Traveling to change yourself


Of course, when you think about it, we human beings are really strange. We think we are immortal, as if our time on this Earth is infinite. That's why we keep putting everything off.

Quit smoking? Tomorrow.

Put more effort into the relationship? Tomorrow.

Devote time to our passions? Tomorrow.

We put off everything, but absurdly we put off mostly the most important things. Instead, the stupid and superficial ones we take care of right away: answering insignificant e-mails, dressing a certain way so as not to "disfigure," smiling even when we don't want to-all these things we do all the time, every day, without even thinking about them. But what about the rest?

We could engage in a philosophical discourse on the 'whole subject, we could talk about "living here and now" rather than the grand plans of life, we could even talk about life and death, but I honestly don't feel like it.

Looking at history and wanting to draw a lesson from it, the greatest travelers have always had something in common, namely the desire to discover. Just to name a few, we find Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer and trader, who at only 17 years of age left home and opened the doors of Asia to the Western world, or again, Amerigo Vespucci who in the course of a voyage, discovered the bay of Rio De Janeiro and skirted Patagonia, convincing himself that America was a continent in itself and not a part of Asia. Wanting to be honest and relating it to the present day, one has to admit with some objectivity that the world has very little left to discover. Looking at travel from a subjective point of view, however, we can say that as far as we are concerned, every place unknown to us and consequently not yet visited, is in our own small way a great discovery. Now, as curious as an individual may be and driven by the desire to discover, deep down he or she sometimes and unconsciously hides the desire to change. I'm talking about that urge that we often don't listen to or give it the proper weight, that feeling that makes us wonder whether we are actually comfortable in the place where we live or wouldn't it be worth considering other options, I'm talking about that urge to break out of one's comfort zone to perhaps confront another lifestyle. But how can one change one's life? There is no universal, one-size-fits-all answer. Or rather, not a specific answer. There is, however, one option, which I have always found to be the most suitable for the purpose. Something that regardless of one's particular situation, gender, age, education and bank account, is always a great way to begin a major personal change. Journey.

I am not talking about just any journey, but a conscious journey, concretely meaning not just exploring places but striving to explore oneself as well. Watching the scenery flow by outside the window is fine, but also paying attention to the change taking place within us. Because, as an ancient proverb goes, "the person who returns from a journey is never the same as the one who had left." Every journey has the power to make you evolve, to the point that you may not even recognize yourself once you return home. Everything may appear strange and perhaps even trivial in your eyes. And then, that strange smile on your face, the smile of someone who has been through a lot. That smile that turns out to be difficult to explain to others, because you can only understand it when you go to discover the world "out there." In the daily routine of one's life it will prove difficult not to think about what one has seen, felt, tasted and touched during that journey. All of this, may ring in one's ears as something quite dangerous and I believe it is impossible to be able to regain your former self, assuming you want it back! Now, dangerous it clearly becomes if the individual is unable to accept the change and consequently does not recognize in the mirror what he sees. Conversely, for the one who is willing to change instead, his life will take on another flavor hitherto unknown. His new person will be filled with knowledge and insight, which will inevitably lead him to make travel his muse. Travel breeds happiness, and happiness is the most sought-after feeling for people. Travel is one of the few things in life that allows you to look at the world with new eyes, to change your perspective. This is because in travel you are yourself, without the mental patterns of everyday life that we have become accustomed to. When you travel to a new place you have never seen, you feel a mix of excitement, fear and bewilderment. You are in a place you do not know, with a language that is not your own and customs that are not the same as the ones you are used to observing every day.

Knowing that I am generating some amazement by writing the next few lines, I nonetheless launch into a reflection that I personally have always maintained, and that is that, I am convinced that: the real joys in life do not necessarily come from relationships with people. To make matters worse, I am convinced that: happiness does not need to be shared. I can happily admire a breathtaking sunset, watch a whale leap out of the water, observe a shining thunderstorm in the distance, or sit on the edge of a canyon and derive a sense of happiness from them, and all this without having anyone by my side, thus feeling the obligation and need to exclaim: ohh look!! This is perhaps a difficult concept to digest and certainly a good reason to turn your nose up at it....

Traveling helps you know your limits, and having new experiences spurs you to be bold. You don't really realize how brave you are until you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, perhaps with no idea where you ended up and still forced to decide which way to go. You don't really realize how capable you are until by your own strength alone you are forced to repair a fault in your vehicle, which allows you to continue your journey. In short, traveling is par excellence the best of schools you have ever attended, with the only difference being that teaching you there will be no master but instead the whole world.