Who are you really?
Some of us will spend a lifetime figuring this out. Others are too afraid to know, preferring to let others tell them who they are and living life by default, and some, possibly like you and me, use rich experiences like travel to understand the most important person in your world.
How can you live a rich and fulfilled life if you don’t understand what you stand for, what your interests are, where your strengths lie, and what you want to be remembered for?
As I’ll share with you in this post if we remain in a life where the boundaries are the same, how can we ever look into those boundaries with enough clarity to recognize the soul.
Travel helps us to step out of these boundaries and see who we really are when we don’t exist in them.
Does that make sense to you? It sure does to me!
Let’s dive a little deeper for further clarity.
10 ways travel can help you uncover who you truly are
1. Disconnection from cultural upbringings
There is so much about our cultural upbringings that gets in the way. They help shape who we are, and we don’t want to sever all ties to them, but traveling helps you disconnect from the limitations of them.
Travel helps you to inspect which parts of your culture you love and don’t want to live without. It also helps see the ones that may harm you or others and are not thing you want to take with you moving forward.
If you don’t step outside of them to get to know other ways how can you truly understand your cultural ways and how they impact your life? It’s all you know and
you don’t know what you don’t know!
(one of my favourite mind opening mantras)
Until I lived in the US, I didn’t know that the Tall Poppy Syndrome was uniquely Australian and that it was something that held me back for many years. I knew this was a part of my culture I didn’t like, so I dropped it and decided to embrace an entrepreneurial journey.
I’ve also had many Americans tell me they love how Australians can laugh at themselves. Again, I thought this was what everyone did – not just an Aussie thing. The more I’ve lived around the world, the more I realise we are this way and I love it about my culture, so it’s something that I am keeping.
Because if you don’t laugh, you cry!!
2. Removal from family and friends
So much of who we are is coloured by the perceptions of family and friends. You grow up being a certain person and those who love you most tend to see you, or expect you to always be this way. It’s harder to breathe or be the evolving YOU when this expectation is there. Often time this is not a conscious expectation but it is one you feel nevertheless.
You grow up learning from your parents – most of it good, some of it limiting, or detrimental. Similar to your cultural upbringing, it’s your parents’ views that you’ve assimilated, generally without question. Perhaps they are great for you, perhaps they are not. Again, taking a break, allows you the space to be yourself without fear of upsetting those you love the most, and figuring it out.
Getting to know yourself, and accepting the real you, will allow you to be a better person for your loved ones. How can you not? It’s authentic expression. So don’t fear this possible change and help you family and friends not to fear this either. Changing yourself does not mean your love for others has to change.
3. Stripped free of belongings
You don’t notice how much your life is weighed down by possessions until you remove them. There is so much of your physical and mental energy, your resources, and your spiritual energy that connects to your physical possessions.
Everything we own tends to have some value or story connected to it. Removing our possessions can feel like we are removing parts of our soul. No wonder you may hoard on tight!
It is incredibly hard to embrace the process of living with just a suitcase, but once you do, living a minimalist life is one you will embrace more and more, even when, or if, your travels stop.
Living with the basics teaches you how to be resourceful, it allows you to see what you want to spend your time and money on, it gives you space to invest energy and money into ideas, or possessions that really matter. I now only purchase things that make me feel more comfortable or give my life greater ease. I don’t hoard or overconsume. If I don’t use it within six months its gone.
Stripping my belongs has shown me what I care about and has helped me tremendously with letting go. If I lose things now I am totally okay with it. Previous to travel, I may have had a huge poor me pity party.
But now I know my life will never be defined by my possessions. My memories and real life connections are what matter the most. Who I am changes in every instant so I never need to be tied to any one thing. I can allow evolution to take its natural course.
4. Forced to deal with change and uncertainty
Change and uncertainty is actually a normal part of our evolution. Change helps us to adapt, and the ability to adapt is what causes us to thrive. You know Darwin and all!
But, my experiences are that many people fall apart and struggle with life because they can’t deal with change. I am so grateful for my years of travel and that my daughters have been living it since birth. I think the most powerful gift of travel is that it teaches you how to deal with change and uncertainty.
I don’t think there is anything in life that forces you to deal with that on a daily basis like travel does.
So how does that help you get to know yourself?
Well you discover how strong and powerful you really are. You grow in confidence. Your skills develop. You become very swift at solving problems and making decisions. And you learn the very important lesson
that this too shall pass – the good and the bad.
You can ride the chaos of change.
When you learn to be adaptable you can survive any new situation or challenge that is presented to you.
5. Get to know what you like and don’t
Travel helps you learn more about what you like and don’t like. If you remain in your one culture or town for your entire life there are so many limitations placed upon you to discover more about what you like and don’t like. You’re limited by your surroundings.
Because of my travel experiences and living in other countries I’ve discovered I LOVE experiencing the four seasons – one reason I adore living in Raleigh.
I’ve learned I feel more connected and high-spirited when I’m in the mountains or a forest than by the beach. I prefer swimming in lakes to oceans now.
I learned to like American Football and college basketball whereas before I thought they were boring and stupid.
I know I like Thai food the most and love local craft beer (except I can’t drink it anymore thanks to gluten issues. Still love it though)
So much of what brings me joy in life is a result of learning what I like and don’t like and crafting a lifestyle (and home) around having more of that surrounding me. You don’t know what you don’t know. Travel helps you to know more!
When you know what you like and don’t like, it’s so much easier and faster to make decisions that lead to greater fulfilment.
6. Understand your strengths and weaknesses
There’s nothing like being thrown in the deep end of travel to quickly learn what you are good and bad at. You’ll certainly experience ways to help you grow this as well. I started traveling getting ripped off a lot. I soon quickly learned the art of negotiation and not being so trusting.
I learned to recognize the signs of distrust and be firm in saying no and standing up for myself.
I very quickly learned how to be independent and fend for myself. Turning up in London with no money taught me how to be resourceful very quickly. I also used to be extremely shy. Travel booted that one out of my system many many years ago. I also learned that my shyness really wasn’t shyness but an introverted desire to have quiet space to contemplate and recharge. I like to hang back and absorb so won’t often be the extroverted one.
Now you can do what you want with the weakness (love em anyway), but spend more time building your strengths and create a life where they can sing.
If you’re not testing out new and different parts of yourself, how can you know what you really excel in and what’s really not for you. (Like I recently discovered in Austria, that I’ll never be cut out for downhill alpine mountain biking – post and video here for that one!)
7. Chance to live free from judgement … perhaps
Living without judgement gives you the freedom to change, to accept, to be curious, and open. Travel is a wonderful portal to help you lose the chains of judgement. It is up to you though. When you first start traveling it can be scary because everything is different and you are still holding tight to your cultural norms.
You don’t have to let go of them or trade them, its a matter of just being open and curious to differences.
It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.
If something doesn’t resonate with you or you feel that eyes of judgement opening, simply say,
“Isn’t that interesting? Tell me more.”
This instead opens up a space for curiosity, for learning and for listening. Taking this approach has helped me to get to know other ways of thinking, to understand things I may have previously thought were stupid, and to reach out a hand of friendship to others.
Depending my connection to others in this way helps me to deepen my connection to myself.
I like me better when I am accepting and non-judgemental. Life seems more celebratory than fearful. And in that frame you experience and pass on more joy.
Isn’t that the point to life?
8. You can present the best side of you
No one knows you!! Of course you can be the best version of yourself. Why choose to present anything else?
I feel so free when I travel because no one knows who I am, where I come from, the mistakes I’ve made, how I’ve failed, how I’ve hurt others, or how they’ve hurt me. I can start again in every single moment. No one is holding you to your past and they are just accepting you as you are in that moment because that is all they know you as!!
Who do you want to be?
Even if you don’t feel like you are that ideal, you can bloody fake it when you travel. Fake it til you make it. I don’t mean to do this in a deceptive way – you don’t want to make up stories of your super human feats climbing Mount Everest or your best friend is Jennifer Aniston.
Just allow yourself to be kind, positive, inquisitive, non-judgemental – all those good things that you naturally are.
9. Pursue passions with reckless abandonment
With travel, all obligations fall away. Your life is on yours to do what you want with it. Why not allow it to take you on a journey where you just fulfil your passion with reckless abandonment?
Don’t know what your passion is? Don’t worry, travel will help show you, just go with the flow.
In 1999, I had the most transformative experience in Railey Bay, Thailand with a group of Swedish rock climbers. They took us rock climbing every day at different places on the peninsula. I LOVED it. It was s my first experience rock climbing and I loved how confident it made me feel.
Although I had every intention of taking it up as a hobby, life got in the way upon my return home. But, rock climbing is now something I’ve taken up with my girls. I introduced my passion for rock climbing to them and they love it. They’ve attended rock climbing camp and we do it whenever we can.
We also discovered a passion for stand up paddle boarding as a family, which is something we pursue whenever we can when we travel. There’s nothing getting in the way to stop us. Living passionately only puts loving happy vibes into the world, which does more good than you can see or realise. The world needs more of us passionately living.
You can dedicate your entire travel experience to just living and experiencing your passions.
10. You can be selfish
There’s nothing wrong with being selfish (as long as it’s not at the expense of others). It’s okay to make decisions that help our mind, body and soul be the best it can, to enjoy our lives, and to feel full and complete.
Travel, usually (not family travel) gives you the space to be selfish. To focus on your journey, to follow your interests, and take your own path of discovery. It’s liberating.
The more you can have this selfish freedom the better you can understand what you like, who you are and who you want to be.
I feel safe in saying you won’t want to take that selfishness to the negative side of narcissism and not caring about others. Travel has this wonderful ability to each you empathy and compassion at the same time you experience this selfish expression.
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How has travel helped you get to know yourself? Which of these resonate with you most?