Why You Really Shouldn't Travel to Find Yourself
By Kelly Nickels.
Travel to “Find Yourself”: Our Favourite Quote
One of our all time favourite “finding yourself” quotes is by Emily Mcdowell:
“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got is hands on you.”
I grew up in Grapevine, Texas which was both a blessing and a challenge because it was full of love, but also full of good ole southern societal expectations. Yeehaw! Sometimes it felt as if living in the South you were indoctrinated into a pact that you agreed upon unbeknownst to yourself – a pact in which you agreed to lock in certain life milestones by certain variances of ages. “I’ll be married by 24 and have kids by 28” and so on and so forth. This isn’t meant to discount the relationships I’ve made and the people I’ve encountered along the way, but I’ve come to find that a one life-path-fits-all mentality serves no one.
It has been a bumpy road, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I mean, I did see signs of misalignment at earlier ages, but much like billboard signs you drive by on the highway, my vision was blurred and before I knew it, they passed me by without meaning. I realized I knew nothing about the person I had become. I felt like I had free will, but I had no idea how to wield it authentically. Once you’ve spent the first 25 years of your life following a narrative that was never yours to begin with, how do you even begin to realign yourself? The beautiful thing is that “there’s no wrong time to start again.” The decision to exit the narrative, remove yourself from the unhealthy pattern, and not be defined by your past.
How Traveling Can Help You “Find Yourself”
‘Imposter Syndrome’ usually is a term used in correlation with someone’s career, but I feel it relevant to describe how I felt in my marriage. Coming to terms with the fact that you are living a life that isn’t yours is very hard to do. I had the ring. I had the husband. So why did I feel the same? Not whole. Not complete. This was supposed to be the answer. I didn’t think that I could be the source of my own feelings of incompletion. I assumed it had to be something external, so I started seeking external validation. This can materialize in many forms: thinking a different relationship will fulfill you, rearranging your material world, social media, and, the one we’re here to talk about, travel.
Traveling can help you ‘find yourself’ by:
- Throwing you into the unknown, so the only known that remains is you
- Helping you realize traveling isn’t the answer, but rather a helpful ‘tool’
- Opening up new perspectives and ways of thinking
- A reminder to be grateful for what you have
“If we continue to externalize our search for love, we will not find lasting, satisfying love in this lifetime.”
There is nothing wrong with searching for happiness, success, or love outside of yourself, but the paradox is that you won’t find it until you internalize that search as well. You may find glimpses, but eventually all roads lead back to introspection. They lead back to yourself.
Traveling can help on this journey because until you do it, you may think that the reason you are unhappy is because you haven’t traveled enough. “Maybe if I see more of the world or move to a new city, then I’ll feel complete.” But you could talk to someone who has traveled from Nepal to Thailand and every other beautiful place you can think of, yet they still share that same restlessness.
Jim Carrey once said, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that's not the answer.” I think what he’s getting at is that seeking fulfillment outside of yourself will never yield peace. If you had all the toys you’ve ever wanted, accomplished every goal or dream you’ve pined after, and traveled to every country on Earth, would you be satisfied? I personally don’t think so.
Then why travel at all? Well, if you can find yourself anywhere, then you can find yourself anywhere. Might as well embrace your wanderlust! Go to Costa Rica even though you thought it was too expensive to warrant visiting, visit the Hobbit Holes of New Zealand because you love Lord of the Rings, take that plane flight to South Africa even though you’re scared to fly internationally, learn that new language abroad with the locals.
A lot of the reasons keeping you from travel are things your soul is aching for you to transcend. Old programming and fear-based conditioning. That voice in your head telling you “it’s too expensive” or “what if something scary happens” should never keep you from living your life and usually if you do it anyways, you’ll find it was well worth the financial risk and not as scary as you thought. If you don’t know where to go, close your eyes and point your finger at a world map. Worst case scenario, you can always return home.
When I visited the Philippines, I vividly remember an image of a young boy, he couldn’t have been more than three years of age, pouring a bucket of water over himself on the side of the road to shower. That was one of the first times my privilege slapped me hard across the face. It’s one thing to read about poverty, but to witness it in person is another experience. An experience I think everyone should have in life. Travel humbles you. It reminds you to be grateful for what you have. You meet people who will see things from a different point of view or a new perspective. All of these things are helpful for recalibrating your identity and what you deem resonates with who you authentically are.
Spiritual Trips To “Find Yourself”
Every trip you take can be a spiritual one if you let it. You don’t have to go take a vow of silence with the monks to learn about who you are, nor do you have to even leave your home. Everything you are looking for is within you, so whether you take it on one of your next road trips is up to you.
When I ended my marriage last year, I went full Eat, Pray, Love and booked a two-week solo trip to Scotland. I spent most of the trip walking, driving, and taking trains alone as I traversed the most scenic locations of the Scottish Highlands and the city centres of Edinburgh and Inverness. Solo-travel is a great way to “find yourself.” It forces you to be self-reliant. This was hugely beneficial for me as I was deconstructing years of codependent tendencies and proving to myself I could do things independently.
I remember before I left for my trip, my mom said “can’t you just wait for your best friend to go with you?” She was wary of me going alone, thinking it wouldn’t be “safe.” There’s always going to be a reason not to do something. Some reason your mind or another person constructs to keep you in your comfort zone. But the most rewarding inner work is done outside of what is known to you. When you strip away what is known to you, like your immediate surroundings, you have nothing to ground you other than what remains, yourself.
Travel then becomes a clean slate to start looking within because when you can’t find meaning or purpose in the world around you, you start asking questions. A good example of this is called Transformative Travel. If you travel with the intent of growth instead of distraction, transformative travel is a great way to make progress on your inner journey. The Wakeful Travel Journal acts as a perfect companion to your travel experience as you write down what you want to learn or unlearn about yourself. Plus, you can organize your thoughts as you go, while indulging in colour therapy pages and mirroring yoga postures.
How to “Find Yourself” Without Traveling
If you’d prefer to start your inner journey at home, the best way to ‘find yourself’ without traveling is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of consciously choosing to reside in the present moment. There’s many mindfulness practices you can add to your everyday routine to help rediscover your most authentic, true self.
In addition to mindfulness, the best way to find the answers you’re looking for is to start questioning everything. I know. That sounds exhausting. But all those thoughts that swirl through your head make up your life, your actions, your whole decision-making process! So make sure you are living based on what YOU believe, not on what someone else told you to believe when you were ten and just accepted it as the truth. This is where the true work lies. Unlearning what isn’t actually you.
Traveling to “Find Yourself” Books. A Few Recommendations:
These books really helped me when I was first delving into the process of relearning who I am and taking that leap of faith into traveling:
- 100 Days of Solitude by Daphne Kapsali
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
You Don’t Need To Travel To Find Yourself
I think a lot of travel bloggers use the concept of ‘finding themselves’ in a very toxic way because it insinuates that there’s something to be found. When we approach life from a place of lack, we see only what is missing and not all of the blessings we already have. Likewise, when we say we are trying to ‘find’ something’, it comes from a place of thinking we aren’t already enough. The process of finding yourself isn’t really about changing anything about you, it’s about relearning that you hold the key to unlocking your full potential.
And guess what? That potential already exists within you and always has.