When you travel a lot, most people assume you are running away from something, escaping reality, or that you don’t know who you are.
Is it true?
Are us travellers trying to have an extended adolescence? Do we have a ‘Fight Club/The Beach’ mentality where we are trying to find some meaning beyond the 9-5 rat race? Are we avoiding relationships, parenthood, careers and property ownership? Are we looking for the answers somewhere out there, beyond ourselves? Are we deluding ourselves?
Most people seem to think that travellers are either trying to find themselves or escape reality. Are we lost? Are we unrealistic?
As a Gemini, I don’t know if any of us truly know who we are. We’re people. We change. Are we our jobs? Our relationships? Our friends? Our interests? Opinions? Tastes? Thoughts? Or are we the stillness in between these things? What defines us? Who are we?
When I first went travelling, I suppose I was trying to ‘find myself’ in a way. I was in a job that I didn’t like that much and I felt I’d gone straight from Uni to work. I’d always wanted to be a writer and I hadn’t wanted to go to University, although I did end up enjoying myself and learnt a lot. This job didn’t feel like me. This didn’t feel like the life I wanted or had envisioned for myself. I felt like a ‘wage slave.’ I don’t think I’d ever done anything brave or spontaneous. I’d always been sensible. Travel was my way of doing something courageous, rebellious and liberating.
I don’t know that you find yourself when you travel, but you do peel back layers and masks. When you work, you take on a new identity. This identity is pristine, polished, perfect, professional. When you travel, this falls away. You shed that city skin. I walked slower, ate at a leisurely pace (and I chose healthier foods), I exercised more, and I did what I wanted to do. I was able to truly live in the moment. This is sadly something I’ve failed to consistently recreate back at home when I have to work. When I’m a clock watcher, list maker and busy body.
You also take on different challenges when you travel. You overcome shyness and anxiety. You push out of your comfort zone. You eat and go to the movies alone. Fly alone. Volunteer. Do backbreaking physical labour. Live in harem pants and flip flops (or thongs as the Aussie’s call them…) You DO things because you have the time and space to do them. My imagination expanded in a big way in Thailand. I had limitless ideas for stories, businesses and products. That evaporated quickly when I got back into the grind. I became too busy to act on my ideas, even though I’m not half as busy as most!
Travel doesn’t necessarily make you find yourself in a grand, spiritual way although I believe it can do, but it takes away the rubbish and helps you focus on you. The choices you make in that vacuum, reveal who you are more than anything else, I think.
I think we are all finding ways to escape reality. How hard is to be present day in day out on that long commuter train? It’s easier to escape inside your phone, newspaper or kindle. Some people escape into food, alcohol and drugs. Others into shopping, social media and gambling. We all need an escape. I think travel is a healthy way of escaping and ultimately, what we are designed to do. It was intended that we move and explore, not that we sit still and stagnate.
When I went travelling, I met lots of people who seemed to be running away from breakups, relationships, marriage, jobs, homes and all things ‘conventional’, ‘normal.’ We were all thirsting for adventure, fun, something you feel when you watch a great movie or listen to an amazing song.
Travel breaks you out of the confines of your own culture and way of life. When you travel, you move around the world as a clean slate. Nobody knows your life, your past or who you are. They don’t know what you do for a living or where you live. You can be who you want to be. You can be the real you. It’s easy to be so free when your friendships are transient, when you keep moving. That sense of momentum is exhilarating and feels like true living to me. There’s a hum and buzz of change which is exciting and authentic. It’s like being on the pulse of life, truly living in the now.
Part of what led me to travel was trying to escape from a job that I began to feel was defining me and also to separate myself from a breakup that had affected me in a big way. Was I using travel as an escape? Partly yes. Did it work? Well, mostly. The thing is, whether you stay in your hometown or move to the other side of the world, you can never escape yourself. You have to sit with your thoughts and feelings, but new people and new scenery refreshes you and your sense of confidence and opportunity builds.
I won’t say that travel made me ‘find myself.’ I’m still the same woman I was, just a little older and with cool memories, but it did make me realise who I can be, what I’m made of and how I can change, and still can change, at any time, if I choose to. Did travel help me escape? In some ways. That temporary escape was something I needed, and travel is always an escape for me, but it’s also a chance to learn, a dream, a hobby and something that I love. I often feel that rather than escaping, travelling is about showing up, being present and truly living.
That’s my take on these two opinions of travellers. Has travel been an escape for you? Has it enabled you to find yourself? I’m curious to know…
All my love