It’s kind of an ongoing joke: Those people that say they’re going travelling to ‘find themselves’. In the UK at least, this is seen as corny and unrealistic. But as silly as this adage seems, we all have to admit that there is something about travelling that can be transformative and help us develop or discover our true selves and help us really go for it in following our dreams.
When we live in our small towns, surrounded by family and friends who mean well but who may be stuck in certain routines and lines of thought, life can get a bit stagnant and it can be hard to break out of that. Travel provides us with that.
When I was still at home, I guess I was afraid to show my true colours for fear of being judged. I cared about everyones opinion. I’m not just talking about friends and families, but even people whose opinions aren’t worthy of my time. People who don’t really like me so why on earth did I care? But I did. I didn’t conform too much to the norm. I was still very much ‘me’. But I didn’t dress too wacky. I was always scared to showcase my writing. I would never tell people my ‘real’ dreams, goals, ambitions.
Now I have come away from that setting. I am still me. I am still the same girl with the same interests. I am just me, amplified. Now I have come away and met different people from the world over, with all sorts of outlooks on life, and it’s given me the opportunity to be straight up with who I am and what I want.
At home, I would never of dreamt of saying ‘I am a writer’. I could say, ‘I am a barista’. ‘I am a student’. ‘I am a recent graduate’. But never a ‘writer’. To say such a thing seemed pretentious and self-centred. If people asked about my future I would talk about my dreams to work for a big magazine in London, to live a glamorous lifestyle where I would wear louboutons to work. But is that what I actually wanted? I wasn’t sure. Once upon a time I think it was, when I was 18 or 19. But as I grew up and grew into myself I realised I wanted something else. I realised that designer garms are cute but meaningless, and as glam or cool as that ‘dream’ job may sound, I don’t want to work in a tall, crowded building sitting behind a desk. I want to be active in my life. I don’t want to work for someone else when I could potentially work for myself. I don’t want the morning commute. But I still went on with this tale because whilst it was unrealistic, it wasn’t outside of the realms of possibility. It represented ambition and it represented what the regular, middle-class citizen of the western world expects. Ambition in a real career and a desire to consume. To be defined as a consumer. I don’t want to be defined as a consumer though. Fuck that.
It’s not like I went travelling and all of a sudden ‘found’ myself and started being bold and flamboyant. To be honest, I still don’t think I’m quite there. I still get scared. But I’m more honest and open now about my true dreams and desires and who I want to be. All this started off small and slow. When I first started travelling, nothing really had changed. I met so many people and I was still so desperate to fit in, yet this is ridiculous because there was nothing to fit in to. So about six weeks into my travels I stopped trying to fit in. I started being a bit more ‘me’. It started in Pai (the second time around). A girl I got on with wonderfully, a girl called Lily who was from Brooklyn and was super cool, said she was a writer. And so I, tentatively, slowly, and a little unsure of myself, said I was a writer too. There, it was out there. It was, from what I can recall, the first time I stopped defining myself as a barista or a recent graduate and defined myself as a writer. Writing is my passion and my hope and my dreams, and finally I could say it.
I realised that out here, no one really cares, and anyone who does care and reflects that in a negative way shouldn’t matter because you have absolutely no reason to interact with them again. Realising this was freedom for me. Now I am so much more open about who I want to be in terms of my career. I tell people I write and I tell people I want to train to be a yoga teacher and how yoga is the second biggest love of my life after writing.
I’m starting to open up more about who I am besides career ambitions too. I tell people about my core beliefs. I am more open to experimentation in terms of my aesthetic and the way I choose to present myself to the world on a purely physical level. I am exploring different avenues and different ways of life and even different types of music that I would never have done at home for fear of being judged. And it’s because people aren’t so quick to judge when you travel. Of course, some people are. Some things never change and there’s always ‘that one guy’, but it’s easier to care less, because they can be forgotten easily.
I’ve also realised that the people who are meant to be in our lives will stay, no matter who we really are. Even if my friends don’t love everything I do, it doesn’t matter because I still love them and they still love me. I no longer feel like I have to be scared to be my true self. No one should be made to feel ashamed or scared of who they truly are.
I haven’t changed at all from who I was before I left the UK. It’s easy for people to believe I have and we always look at people who do travel and comment at how much they’ve changed. I truly haven’t. I look back at who I was and whilst some of my outlooks have changed – I’m more tolerant, patient, understanding, and conscientious than I was, all positive changes – my true self hasn’t changed. I’ve just mustered up the courage to express it more. All the things I want now I still wanted then, it’s just now I don’t feel the need to keep these parts of myself a secret. I feel like I can truly wear them like badges of honour.
I want everyone to feel this way. I want everyone to feel they can express their true selves and to not have to go to the other side of the globe to do that. Coming out and expressing yourself in a way that goes against the norm can be scary, especially when the people you hold so dear might not support you, but it feels so much better to be your real self once you get past that point of caring. If they are true friends they will still love you. It sounds silly that we feel we have to ‘come out’ to talk about things like our career goals, or our desire to make a change in our lifestyle, or to even frigging change our hairstyle, but we do. We experience it time and again. I’ve had to do this a lot in my life. When I decided to become a vegetarian. When I decided I wanted tattoos. Even when I decided I would travel, and not stay at home. People question it. People worry. People judge. Even 8 years later people still ask me if I have iron deficiency from not eating meat. Change the topic. Seriously.
Whilst this judgement can be hard and opening up and being yourself in front of these people who will judge is also hard, I believe it is worth it. We are so blessed to have human consciousness and we should embrace it. We should not carry on not being ourselves just because it’s easier. If you want a career change, or to travel, or to become a vegan, you should do that. One thing I have really learnt is that whilst at first some people you care about may not understand it, those are the same people that become really proud of you when they see how happy you are for following your heart. When I booked my flights away, my mum was naturally really worried sick, but now she sees how happy I am and tells me to continue doing what makes me happy and to not settle, because the important thing is that I am chasing my dreams. Happiness is contagious so do what makes you happy and whilst not everyone may understand, people will back you up and support you, because you will make them inspired and happy. And to anyone who is negative – that is a problem with them, not with you. They are holding on to that negative energy and will continue to judge anyway, so you get on with being you and let them be them. You will be all the more happier for it.