“Travelling to find yourself”, what on earth does it even mean?
All to often I hear people using this expression. They’re leaving home to go on a journey of self-discovery… to find themselves. I never really understood what they were on about, and to be honest I was never actually intrigued enough to ask.
When I decided to leave home to travel the world, it was never for the purpose of ‘finding myself’. I kind of just decided one day, so I asked Zac and he said let’s go.
Well it’s been nine months away from home and I think I’ve started to understand the meaning of this mystical proverb.
We left home so that we could see the world, immerse ourselves in a bit of different culture and really just learn to appreciate how truly lucky we are to have such a beautiful place to call home (which we learnt pretty early on).
I never had the intention of changing or finding anything new out about myself, because to be honest, I thought I had it all and I thought I knew it all.
We had one goal, to travel together, to work together and to see the world – together.
But unfortunately for us, the big guy upstairs had a very different plan for us, and quite suddenly our idea of how our first year abroad was going to be spent, turned out to be very different.
We were so naïve when we arrived in France. We were living in a studio in the middle of a French town and we got such a shock when we realised that people actually speak French, and that English is virtually non-existent.
Zac got offered a job that he couldn’t turn down, and to make matters worse the job was in Italy, an eight-hour train ride from our little French abode. The morning Zac left, our rental car got towed, and I had to figure out how to get it back, in a country full of people who didn’t understand me. Great.
I landed a job the following week. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing (ha).
After a tumultuous start, including a couple of all nighters, a near abandon ship and a month stranded on an (almost) deserted island, everything started to fall into place. I was lucky enough to work alongside some wicked New Zealanders, a German and a Swede who ended up being like family.
Zac and I were reunited for good only six months later.
And let me tell you, in a foreign country, without your boyfriend, and without your closest friends and family, 183 days is a whole lot of reflection time. Over 20 weekends I spent being my own company, figuring out how to entertain myself, and planning out what I actually want to do with my life.
Those six months, in ways, were the hardest, but boy I learnt so, so much.
Being away from home and now on my own, I soon realised how full our lives are of outside influences. From day one we have parents telling us what to do, to work hard and find good jobs. We have teachers and lecturers telling us to study hard and get good grades. We have bosses managing our careers. We have boyfriends and girlfriends inspiring our decisions.
We constantly have a social pressure to fit in and ‘be normal’. We continuously watch television and listen to the radio, telling us what is fashionable and what is acceptable.
We are pressured to fit into this mould that society has created for us.
And on the rare occasion that we resist, we get looked at funny and asked why.
With all these voices in our head, our decisions are so heavily influenced that it’s impossible to figure out what we truly want.
Instead of going ‘travelling to find yourself’, I think its more appropriately worded as ‘going travelling to decide what you want from life, because it’s the only place where people shut up long enough for you to think’.
When you travel, you meet so many new and interesting people. You realise you don’t need to feel like what you’re looking for is stupid and unrealistic. You’re finally able to accept who you are and what you want, and that’s a part of finding yourself.
When we stop caring about what other people think, we allow ourselves to properly care about the things that really do matter – friends, family, our loves and our passions.
With this newfound perspective, we learn how to choose our battles and focus on what matters. We rediscover what really is important to us, and that’s a part of finding yourself.
When you travel, you do the things you love. And you find new things to love. And you decide that maybe you don’t want to work in an office, you want to ride elephants, climb mountains, surf, or do yoga. And more importantly, you actually meet people who are spending their lives climbing mountains, riding elephants, surfing and teaching yoga.
Those moments stick with you. They make you realise that you actually can do whatever you want.
Once you start exploring, you begin to comprehend actually how enormous this world is, and then you realise that no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to see it all.
It makes you realise how important it is to exist while you can. Be whoever you want to be, spend time with the ones you love. Make new friends, go against the grain and make the most of this blessing that is life.
And if this is what people are trying to achieve by going out to ‘find themselves’ on a journey of self-discovery, I’m 100% behind them.
Everything happens for a reason.