I’m Not Lost: How Travel Helped Me Find Myself

lost

Photo courtesy of paul bica.

“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Being 27, unmarried with no kids, and working from home as a blogger traveling solo all over the world, people tend to size me up as someone who hasn’t yet found herself.

“She’ll settle down eventually.”

“She just needs to figure herself out.”

“Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.”

“When are you going to calm down and have babies?” (thanks, Grandma).

These are a few of the things I have heard people say about me — sometimes when I’m sitting right there — and my travels. What strikes me as odd is how many friends I have you are currently stuck living a life they don’t love, either working a job that leaves them unfulfilled, living in a city they hate or dating someone they don’t see a future with, but because they’re traveling the office job-marriage-children route instead flying to Australia to hike the Blue Mountains or Tokyo to sample the world’s freshest sushi they’re “found.” This as opposed to me, the “lost” one, who loves her job; loves her home borough of Brooklyn (even if my apartment doesn’t have television or heat); and has done and seen more by the age of 27 than most people seven times my age (yes, that’s old).

I by no means feel lost in any way, shape or form. Even when I am literally lost, say in a foreign city, I still feel right at home, as wandering around new destinations is my favorite way to get to get acquainted with a place. When I’m hiking through Patagonia, cycling through India, road tripping through Jordan or sky diving in New Zealand I feel more found than most people do in their own homes.

This is because I’ve gone against societal norms to fulfill my dream of travel instead of following the crowd. I’ve embedded travel into my life so much that it’s not only my favorite hobby, but also my career, how I stay in shape, the way I grow my circle of friends and how I learn new life skills. I’ve had adventures like traveling solo through South America, living with a family in Ghana and teaching English in Thailand that have made me both fearless and curious, open-minded and accepting.

Nothing makes me feel more found than when I immerse myself in a culture and truly feel I’ve experienced it. And while I love Brooklyn’s laid-back, anything-goes ambiance, commitment to sustainability and experimental arts scene, I also can’t get enough of discovering foreign cultures where I can learn about new foods, traditions, customs, ways of dress and social norms. I was born with a healthy appetite for new experiences and global understanding.

Along my travels, I’ve not only discovered the world, I’ve discovered myself. Especially when journeying on my own, I’ve been able to discover how much I was capable of. Life on the road isn’t always comfortable or easy — mostly because I rarely “vacation,” but instead immerse and uncover — and each time I’ve navigated long distance bus travel, communicated with someone who didn’t speak my language, found my way back to my hostel when lost for hours, and gotten myself out of a potentially dangerous situation I’ve learned and grown. Not only that, but travel provides a truly rich array of resume skills (LINK), like budgeting ($5 per meal and $15 a night hostels), planning (if I shave off a day in Cuzco and a day in Lima I can spend a beachy weekend in Mancora), negotiation (10 pesos for this bag? I’ll give you 8), and a desire to learn (a Japanese tea ceremony is about much more than just making tea).

Call me a wanderer. Say I’m a vagabond. Nickname me a nomad. But, don’t ever tell me I’m lost, because I’m more found than you know.

 

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