Travelling. Or the journey to discover yourself

I remember reading a post on Medium about how travelling is overrated, irrelevant and basically useless because you can do the same things you would have done in some far away part of the world in your country, right in your own city. And I remember also a lot of people kept agreeing in the comments with the author, saying they don’t see any point in travelling and that it’s just a waste of money.

For a minute, reading that article gave me a sense of sadness because I can only just imagine that people that think this haven’t had a chance to experience something that made them see things from another perspective.

Travelling is not about checking points on a todo list. I often see people during city breaks or vacations that concentrate just on doing a lot of things, checking out as many touristy places as possible and having the photographic proof for every one of them. But this is, basically, the same running around from the rest of the time when they are not travelling, only in some other decor. The change is not really happening and they remain closed to themselves and maybe also to some new experiences.

Only dreaming under the sun from a new country or having conversations for an entire day on a terrace with local people or enjoying yourself by doing nothing is underrated nowadays. Especially if these things keep the people from going to that Instagrammable spot and staying in line for a picture. We now live in a world where we are connected to everything except ourselves.

Travelling means something else for me. Travelling is a feeling, not an activity necessarily, and for sure is not a vacation. If I want to just rest I would take a few days off and stay at home. But travelling is more than this: is about going in a search for things you don’t have near you at home. And those things aren’t just a nice exotic view to sit on the beach; those things are new people, new experiences that teach you things you didn’t know about yourself, new lessons to learn on how to handle new situations, a different perspective.

I heard a saying one time: “There are two things people are more afraid of: things changing and things staying the same.” I suppose that reflects why some people don’t like travelling that much: they want to change their environment but they expect not to be too much out of their comfort zone. Well, I think this is the best part of new places, being out of the comfort zone. It’s a powerful privilege that it’s a pity when it’s not used to the fullest.

There are more than 7 billion people in the world and each and every one of us represent just 1 of this big number. This means we are just a grain of sand in a gigantic beach. A beach where at every moment people come and go, the marks left in the sand disappear when the waves hit the shore, and different sorts of activities happen everywhere on that beach. I know it’s just a metaphor to make some of you crave an exotic vacation, but the bottom line is our knowledge about our world, about our surroundings, about people near us is so little in comparison with what is happening across the planet.

Not escaping our own world might make us believe that what we know is the absolute truth. We define ourselves through our job, through our friends and sometimes through our politics. We don’t know any other way of living our life and this might be just enough. We don’t want this to change because we have a perfect place in this world, everyone likes us and everything works smoothly. It is never wrong to live your life like this, but again, having a life like this will never make someone enjoy travelling or being open to the new.

What you might learn about yourself while travelling and be open to it:

  1. You are more courageous than you think. Or more resourceful. Or more [fill in the blanks with any characteristic you feel is not string enough]. Because you will find yourself in situations like never before and you will have to act fast.
  2. Things that you liked before are not so appealing anymore. Or things that you hated before now they seem lovely. Because you might start to see things through some other cultures eyes, you might also appreciate differently your own values.
  3. There’s no one way to live your life. Your values and morals might be shifting, because you discover you actually might enjoy living the life the way other people do, far away from your culture. Might be different than what your are used to or how your friends live their lives, but you will know that’s what you want and what you enjoy.
  4. You will appreciate more what you have. While you might find things that you like more abroad, there is also the other way around. You will feel lucky to experience what you did and feel grateful for what you own.
  5. You will value your relationships in a different manner. You will know what is more important for you from your partner, friends or family. Sometimes, some of those relationships may dissolve.
  6. You old problems are not problems anymore. You will see life differently almost every time you return from a trip.
  7. You don’t feel limited anymore.

I was watching the episode about Venice from the show ‘Somebody feed Phil’ (long live Netflix) when I found myself shading a tear of happiness for just a second because for me, what is happening there, is how I see a perfect life. I was watching and I knew that’s what ‘I want to be when I grow up’. One of the most cheerful people in TV (and probably ever) checks-in in different cities in the world in search of new culture. It’s a show about food, but in my opinion it’s more a show about being open. Phil meets with a lot of locals who teach him the traditions, the places, different kind of boutique restaurants or fancy ones and he just .. enjoys everything. He takes in everything with such a joy that you just wonder why is not everyone doing it the way he does it, because it seems the most genuine way to enjoy life.

I’m not saying everyone should travel. Especially because I know not everyone can afford it. All I am saying is that being open to new experiences, open to talk to people you would not want to talk before, giving the benefit of the doubt to situations or places might come a long way.

See places you haven’t seen before in your town. Talk to that cranky neighbour of yours and give him a chance to not be cranky. Go eat at a small, not so fancy restaurant and maybe try to meet the chef and find out his story. You might surprise yourself by the power of NEW.

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