ROMANTIC AND IDEAL. For me the phrase ‘go find yourself’ always seems right. I’m never against a good session of self-insight, or scenarios à la Eat Pray Love. So I always stuck to the idea of the fact that traveling is good for your self-reflection and to find out what you really want in life.
Still, before I’ve never been able to justify exactly why traveling is key to finding yourself. I couldn’t exactly explain to people why – mostly because I couldn’t explain it to myself. How are you are supposed to find yourself while traveling? Do you always return back home as a different person? Maybe so, but when you are just at the beginning of your twenties, travel on and off, but always for short periods of time, I wasn’t exactly sure if you actually would return home different.
I always assumed I wasn’t much of a changed human being – except for maybe the age difference through the years. That was until I started reading old articles, diaries and old thoughts I’ve written down over the years. Until I started thinking about what traveling has done with me and what I actually learned.
In retrospect I realise it all too well: traveling has definitely helped my to find myself – even though I still have to admit that it does sound vague. But truth is – even when you don’t realise it: traveling absolutely changes you and your thoughts. And this is what finding yourself through traveling means to me.
Find what’s important to you
Away from home – far away from your own surroundings with people you trust, that are all used to live in the same culture with the same values. Away from your own history, local humour, dishes and even the weather. The more you leave your own background and surroundings behind on the road – the more you learn to embrace the new situations you’ll find yourself in. Those situations never last long. Once you return home you’ll quickly fall back to old habits. But the more you travel, the more you learn to know people that grew up some place else, and the more you grow richer of experiences – the easier it becomes to learn what is actually important to you. You’ll discover which values you keep close, to which things it is easier to say goodbye and which things you can hardly let go off.
From all your travels, through everyone you meet and from all your experiences you take small parts home with you. Words that stick with you, an image that struck you or a sensation that you will never ever forget again. Everything that sticks with you – but also everything that you quickly forget – makes for a new way of thinking. A change of mind and mostly: your own personal set of values.
Give yourself some time to think
Away from home. No pollution. No influences from somebody else. Just you, space, freedom, happiness and love. Travel gives you time to think about the problems you can’t solve when you are home. Even when you travel with the goal not to think about it. Because that gives you the time to find peace and to move away from stress.
‘Sleep on it for a night’ gets a new meaning when traveling – and because you’re busy doing something else (your happiness and wonderful, new experiences) traveling gives you the time you deserve. Just to think.
Without actually having to bother, traveling will teach you. You’ll learn from others that you meet along the way, you’ll learn through exploring different cultures and you’ll learn by soaking up other countries’ history and nature lessons. Inevitable, great and valuable. I think learning through traveling is one of the most important lessons to get when ‘finding yourself’. You’ll learn to know your own values, you’ll grow and you’ll discover the most important thing yet: gratefulness. Gratefulness for what you have and for the opportunities you get. A bit of positivity but also reality that is worth more than money can buy.
Live in the present
Finding yourself sounds so awfully vague because of one thing. Because how can you find yourself when you don’t know where to look for. Or where, or when? Finding yourself doesn’t only mean searching for what’s important in the future. Finding yourself now, is just as important. Search for the happiness you can find in the small things, in the present things – now. Laugh with the people that surround you, talk until the sun sets, jump out of your comfort zone. Travel makes you realise life is short – it makes you realise memories should be created now. It makes you realise you should live your life and not just exist. Laugh, live, create and enjoy memories that last a lifetime.