This article is the first of a new series on The Yogi Wanderer called “5 things travel taught me about myself”, featuring travelers from around the world sharing their personal insights and self-discovery lessons from a life of wandering and/or living abroad. I’ll kick off sharing a bit of my story with you.
As you may know by now if you have been following The Yogi Wanderer and read my about page, I was born with the wanderlust gene. As long as I can remember, I always wanted to travel and see the world. Living abroad was another big dream of mine, and one that I was lucky enough to fulfill almost 4 years ago, when I bought a one way ticket to Switzerland.
It’s hard to explain why, but exploring the unknown has been my greatest desire and passion in life. And this includes seeking my most authentic self through the outer journeys around the globe, but also through the inner journeys of my mind – I also practice yoga and am a yoga teacher.
After more than a dozen of countries traveled, and 4 cities and 2 different countries to call home, this is what I found about myself (so far):
#1 I’m not in control
I’m a control freak. That’s one of my biggest challenges in life, specially loving traveling as much as I do. Because traveling and starting a new life abroad is like having someone shove in your face 24/7 that you are not in control. Some people just let go and enjoy whatever life brings them. Others, like me, resist and get infuriated.
But I’m getting better. Traveling has taught me that I don’t need to plan every minute of my days, that I don’t need to see everything listed on my guide book, and that I cannot control everything, from the flight delay, to the weather, to the mood of my travel companion (yeah… I told you I was a control freak!), or sometimes even my own mood.
And that’s ok. I can still have fun on a rainy day.
#2 I can do anything I want
If travel and living abroad have taught me anything about myself is that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. And that I’m allowed to dream big.
Ok, some things can be harder than others. Some goals can take longer than others to accomplish. Some may need more energy, time, or sacrifices than I’m ready or willing to make. But that’s just because I don’t really want that thing, that job or that life. It’s not a priority for me. It may seem like a good dream to have, but it’s not my dream. Maybe it’s somebody else’s dream – my mom’s, my best friend’s, my brother’s, my boyfriend’s or my boss’ dream – but it’s not mine.
Because if I truly want something, I can do it. And I will.
#3 I’m allowed to say no
This used to be a very hard thing for me. I would accept invitations for events I wouldn’t want to attend; I would get together with people whose company I didn’t particularly enjoy; and I would spend time doing things I didn’t like just because it was very very hard for me to say no people. I didn’t want to upset anyone. And, above all, I wanted everyone to like me.
But after I started traveling I realized that the world is very big and my time is very limited. There’s so many wanders in the world, so many exciting things to do, so many interesting people to get to know to lose time with the things and the folks I know I don’t like.
Why should I travel to northern Europe, if what I really want is to explore Africa? Why should I go to the mountains if what truly makes me feel alive is to be on the beach? Why should I watch that football match if what I actually want to do is to lose myself in an art museum? Why should I go visit that relative or meet that old friend I don’t really get along with, if the truth is I want to travel solo through Thailand?
No, thank you.
And you know what? Most of the time, people don’t really care. Sometimes they even respect you more for being yourself.
#4 I won’t be happy all the time
I think this is one of the big myths of our western civilization. People expect to feel happy and content all of the time. That’s how all the good stories end – “and they lived happily ever after”, right?
I used to think that if I wasn’t happy every minute of the day, particularly when I was traveling, I wasn’t being grateful enough, appreciative enough, that I wasn’t living the experience and my life to the fullest.
Well, turns out that to live your life to the fullest you have to learn how to deal with the full spectrum of human emotions.
Some days I’ll wake up in a bad mood and cranky for no reason. Some days I’ll feel sad, or nostalgic or irritable. But other days, hopefully most of them, I’ll feel joyful, excited, and blissful. That’s just how it is – whether I’m shopping in New York, backpacking through South America, swimming on a tropical beach in the Philippines, or just getting on with my daily life back home.
#5 I’ll go by myself
One of the excuses I used to give myself for not pursuing my dreams was that I didn’t have the companion. This was mostly the case about traveling. I would daydream about seeing the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu or the Acropolis, but I would continuously postpone every single trip because it wasn’t a good time for my boyfriend or none of my friends were available.
Until the moment I realized I could go by myself. I don’t know what exactly cause this change in perspective, but one day when my boyfriend told me he couldn’t go with me to Greece because he had to work, I just answered: “Ok, I’ll go by myself.” And I did.
At the beginning I was a bit nervous traveling solo for the first time, but then I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and that I haven’t done it earlier. It was actually one of the best experiences of my life, and one that taught me something very important:
All I need to go somewhere is myself.
Traveling is a great and mysterious teacher. I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much: No matter how much you plan, you never know what you’re going to find out next about the world and yourself.
What’s the best self-discovery lesson traveling has taught you? Share in the comments section below.
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