved. The thing is, it doesn’t matter where you go on the world because your problems will follow you. Of course traveling does have the power to make you a happier person, that’s why so many people travel – because they love it. But don’t make traveling all about happiness. Instead, make it about growth. Make it about gaining more life experience. Make it about learning more about yourself. Don’t expect it to be a happy pill that you can just swallow and expect instant happiness. That was the mistake I made and it backfired on me, big time. 

My backpacking trip did end on a happier note. I decided to deal with all the unresolved issues I had, I decided to just take the trip for what it was – traveling – and I felt a stone being lifted off my shoulders. I do think traveling is one of the best things anyone could do, just because it gives you a better understanding of other people’s cultures, it makes you more open-minded, and it really makes you appreciate what you have at home.

Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

What to do in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan 

Karakol is probably the most touristic town in Kyrgyzstan, just because it’s the starting point for a lot of popular hikes. Most people who goes to Karakol only uses it as a starting point to these hikes, but if you decide to explore the town itself, you’ll notice that it’s quite a charming place with lots of hidden gems to discover. If you find yourself in Karakol, here’s what you can do. 

Visit the Antique Shop

This unique antique shop in Karakol has everything you can imagine from the Soviet times. If you want to buy a unique souvenir from Kyrgyzstan, this is definitely the place to go to. There’s old coins, Soviet pins, cameras gears, old police caps, and much more. Even if you don’t want to purchase anything, it’s worth stopping by. 

Go on a free walking tour 

Destination Karakol is a tourism agency that offers free walking tours where visitors get to see all the top monuments in Karakol and meet other travelers. Do remember to tip the guides if you think they did a good job, since most of the time, that’s their only salary. 

Visit the Dungan Mosque 

This beautiful mosque is quite a unique one since it was constructed and designed by Chinese artisans, which you can notice in the design. It was completed in 1910 and is still used today. The mosque was constructed without using any nails, making it an even more unique mosque. If you plan to visit, remember to wear appropriate clothes in order to enter. 

Drink coffee in one of the many cafés

One of the most popular cafés in Karakol is Fat Cat Café, which is also a social enterprise. They aim to give back to the local community by helping victims of abuse, low-income families, helping the homeless and schools. So you can drink coffee and contribute to a good cause, all at the same time. Other noteworthy coffee places include Karakol Meeting Point, which is situated just next to Duet Hostel. You also have Karakol Coffee, one of the most popular places for travelers who are looking to get a western breakfast or lunch. 

Where to stay in Karakol 

If you’re a solo traveler and wants to meet others who wants to join you for a hike for example, I suggest you stay at Duet Hostel. They also have a lot of information about the different types of hikes you can do and can even arrange guides for you. A big bonus is that the Karakol Meeting Point café is just next to the hostel, so you don’t have to go far to get a breakfast before you set off on your hike.  

Another hostel that’s worth mentioning is the KBH Hostel. It was probably the most modern hostel I stayed in during my month in Kyrgyzstan and they also have a lot of information about the different hikes you can do in the surrounding area. But it wasn’t as social as Duet Hostel, I thought. 

Traveling in Central Asia

3 lies I told myself about traveling in Central Asia

Before I traveled to Central Asia, I was a bit freaked out. No one I knew had traveled in Central Asia and it just seemed so remote and strange. But I was adamant about it and I knew that this was a trip I just had to do. I’d been dreaming about those mountains for so long, to get to know the nomadic people and see the madrasas in Uzbekistan. I’m so happy I did it because it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. And I’m so happy I didn’t listen to the  3 lies I told myself about traveling in Central Asia. 

Here are the 3 lies that I repeated in my head constantly and that almost stopped me from traveling. 

It’ll be unsafe 

Three months of traveling around Central Asia really opened up my eyes to this part of the world that’s definitely not as scary as it might sound like to people who’ve never been here. But I can totally understand why many people think it’s unsafe here. This was one of the first lies I told myself about traveling in Central Asia. I thought since not many people go to Central Asia, it has to be unsafe. But I couldn’t be more wrong. I was so surprised by how safe it is and how easy it is to travel around. During my three months of traveling, I never felt unsafe. Not even once, not even when I walked home alone at night in Almaty, probably the biggest city that I visited in Central Asia. 

Everything will be difficult 

Well, there were some difficult times, but I was surprised that tourism has started to develop here too. It might not be as easy like traveling around Southeast Asia, but it’s far from difficult. It can be a bit frustrating at times if you don’t speak Russian or the local language, but you’ll be surprised by how far you can get with body language. 

No one will speak English

All the blogs I read about Central Asia warned me about the language barrier and how difficult it would be to travel without knowing Russian. So before I left, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone. Although it is true to some extent that people don’t speak English here, you will still be surprised by how many people who at least knows a few words. You’ll almost be guaranteed that the receptionists at your hostel speaks English, the tour guides and people who works in tourism. Many young people in Kazakhstan has good knowledge of English too and like stated above, you can always get away with body language. Or google translate.