To Seek Meaning: A Transformative Bikepacking Journey Through The Balkans
I don't believe in happiness. I don't believe that chasing happiness is a meaningful goal in life. What I do believe in is to search for meaning. During my bikepacking journey through the Balkans, I have experienced a lot of ups and downs.
Okay, so something really scary happened right now. Then he started like searching my bags. But most of all, I have been going through a transformative process. Many of us wonder what to make of our short lives. Those of us who have the privilege. Some find an answer during the course of their lives, and others never do.
But what is a meaningful life? In the last weeks, I have learned a lot, and I came a lot closer to answering that question for myself. After a long break in Albania, I continued my journey to a country that had been reduced to only one thing in my mind. War. I'm in Kosovo. I still remember the images on the news in my early youth, and of the German soldiers who came home traumatized from what they had experienced in that country.
It was these images in my head that gave me an uneasy feeling as I slowly approached the Kosovo border. When I was driving into Kosovo, from Albania, I had mixed feelings. What I did not expect was how much I would fall in love with this country and its people in the following days, and how much it helped me in coming closer to being the person I want to be. I was amazed at how hospitable the people are. I was invited again and again for a coffee or a meal, and nowhere else have I found it so easy to get in touch with people. As soon as I entered the country, all these mixed feelings completely went away within moments.
I felt so welcome in Kosovo that it was easy for me to overcome my social anxiety. It was as if I was a different person. I even approached people and dared to ask whether I might film them. For me, that was a huge breakthrough. Kosovo in my head was always a conflict region, and it was a conflict region.
But when you hear things like that in the news, an image in your head starts to form in which you see a country which is completely broken, and you see a country that is destroyed. This is absolutely not the case what I'm experiencing here. Of course, the country is still scarred by the war, which is evident not least from the many monuments. Memorials of the UÇK can be found everywhere around Kosovo, usually at spots where battles have taken place. The fallen soldiers of the UÇK are celebrated as heroes here in Kosovo, whereas in Serbia, the UÇK is considered a terrorist organization.
But people live their lives here. They live in a moment, more than I know from my home country. I've never experienced so friendly people. I've never experienced this
extent of hospitality. I'm honest. I always dreamed of travelling the world and documenting it in one way or another. But I was holding myself back because I thought I could never do this. I could never approach people easily.
This whole experience is changing that for me. Today I started asking people if I can film them. And I would have never thought that I would be able to do this. This is a big thing happening right now because it opens up so much more to this whole thing that I'm doing right here. What was that? A bird.
Using the camera, it's like a tool to overcome all this. To overcome the fear to be rejected. The fear that something catastrophic might happen if I ask people or if I try to get in touch with people because now I have kind of a reason. There is a place in Serbia where I wanted to go next that has a special meaning for me.
But since it is currently not possible to cross the border from Kosovo to Serbia, I made a detour via Macedonia. After crossing the border to Macedonia, I had my first ever bad experience with wild camping. Something really scary happend right now. I just crossed the border from Kosovo to Northern Macedonia. And.... I...
I was pretty exhausted, so I was just looking for a place to pitch my tent right after the border. Maybe that was not a good idea, because in the border regions you shouldn't maybe camp. Now I was sitting here and just enjoying the sunset. I already pitched my tent here. When suddenly a car drove up to me with a guy who was really nervous in camouflage, but his car didn't look like an official car. He was saying, "I have to get down, I have to get down."
I wanted to stand up and say hello and be friendly. He said, "Sit down, sit down." He wanted to see my passport. Then he started searching my bags. He told me to open my tent and he was looking in the tent. He was making photos of everything, of me, of my passport. He was calling somebody and he was really nervous.
He said, "No problem, no problem." But he was still really nervous and looking. I freaked out and then he said, "It's no problem." Then there was another guy coming. Both of them were talking to me. Nobody
really spoke English. Then after a while they told me that they are, because there's a big construction site here, they told me that they are the security for the construction site and I can stay. It's no problem. The police is no problem. Whatever. They
seem to be driving around the construction site. It seems legit, but they looked a little bit suspicious. I have no idea. Now they know I'm here. They know who I am. They took pictures of my passport. There are two options now. Either
what they told me is true and they are really the security guys and I can stay here. Or I don't know. They wait until I sleep and they rip me off. I have no idea. Right now, I'm not sure, but now it's getting really late. Yeah. I survived the night and moved on to the capital of northern Macedonia.
I'm already in Skopje, which is the capital of Northern Macedonia, which seems to be a very beautiful city. However, right now I don't really feel like staying in a big city. I had a lot of rest in the last two weeks in Albania and Kosovo and I feel like going on.
This place I wanted to get to is where it all started for me back in 2014, when I did my first long bike tour along the Danube to Belgrade in Serbia. So I headed north from Skopje into Serbia in order to finish something. The landscape here is really, really beautiful. Everything is
green. There's a little river over there. I've got some dogs that guarded me this night. It's a really peaceful place. I arrived here yesterday evening and I saw this place and at first I thought it's like maybe an old hotel or something. I don't know.
And I went here and there was a guy working here and I asked what I can camp here and he said, yeah, sure, of course. I will be heading to Serbia now. And I'm really excited to get there again. It's been several years that I've last been in Serbia.
And I'm going there for a special reason because I have to finish something that I wasn't able to finish in the past. It was that first long bike journey along the Danube almost 10 years ago that never let go of me since. It was like a revelation. I realized that you can travel thousands of kilometers per bike, that you can explore the whole world with such a simple and beautiful means of transport. I still remember my last day in Belgrade. I looked to the road and I saw the road. majestic river might take me.
I made a promise to myself that day that I would come back someday to find out. Since then, this river has enchanted me. Whenever I saw it somewhere in Germany, it was as if it was calling me. Whenever
I heard the squeaking of the swallows, I felt this unbearable longing. For a long time, I didn't have the courage to follow this call and leave everything behind. The shackles of everyday life and depression had me firmly in their grip. And it was to take almost 10 years until I could come back and fulfill my promise. But to get there, I had to climb another big range of mountains yet again. 10 o'clock in the morning and I made it to the top of the first mountain.
I tell you, the Serbian mountains are brutal, but... Cheers! Nature here seems to be intact. There's a lot of insects. It's like the only thing that really sucks a little. I mean, I'm happy for the insects, but especially when you're climbing a mountain. There's so many flies
surrounding you and bugging you. It can be a bit annoying, but I'm really grateful to be here. It's really, really beautiful. It feels a bit
like home. It's nice. After every high, there must be a low. I made it through the mountains. And after having this incredible transformative time in Kosovo and Albania, a phase of loneliness followed.
I don't know what's wrong. I feel really low today. It's a grey day. Not only on the outside, but also on the inside.
Don't feel like cycling. Don't feel like this whole thing is worth it. I'm homesick. I try to embrace it, but it's hard right now. It's pretty difficult. The weather got better, but... my mood is still kind of shaky. I'm sure
this will pass. It's part of it, but yeah, pretty weird. After a while, I decided to push through, to ignore my slow travel principles and just keep pushing forward to better times. And as if out of nowhere, I received some comforting company. I've got a problem. I fell in love. The sweet little kitten. I spent the
night in my tent. I first thought it's a strange bird or something because there was these strange noises from out of the bush, but it was her complaining. The whole time.
The closer I got to my destination, the more my mood improved. I no longer felt lonely. I felt at home with myself again on the bike and on the road. I have always felt obliged to serve some higher purpose without knowing exactly what I wanted.
But when I set out on my first big cycling trip years ago, I felt what I really wanted to do. And now I came back again to the place where it all started. And I can finally continue my journey along this beautiful river. I can finally finish what I haven't been able to do for years.
I have always had doubts, you know. Is this really a meaningful goal in life? To just cycle around? Isn't that selfish? Aren't there much more important things in life that I could be doing? Well, after the last few days, I came to realize that I found meaning in what I'm doing. And that's frankly because of you. I don't believe in happiness. Happiness is an ephemeral state. What I
do believe in is the search for meaning. But what's a meaningful life? When I was lost and did not know what to do with my life, I simply hated to hear people say things like "You have to do what you love and the rest will follow". For me, these were just empty phrases. But you, my audience, you have convinced me that it is indeed true. By watching my videos, by giving me this incredible feedback, I'm infinitely grateful for that. So I guess I'll keep doing this for a while and see where it takes me.
Do not let your own doubts or the doubts of others stop you and try to find a way to do what is personally meaningful to you. And I guess the rest will follow. I sincerely hope you enjoyed watching this video. Because making these videos has given me new purpose. I would have never dreamed that I would be able to inspire or motivate others or even help some of you to achieve your own goals and overcome your fear and to fulfill your dreams.
All that gives me an incredible amount of courage and really motivates me to go on. If you would like to support me to continue to do this stuff, as usual, you find a link in the description. Thank you very much for watching and see you next time.