3 Lessons I Learned While Traveling Part II: Who am I?

Discovering Yourself Through Travel

Is what you are seeking really just inside you?

When going on a trip, we sometimes want to go beyond just vacation travel. But transformative travel can also be a form of self-discovery work.

Nature AND Nurture.

The debate whether we become who we are because of our environment or our genes has been going on for a long time. The more we learn about ourselves and the world we live in, the more we learn how both factors are important. We are who we are because our biological parents mixed their genetic makeup and conceived us. Our environment also shapes us. Nature and nurture interplay to make us who we are.

We can think of it this way. You could have the healthiest and strongest seed in the world, but if it is planted in bad soil, or if it doesn’t get watered or get any Sun, the seed won’t grow. Even a poor seed might survive in the best environments. If you get the best of both worlds, then you will get the best results as well.

What does this have to do with travel?

I knew at a very young age that who I was, and where I lived were important factors in my life. I was born in El Salvador, and grew up speaking Spanish. Then I moved to San Francisco and had to learn English. In my new home, I would speak Spanish with family, and English at school. I was the same person, but had to adapt language and behavior to these two environments. 

Later, when I started learning Japanese (and French) in high school my mind opened up to all the infinite possibilities of who I could be. I would obviously be the same person in some sense, but what I did, and what I thought would be a dynamic process. The environment, or “container” that I was in would change, and that meant I would also have to change to adapt.

It wasn’t easy.

Of course having to adapt to different languages, locations and cultures wasn’t easy. In fact, I am still adapting now that I live in Australia. But experiencing the life of an outsider as I travelled to different countries helped me learn about my limitations and strengths. I learned that strengths could also be limitations and vice versa.

You can’t run away from yourself.

It’s certainly true that we might temporarily be able to run away from our problems, but it’s impossible to run away from yourself. Sometimes you are the problem. Travel can provide the space we need to think things through and work through the problems we might be having over and over again in a different way.

As I travelled I had a big problem with understanding what I was passionate about and what career would bring me success. I started journaling as a way to write and understand what I was feeling, how I was progressing and record any advice I learned from my experiences. I eventually discovered the journal technique I use today to write blogs, non-fiction and fiction. I understand myself at a deeper level, and that helps me take action in the Real World to make a difference.

Carrying home in a rucksack.

There was one special lesson that I learned when I was a tour director in Japan for about 3 1/2 years. After finishing up a day with my tour group, we would all go into our respective hotel rooms. If you enter any hotel room, you’ll realize it’s a generic environment. It’s a place made for any person to come in. Over time I had a system of placing things in the room that would make it my own. This would make me more comfortable and feel at home. I knew where everything was.

In the morning, would pack up and leave. The space again became generic. I realized over time that home was what I carried in my heart. This was one of the most valuable lessons that helped me lead a more fulfilled life.

Steps to discovering yourself through travelling.

  1. You don’t have to travel. Can you start fresh in the place you already live in? Clear out a space and gradually create space that makes you feel more at home. A voyage of self-discovery can begin in your own heart and mind.
  2. What problems would you like to run away from? If you go from one place to another, do you find that the problem follows you? Maybe the problem is something you carry with you. Letting go of an old life requires you to looking at it square in the face.
  3. Does the environment we live in enable our negative patterns? Our stagnation? If we travel, do we feel that we can be more ourselves and not have to satisfy somebody else’s idea of who we should be? Have you done a solo trip? Solo travel can open us to really being present with ourselves.
  4. What can we get rid of to feel more free? What would be the most basic lifestyle you could live before you felt deprived?
  5. If we live with somebody else, you are their environment as well, and they are yours. You both influence each other with your physical selves, your belongings and personality. Can you see how these two or more factors influence each other in both positive and negative ways?

Do you have stories about discovering yourself through travel? Feel free to share or comment down below. Stay tuned for Part III of “3 Lessons I Learned While Travelling”.

I hope to update you with more travel blogging adventures in the future! Keep an eye out on www.memorypie.com.

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