I think we are all born with the innate ability to be self-aware and recognize what makes us happy or unhappy. I've never quite understood the saying "I'm going to find myself" because I've always wondered, well where'd you go? However, once I came to England to pursue my Master's degree - I got it.
It's not that you "lose yourself" so to speak, it's that you've lost touch with what was once important to you or your passions have subsided and become virtually nonexistent in your life. You, essentially, need to remember who you've been all along. Your day-to-day routine is maddening. You begin to think that there is nothing better except the life you are currently leading. So I understand why people go on these crazy trips to "find themselves" or they sell everything and rent a trailer to drive cross-country. They might also get a divorce or break up with their significant others. It's all about finding your self-identity again. Who you identified with growing up and how do you get back there? How do you get that passion back for the thing you were once so keen on doing?
My answer? Travel.
I know, it's so cliche so don't hate me for saying it but I thoroughly believe it's true and I'll tell you why.
I don't want you to get the wrong premise. I JUST took my first international trip in 2014 to the Dominican Republic. It was a "find myself" trip if you want to call it that. I had just recently gone through a tough, personal situation and it was spur the moment, so I decided - you know what, I'm going to do this, for me. And I did. I went and it was a definite, life changing experience, in more ways than one, and I will forever be grateful to that trip because it kickstarted my rode to a stronger self-discovery.
It was only after that trip that I got bit by the travel bug. I began to be restless in the place that I was, even though I still had to graduate college first and figure everything out. I knew there was something out there that would help me discover my passions again and would help me to figure out where I want to be in this world and in life. So, I applied for graduate school in England and I, at first, thought I was crazy along with everyone else. I wasn't particularly fond of school but I thought "a year in Europe? I'll take it".
I didn't realize what this past year would entail for me or how MUCH I would change as a person - but it's been the best experience of my life.
I think travel forces you to think outside the box on a lot of things, it forces you to be independent (and not by nature, you seriously have to be OKAY with being alone or figuring things out yourself), it also forces you to see things in a new light or in a different perspective and it creates a desire in you. A desire to see the world through new eyes and experience culture like you never have before.
I believe seeing places that you've only learned about in your history classes or meeting and connecting with local people in each place that you visit, changes a person. It allows you to explore yourself and figure out what you want in life and what exactly it is you want to pursue.
In my case, I figured out that I'm insanely passionate for travel (obviously) and studying abroad. I want to talk to every current college student in the United States and tell them how important it is for them to study abroad. Three months, six months or a year - doesn't matter, just do it. It plays a vital role in making us more well-rounded human beings, I believe, and I think that is what sets us apart from the rest.
We've seen things. Experienced things. We've met people in different from countries. Played with kids who had next to nothing but were just as happy. We begin to figure out that life isn't always about the material things but the experiences. Travel is one way to do this.
Travel will show you the world, but it will also show you yourself. I love the saying that "something (anything) will swallow you up and spit you back out" my retort to that is "if you let it". If I allowed Europe to swallow me up and scare me - then it would have. However, I came headstrong and determined that I was going to figure out what I was good at and where I needed to be. What are the characteristics that I'm proud of and how can I translate those back home where they're needed?
Since moving abroad, I've found that I am: more independent, an out of the box thinker, a conversationalist, go-with-the-flow type (but can also plan things out and be specific), good listener, culturally educated and overall - I'm happy. I think the last point is the most important, I'm happy. Travel has made me happier than ever and seeing the world is something that I've only ever dreamed about or pinned about on Pinterest. It's also helped me to find my passion and find what I'm good at.
No, I agree that not every story is the same. Some people travel or study abroad and think "this sucks, I want to go home" or "I miss my family too much" and that's completely fine! It's fine to have different experiences and thoughts about it. I will say, though, that I still believe travel helps you in finding yourself again. Whether you have that bad experience or a good one - you realize a lot of things through that situation and it allows you to then refocus your efforts on something that makes you happy again.
When's the last time you thought: I'm so content with life right now, everything is going great. OR: I know myself so well and I know exactly what I'm passionate about. Not to start in on the job department - but figuring out what you are good at and what you are passionate about could then translate into a job or future career. I just applied for a position that when I read it, I got butterflies. I immediately thought "this job has been waiting for ME". I was so excited and could hardly wait to send in my application and sometimes when you travel so far, you end up meeting yourself - heard that expression? It only took me moving 4,500 miles away from home to "meet myself". Before I moved, I was living happily (I thought) thinking okay I'll graduate and I'll get a job and things will be great and I'll travel on holidays. But, it's not what I really wanted and it's not what I knew I needed.
Sometimes, you have to figure out what is best for you and just do it. Don't make excuses or ask questions - do that later after the fact.
So, do I believe that travel can help you find yourself again? Absolutely! In more ways than one. I believe that, good or bad, travel shows us things about ourself that we may have forgotten was once there or just decided to suppress.
If you are an avid traveler like I am, I want you to write down all the situations you've been in while traveling and the skills you've gained along the way. I think you will surprise yourself, actually, and you might even realize that travel has made you come alive again or for the first time.