Travel Will Not Transform You
If you think travel will transform you, you have it all wrong.
You can be transformed through travel, yes, but I want to make the point that the geographic solution of travel is a farce. The deep transformation that travel often allows will actually take place within you, and, ironically enough, most of this metamorphosis will most likely take place once you’re back home. The question is — how will you apply the education, experience, and insight you’ve received from the gift of travel to yourself, your life, and your current reality?
It’s not about there, it’s about here.
I want to make the point that the solution of “The Geographic Cure” is a farce. I see it so often with travel, where you believe that once you go there you will be happy, you will be fulfilled, you will have arrived. I want to highlight this concept because I’ve also fallen into this trap, and learned the hard way that it’s not merely travel that will transform you, it’s how you allow the experience of travel to shape you.
Once upon a time I traveled to faraway lands with the love of my life. It was going to be a beautiful summer. We had four months of adventure ahead, and then, one day, it all came to an end. My boyfriend broke up with me. On the road. In a foreign country, and we still had two flights to take together. I had never experienced this before. I found out what heartbreak was, alone, in the bottom bunk of a hostel room in Taipei, Taiwan. After this incident, I had an epiphany. The day after the breakup, while bursting into tears on a phone call with a potential business investor after he simply asked, “How are you?”, I hit rock bottom. I realized during this phone call that I HAD TO DO THE WORK; with my business, with my happiness, with my LIFE. It was that simple. In that moment I understood my love life was a distraction from doing my own work, and it was only when that was ripped out from under me that I could see how much of a detriment I had allowed it to become. After the breakup I still took those two flights with my ex, and it felt exhilarating. I was awake, I was renewed, and I was in my power. Facing discomfort and growing through it all, I finished my summer travels in an exhilarating and deeply rewarding way.
Adventuring to faraway lands did not bring my partner and I happiness. It actually drove us apart. But, what I created with the lessons contained in those difficult days still continue to reward me now. I am able to proudly wear these said rewards as jewels in my crown of resilience and perseverance. These jewels were not mined from the streets of Taipei, they were mined from my suffering.
“The person you are matters more than the place to which you go…If you saw this fact clearly, you would not be surprised at getting no benefit from the fresh scenes to which you roam each time through weariness of the old scenes. For the first would have pleased you in each case, had you believed it wholly yours. As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek, — to live well, — is found everywhere.” // Seneca, On Travel as a Cure for Discontent
If you don’t feel satisfied where you are, why? This is an exceptionally important question — why? Another important question, that could be asked immediately after the above, is, “Why are you traveling?” I don’t need to hear your answer, as I’m not the one to proclaim if your reasons to travel are noble or not. In fact, who am I to judge? I just want to inspire you to reflect on your reasons to roam, on your why.
“Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels. What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you.” // Socrates
One of the most endearing definitions of travel is, to go home eventually. That’s it. And understanding this is the reason I want to emphasize the importance of why you travel. Travel, by nature, is transitory, it’s fleeting, it’s temporary. No one can travel forever, and as illusory as it may seem, the real transformation of travel will begin once you’re home. Again, this pertains to how you apply the insight and experience you procured while on the road. You’ve been a part of traditions you didn’t know were possible, you’ve experienced the taste of fruit you didn’t know existed, you’ve touched the kindness of humans who don’t look like you and maybe, culturally, are even supposed to dislike you — what does all this mean to you? Maybe you see the importance of creating traditions of your own. Maybe you are more prone to try new restaurants, cuisines, and meals once back home. Maybe you see your old neighbors in a new light.
This is just the beginning of the personal reconfiguring travel can bestow. Start to notice that it’s not about where you go, but about where you are.
Repeat after me, “I have arrived.”