Travel for me has always had this wonderful element of self- construction. For many of us the chance to sculpt a different version of ourselves in a new environment is both liberating, yet strangely confrontational. Why? Because as my mum says, “Wherever you go, there you are!”.
Your issues don’t just dissolve when you relocate. You’re still going to be triggered by people’s shit, and your own. Sure, you might gain a sense of perspective when confronted with the big wide world of experiences but at the end of the day- there you are. Baggage and all.
Perhaps you reconstruct your image when you travel, when nobody is there to say, “I thought you were a vegetarian”. Maybe you try out new things, attend a bdsm club (when in Rome…don’t ask), or drink a bit more than usual. Maybe you even tell the table of admirers next to you in the absinthe bar that you’re drinking water because you’re ‘on call’. When in actual fact you’re just ready for bed.
Yes, these are ridiculous examples, but the point is we all manufacture a slightly modified version of ourselves when we’re somewhere new, it’s one of the most exciting aspects of travel. The funny thing is, when you travel a lot and you find yourself confronted by different challenges and surreal experiences so often, that inevitably the ‘real’ you becomes more obvious than it ever would if you were at ‘home’ functioning on autopilot. You begin to see just who you are, once the constructs of a location specific identity are stripped away. You can keep on creating a new exterior self in each new location, but a deep knowledge of yourself emerges none the less.
So, in fact, quite in contrast to creating a new you, what emerges is the real you. When you’re brought face to face with your own personality like this, it makes you all the more aware of your reactions, projections, habits and mental associations. When you’re confronted by other people with such starkly different contexts to their lives, the context of your own becomes blazingly apparent. And as ‘they’ say, awareness is the first step towards change. You become aware of yourself, you isolate which behaviours you want to improve upon or habits you want to change, and there you have it: Travel as a spark for personal development!
Or maybe, just maybe, I have a slight tendency towards over-analysis and spend too much time alone.