I used to think you travelled to find yourself. And maybe part of this is true. When I first got on a plane and landed on the other side of the world, something inside of me shifted.
I was never the same. But it certainly wasn’t that whole ‘Eat Pray Love’ awakening. Rather, a subtle growth that happened with every trip.
But maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Do we actually lose ourselves, not find ourselves? Let me explain.
People embark on journeys around the world for many different reasons. From cultural curiosity to escapism, we all have our travel motivations. But whenever someone claims they want to ‘find themselves’, I’m always a bit puzzled by this.
Yes, travel teaches you loads – about who you are, how you respond to challenging situations, which friends stick by you. You live moment-to-moment, without societal pressure. You see what sort of character you truly are, without external influences. You start to see things clearly, impartially.
Travel shows you who you’re not, just as much as who you are. So, rewind back to that 19-year old me, boarding a plane to Malaysia. I had my metaphorical list of ‘to-do’s’ by 30:
- Have a cool career
- Own a house by the beach
- Be married
- Baby #1
But what I’ve come to realise is that I never wanted these things, at least not yet. What I really yearned for in my 20s was a fulfilling career, deep friendships, and a life full of adventures. The house, boy and baby are like the icing on the cake, later down the track.
With frequent travel, you learn that everything is temporary, even what you want. The more I travel, the more I lose sight of who I am. But this isn’t a negative thing. I’m extremely self-aware when it comes to my values, what I stand for and the people that I want in my life. Everything else, however, is fluid. Life isn’t linear, like a ruler. It’ll take you on a curvy rollercoaster ride.
One year ago, I thought I wanted to live in Bali for six months then come home. I’d ‘tick’ living abroad off my list and continue with life at home. I’m writing this from a sunny balcony overlooking on the island of Hvar, Croatia. Case in point: what I want and what I think I want are two very different things. Now, I want to live this nomadic life, as long as I can, but I don’t expect it’s going to work out this way. I might want to go home in two weeks.
Constant travel puts your identity in a flux where it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. You unpack every decision and desire – exploring whether it’s what you really want or just the idea of it. This is a good thing.
With uncertainty comes openness and growth. You grow and evolve, going with the flow of life, rather than trying to plan everything. You learn the power of acceptance and ride the wave of life.
You begin to live in the present, at home, not just while travelling.