“I’m going out to see the World, to find myself”. A sentence uttered in various forms by more and more millennials in these modern times of affordable world travel.
Yep, it’s become a bit of a cliché.
And I hear it a lot being the manager of a travel magazine and someone who reviews countless articles from budding travel enthusiasts (most millennials, like myself).
It’s not nearly as profound a statement as it once was. It’s lost its firepower and stardust. In fact, I almost roll my eyes now every time I read it.
Can I just be real for a moment?
Whatever baggage you’re carrying, you’ll most lilely carry with you wherever you go.
Whatever unproductive behaviors or attitudes you’ve grown so accustomed to that you don’t even notice yourself doing them anymore, you’ll also do in Australia, Japan, France, Brazil, ____ (fill in the blank).
And the truth is, no one cares where you’re traveling to.
That’s not to put anyone down; we all have flaws and I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself traveling.
But yeah, no one really cares about your selfie in front of your Eiffel Tower, except for (possibly) your Grandma.
You’ll spend the money, you’ll board the plane, you’ll see some cool stuff, have some great experiences, take some awesome photos, and then you’ll go home and you’ll probably catch yourself wondering if it ever really happened.
I had a friend who left his job just to travel the world for one year. We sat down 12 months later over a pint at the pub and he said with a slightly empty expression: “It’s almost like it never even happened”.
Now is that to say travel is overrated or a waste of time and money? No!
Travel can be illuminating, stretching, challenging. And it can sure help someone grow in confidence. (Not to mention that it can be really, really fun).
But let’s just be clear on what travel isn’t.
Bob Marley once wrote in his hit single Buffalo Soldier, “If you know your history, then you would know where you’re coming from”.
Be proud of where you come from. Seriously, the grass isn’t greener on the other side.
Yes, you may learn things about yourself by traveling and, yes, you may develop new attitudes or appreciation for things, but you’re still fundamentally left to deal with the same person who boarded that plane at the start of the trip.
I live in the north of England and we have a saying here. “You can take the boy out of the North, but you can’t take the North out of the boy!” So true.
Being raised in the north of England I have certain weird jokes I can only laugh about with locals that I cannot laugh about anywhere in the world. My humor has been fundamentally shaped by where I was raised.
To be honest, I never truly feel I “fit in” when I travel abroad. There are just some things that run too deep to detect on first glance, and are too deep to change.
Moreover, I’m soon to marry a French girl who was born in Marseille. We’re planning on living here in England, but there is also a chance I may move to France. And you know what?
All her French friends are jealous of her moving to England, while all my English friends are jealous of me moving to France.
There are so many amazing things about our home countries that we take for granted because…well…we’re so used to them!
And there are SO many things we take for granted about our families because we’re just so familiar and used to their influence in our lives.
Also, there are equally as many things we take for granted about ourselves because we’ve never really stopped to think.
Be self-aware, reflect more on who you are as a person. Why do you think what you think? Why do you say what you say? What do you act the way you act?
You actually don’t need to travel to discover more about yourself. Sure, it can help people sometimes to be that fish moved into a new pond. But having those contrasts isn’t essential.
So, don’t fall into the trap of disrespecting your roots. It’s simply not true; you won’t “find yourself” by traveling.
You may discover more about yourself, but don’t be so flippant as to think that you’ll fundamentally “find” yourself.
I can guarantee that where you were raised is actually pretty great, and you were never lost to begin with.
If you need to escape to become a better person, you’re missing the point of becoming a better person.
Growing as a person is tough and difficult.
If you use travel as an escape, whatever “growth” you experience may in fact just be a mirage and an illusion.
Were you to go back home, would you still be that “better person”?
No one’s impressed in how great of a person you are when you’re chilling on a sunny beach, exploring the winding streets of Venice, or meeting lots of nice people for a day only to move to the next adventure in quick succession.
That’s all shallow child’s play; the monsters are probably still lurking under the bed!
Like pressed grapes that produce good wine, you need to be exposed, pressed and stretched to become a better person.
You need deep relationships that go beyond the initial superficial stages of getting to know each other. You know, those type of deep relationships that expose all your flaws!
You need to choose to be that good person when you’re waking up to another cold, dark, drizzly day in your home town rather than suddenly deciding to be better while lounging on a beach in the Maldives sipping cocktails.
If you want to become a better person, you can definitely do that back home.
Seriously, there’s nothing stopping you other than a limiting mindset that’s holding you back.
PS. Traveling abroad to serve the poor or to do other good charity work? Then bravo, you’re probably doing it right!
I have a challenge for you (should you choose to accept it).
Go on Instagram, and type in any popular tourist destination. Now, count how many photos just show the attraction, and then count how many photos show the attraction blocked out in some way by a selfie.
I rest my case.
Why have a nice picture of the Taj Mahal, when you can have a friendly-looking stranger blocking it completely with their head? You tell me.
Like I’ve already said above, no one really cares about where you’ve traveled to.
That’s not to have a go at people enjoying themselves by taking selfies, but I’m just saying y’all…
Make sure you’re not that narcissistic person who blows up all their friends Instagram feeds with constant pictures of themselves looking cool abroad.
There, I said it.
Totally! Go out there and enjoy yourself…but just do it for the right reasons.
Make new friends, lounge on a beach in the Maldives sipping cocktails, discover more about yourself.
But just don’t be a nincompoop.
Because if you are a nincompoop, then stay home. Please.
(Sass level: 100%.)