Why is there this prevailing belief that in order to “find yourself” you must quit your job, say ‘Sayonara (suckers!)’ to your friends and family, and hop on a plane to another country? Are we born divided from ourselves and life is just one big, elaborate game of hide-and-seek, where the grand prize is becoming whole? Is part of me toiling away at a 9-to-5; building a career while the other untethered (more fortunate) and incorporeal half of me is chilling out in a yurt surrounded by towering redwoods or scaling the lush mountainous peaks of Machu Picchu waiting to be “found”? Damn, I drew the short end of the stick.
Happiness is the pursuit of the ideal self (not necessarily achieving it) and I subscribe to the belief that everything we need can be found inside of us. Success has more to do with personal effort versus our whereabouts which takes the pressure off of deciding whether a villa in Italy or a sailboat cruising Greece is more conducive to soul-searching. So, if finding ourselves is NOT location dependent, what is it about travel that makes us evolve into the person we always wanted to be (and secretly hoped we were)?
It forces us out of our comfort zone.
We evolve out of necessity; to survive and thrive but when wrapped up in the downy comfort of the routine of daily life – strolling the same route to work, buying produce from the same grocery store around the corner, ordering the same cheesy poutine at your local pub from the bartender who looks like Sideshow Bob – where is the motivation to progress? While comfort is found in the familiar, growth is not.
From the minute we step off the plane in another country – outside of the framework of expectations of our identities constructed by loved ones – we are bombarded with the unfamiliar. Travel facilitates change by forcing our lethargic brains snap to action with every attempt to decipher a street sign or speak the local dialect. Each new experience abroad reinvigorates our dusty neurons to fire and forge new connections unearthing and revealing aspects of ourselves that we didn’t know existed.
Is this possible without travelling? Absolutely. It just requires more discipline and vigilance to consciously choose the unknown over the tried and true that we’re accustomed to in our daily lives. It’s easier to “find yourself” when you travel because you’re confronted by situations that you’ve never encountered before taking you out of the familiar and putting you in a constant state of discomfort, accelerating internal change.
Growth doesn’t happen in hermetically-sealed, germ free bubbles. Sometimes you need to get a little dirty; take risks and make mistakes to see what you’re capable of and to clarify your personal boundaries. Let yourself sink to see how high you rise so you might as well sink in a mud volcano in Colombia and rise in a hot air ballon over Cappadocia!