Personal Growth & Human Nature

Why travel will not help you find yourself

You've probably heard of at least one person who has gone on extensive travels to find themselves. But usually they never come back feeling like a new or changed person. Travel never really helps us find ourselves. I tell you why in this post.
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Have considered going on a long trip to find yourself?

You aren’t alone.

It seems like THE thing to do for people who are experiencing any sort of crisis or at a cross-roads in their lives.

But what does it really mean to find yourself? And do people ever really find themselves on a trip? This post explores these questions in detail.

Some of us are constantly searching for something in our lives. Love. Happiness. Freedom. Belonging. We go to the ends of the earth to look for these things. Over and over again.

Some of us take trips and travel the world searching for ourselves, a la Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love, in hopes that we will find ourselves, our happiness, the love of our lives… all whilst wandering down the streets of Milan, meditating atop a hill in Bali, enjoying a morning coffee in a cafe overlooking Madrid’s Gran Via…

You’ve probably known someone who has done it. Someone who went, Heck, I’m leaving my life behind to go explore South America for the next 6 months.

But do you really need to find yourself on a trip? How many people do you know have gone on trips, visited exotic locales, found who they really are and came home happy and fulfilled?

The problem with travelling to find yourself

It’s escapism

Travelling involves taking a couple of necessities and putting your life on hold for a bit to venture overseas. There is nothing wrong with wanting a change of scenery and having fun, but.

Your problems are still gonna be there when you return.

The life as you’ve always known it, is going to be there when you return. You are simply taking some time off from your life, but in the end, you still have to come back to it.

You won’t find yourself anywhere if you are unwilling to change

Travel enriches your life, it really opens your mind if you are going about it mindfully and internalising your reflections.

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But if you haven’t made the changes that you need to or are unwilling to do so, there won’t be any changes in your life.

It will remain the same, exactly as it were, with the same patterns and habits, no matter how far you go in the world and for how long.

Travelling epiphanies only work if you are doing it mindfully

Which is what a significant number of people do. I do that too.

We travel to eat, shop, take in the scenery, take photos and catch up on sleep. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But when people do just that and then wonder why it doesn’t change their lives or why they come home feeling the same way before they left – this is the reason why.

If you are travelling just to have a good time, then do that. But don’t expect to then come back a completely changed person.

A need to find yourself implies a disconnection with your true self

Wherever you go, there you are

Jon Kabat-Zinn

I love this quote and it aptly summarises my thoughts on this. You don’t have to find yourself any where because wherever you go, you are there. The statement is so simple yet really profound.

It then begs the second question. You are there, but are you really there? Are you present?

We’ve all experienced mindlessness. In fact many of us go through life pretty mindlessly. Going through the motions and the day to day stuff without really internalising anything or feeling the connection with yourself.

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I’ve noticed that whenever I slip into this state of mindlessness and start to feel down, listless and bored with life – it is because I’m disconnected. Disconnected from myself and disconnected from my reality.

I’m not grounded and am existing too much in my head. Overthinking things.

Whenever that happens for me, I put aside 2 hours to do some fulfilling, productive work and I schedule in social events as well. I write in my journal and write to my intuition.  

It draws me out of my head and back into reality and reconnects me with myself.

Ways in which I’ve “found” myself

So how does one really find yourself?

Here are some things I’ve done to find myself:

  • Following my curiosity, inner voice and intuition and going for what I want to do instead of what I should do
  • Venturing out of my comfort zone in any area that I’ve felt uncomfortable in
  • Starting a blog/business and keeping it running
  • Standing up for myself when I needed to. This meant speaking up at work
  • Rising to the occasion to work on things I generally wouldn’t – I.E: public speaking

I found that I had the courage to do things I never thought I could. I discovered a resilient, strong, confident and resourceful side of myself.

Yes, I’ve stumbled a few times. But those times were instrumental in learning more about myself.   

There is nothing wrong with travelling

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against travelling. Travelling is really eye-opening. You get to see a different way of life, expose yourself to different cultures and you may even get see different sides of yourself emerge.

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There’s nothing like getting lost in a foreign land whose local language you aren’t fluent in and where google maps don’t work. You learn so much about yourself when these things happen. How resourceful and capable you can actually be! Read about how my solo trips to Europe last year changed my perspective on life here and here.

Ultimately, a desire to find yourself is all down to doing the inner work, getting things done, reflecting, internalising life’s lessons, making the effort to change up habits and taking inspired action.

You can do these things anywhere. You can even do it right this minute.

You don’t have to spend time and money going to a foreign land to find yourself. All you need to do is get out of your comfort zone right now.

Find yourself now

Your answers won’t be found on the streets of Milan, on a mountaintop in Bali, nor in a café in Madrid.

There’s no deadline to finding yourself. Finding yourself takes a lifetime.

Finding yourself takes reading, reflecting, talking to people, loving yourself, following your curiosity, testing your limits, accepting your flaws, absolutely loving the heck out of your strengths. It’s about taking mindful steps to change your habits, its about living from your heart.

And you repeat it over and over again throughout life.

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