I remember how it felt, bright-eyed and oh-so-fresh off the boat when I first landed in Phuket, all by myself some four years ago.
I had no idea what I was doing with my life. All I knew was that I wanted to see more of the world. I wanted to meet some new people. I wanted new experiences. And, if I’m completely honest, there was a little part of me in the back of my head that wanted to ‘find myself’.
I’d heard it before: you need to get really, truly lost in order to find yourself.
There are events that happen in life that shake you to your core. You start to question your priorities. Who you can trust. Who are the Good People for you and who are the Bad People. If there’s a God. Why bad things happen to good people. There’s a good chance that at some point you’ll question who you are.
When I meet people back home, one of the first questions I’m asked is what I do. It’s probably one of the first questions you’re asked too. Whatever your reply, people quickly put your into a box. Oh, a lawyer, you must be good at studying, English and probably are focused on making a decent salary. Graphic designer? You’re good at art. Barman? You probably like drinking.
We like to put people in boxes and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stereotypes exist for a reason and as long as they don’t stop you from taking someone as they are, then they’re fine.
One of my favourite things about travel is the fact these things tend to matter a lot less. It doesn’t matter what area code someone lives in when you’re on the road, or what they do, what gossip has been spread about them, who they dated last and so on. None of this matters. You take someone solely on their face value.
Travel forces you to live in the moment as that’s all you have. Most often when you meet someone travelling your paths will only cross for a brief flicker in time, so there’s no point in getting too invested.
This detachment proves useful for getting to know yourself, as you get to be ‘stripped’ away of all that usual nonsense that clouds who you are at the core.
There’s also something else I love about travel that allowed me to ‘find myself’ and it’s the simple fact that when you meet someone traveling chances are they know absolutely nothing about you. You can be whoever you want to be. You can be the version of yourself you were too shy to be when you were home. You can be vulnerable (or more vulnerable than usual) because in the end you know it’s all temporary. If someone doesn’t like you, or isn’t receptive to who you are at the core, then it doesn’t matter because you can go home anyway.
The fleetingness of travel allows you to be the realest version of yourself, if you want to be.
So did travel help me find myself? Kind of. It created an environment where I could be vulnerable, where who I was (in the past) and what I do doesn’t matter as much as who I am right now. Every day I go somewhere new is a blank slate to move an inch closer to be the best version of myself, with nothing to compare it to so I can move there at my own pace.
Have you “found yourself” traveling? How has travel changed you? I’d love to know!